The perversion of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment has been a cause of controversy for years. I am not as concerned about the traditional arguments here and in fact wish to turn the refocus how the church has abdicated its roles and broke down the walls of separation. The focus on this is not the constitutional aspects, which I believe could debunk most of modern opinions of the court by examing the federalist papers and the writings of the founders, but the aspect of the church and its relationship to the state via its own abdication of authority by choice.
My thesis is actually that it is the church who has broken down the barrier wall between itself and the state and it’s willingness to throw it’s responsiblity to it’s flock off onto the state and the heathen, as well as its willingness to take money from the state in exchange for their union.
Starting at the “New Deal”, social security and social assistance programs, the church should have been up in arms in protest. (Maybe a step backward, starting at the prohibition, it should have been in protest of legislating “alleged Christian principles” but was in support of it-with the exception of J. Grescham Madchen. ) But it gladly ceded it’s responsibility to the widows, the infirmed, the orphans and to the needy to the state.
The principle of teaching someone to fish , rather than to merely give fish lost out. We find in Acts where the burden of meeting the needs and serving the tables interfered with the evangelistic and ministerial aspects of the apostles (now transfer to elders), so there were among them those chosen to meet those needs. That office has all been lost today.
How did the church ever allow this to happen? Disorder in the offices is one of the quickest ways to destroy a church and make it unhealthy. Non- functional offices in the church is the norm, not the exception.
The diaconal concept is skewed into distribution only, and the modern day deacon takes care of books, and does labor in the church, cut the lawn, paint the building, clean the church. What does he do with the flock? Maybe a household chore or a ride to the store or doctor or to the state office to sign someone up for benefits? And that is a healthy deacon in today’s church. But, I see this as one of the core problems in todays church.
A deacon must be one who can counsel and instruct and discern. When a deacon cares for the needy, by a members submission to the authority of the church, a deacon should be helping to set up budgets, and look for root causes of the need, not only to “give fish”. When the church gives assistance to a member, it has the responsibility to ascertain why that need is there, and how to overcome the need for assistance. This sets the stage for interaction between the deacon and the member in need?
Is the member terrible with handling funds? Is the member lacking discipline in his own life? Is the member tithing? Is the member involved in some habit that is causing them to deprive their family of their needs to the point the church has to step in? Does the member lack direction in life? Or are they just lazy? Or is there a disability that will exist for a more permanent need for assistance from the church? These are issues that the biblical deacon looked at and it was a way of direct ministry to the flock. Sometimes there is nothing but circumstances beyond their control. In that case, the church would have to make longer term plans and solutions to meet the need and to adjust the members needs downward into what is needed, not just what is comfortable.
But, by abdicating the responsibility of the needy (same principles apply to widows and orphans and the church) to the state we eliminate an entire area of ministry and oversight the church is responsible to its members for. While there are qualifications and programs the government has to support the member, the government does not provide ministry to the flock. Well yes it does, but not a biblical one. How can you legitimately ask a member to see their finances when the state is helping them meet their needs. They can keep getting fish and never need to learn to fish themselves.
We will take a look in the near future about other areas of church offices and members roles, and to see where we have strayed and how (and if we are willing) to correct the error of our abdication and restore our churches to biblical roles .
While we have many issues with the workings of our government that deserve attention, perhaps it is time we start getting the log out of our own eyes before dealing with the governments problems. Our governance is from God as expressed through our roles as priests in our own families, and from the local church to which we are to submit to its biblical authority.
If we want a change in how things are going in our government, perhaps the way to institute that is to get our churches and homes in order first, the ones in which we have the greatest chance of effecting change. When we accomplish that, we can turn our eyes onto the world.