Several weeks ago I came across the work of Dr. Edward J. Cumella regarding spiritual abuse, specifically the abuse of religion in the churches of America. This is part of a series of posts about some of the many damaging faces that the Church allows itself to wear at times and the hope for its redemption. This series isn’t about bashing on The Church; it’s to help us see that we can better that this.
“We’re the chosen ones! Everybody else is wrong! Our way’s the only way!”
If you hang around an “elitist” church, you might hear those types of claims. It’s the air of arrogance, thinking that a cloak of anointing has only fallen on a certain group of true believers. It’s the idea that a particular church’s way of “doing church” is the only one that lines up with Scripture.
Leaders of an “elitist” church are filled with pride and they foster that same cancer in how they lead. It’s about the church’s image: “We’re the best at doing what we do. Our signs, billboards, TV commercials, and podcast are the golden standard of Churchland. If anyone doesn’t thinks that or wants to point out any of our supposed flaws, we’ll deflect, redirect, deny, or oppose that idea completely.”
I’m just going to call something out here: the size of the church doesn’t determine if a church can or will become an “elitist” church. A smaller-sized church can fall into an elitist mindset just as easily as a larger church. Is the temptation greater in a larger church? Maybe… Maybe not. Success can always bring the temptation of pride but that doesn’t mean it’s a guarantee. The spiritual leadership, teachability, and community of a church are far more important than the physical size of the church.
Jesus spent a lot of His time calling out the spiritual arrogance of the religious leaders of His day. It wasn’t that the leaders were just legalistic in their interpretation of the Law, of Torah; it was that many of them believed their interpretation was the best one. It was the pride of the religious leaders that corrupted them, not their knowledge. It was their failure to acknowledge their own finite understanding that kept them from being humble.
God can help an “elitist” church become a humble church through some important steps. An “elitist” church can admit they don’t have the market cornered when it comes to doing church. Learn from other churches. Ask questions and take notes. Be open to changing those things that are the most dear to the tradition of the church but not necessarily tied to Scripture. Pray for a teachable spirit. Those are just a few things that can help crack open the shell of pride off an “elitist” heart.
All of us are still trying to figure out how this whole Church thing works this side of heaven. We help each other when we admit we’re not perfect and we haven’t arrived there yet.