A slave church is an oxymoron—a self-contradiction. The church is the Body of Christ. The benefits of the cross and resurrection assure her freedom. But tragically, she has erected her own prison camp, entered, shut the gate, and tossed the key to the devil. The church Jesus died for and the church that exists in many communities bear little resemblance. Come and we will visit a slave church.
In slave churches, the members appoint the popular, the powerful, or the prestigious to positions of authority because in a slave society power is everything. Spiritual qualifications finish at the rear of the pack. Men and women with powerful positions in business fill offices of service regardless of whether or not they have a servant’s heart. Leadership, not servanthood is the prime prerequisite for holding office. Most are chosen by popularity rather than through agonizing prayer. People who are not biblically qualified are given preference with the faint hope that the methods they use in business will translate into nickels and noses—money and membership.
Those who possess the eloquent voices or tell a riveting story become teachers, with little regard for their lifestyles or evidence of the spiritual gift of teaching. The art of persuasion and manipulation are valued far more than holiness and prayer. Slave teachers spend a few minutes during the week searching quarterlies, commentaries, and warmed-over sermon snippets from the past, rather than spending time in the presence of God with an open heart and Bible crying out for a fresh word. They seek a word, but more often than not, the word they deliver wasn’t from God.
Slave churches view their pastor as their personal servant. He is the Bible Answer Man until his answers offend their pride or step squarely on their arrogance, and then he becomes the dumbest man alive. These congregations devour pastors like wolves devour sheep. If he proclaims a message that tickles their ears they will keep him. They expect him to be where they want him when they want him there—he has no real life anyway. Surgery for an ingrown toenail at 5 am demands his personal attention—heck, he only works an hour or two a week. Instead of sharing the gospel with the guy they’ve worked next to on the assembly line for 40 years, they will wait until 2 am to call and wake up the pastor’s whole family, so that he can go and pray with Bill who is in the last stages of cancer and has only minutes to live. Slave churches expect a pastor to excel in everything, but treat and pay him like a common laborer who has no skills.
These churches talk about growing, but refuse to do anything to reach their community. They talk and talk and talk and read their denominational reports of what to do and then talk some more while real people with real needs go to hell out from under the shadow cast by their steeples. When the community gets bad enough, they relocate to the suburbs where the right people live and talk and talk until that community goes to hell. Evangelism is an occasional invitation to Sunday School or Sunday worship, rather than a loving confrontation with the truth of the gospel.
Worship is an exercise in self-gratification with no understanding or concern that God is the object of worship, not the flesh that fills the pews. They are the audience not the participants. And God…well, He’s visiting somewhere else on Sundays because He feels a bit out of place there.
Slave churches are fortified bastions to protect the slaves who gather there. They resemble country clubs, health spas, or therapy sessions erected for the self more than the visible body of the Savior, left to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom.