We all accept that Jesus walked around in a worn out tunic, hanging out with the thieves and prostitutes, and turned power on its head. We are amazed by that, and want to imitate that. We become Christians and tell everyone that we are followers of Christ.
Then we go about forming a congregation to celebrate our newfound joy in this man who turned power on its head. We elect leaders who rule with power. Then a few generations later we insist that each minister have a seminary degree, from a reputable seminary that has academicians who have published respected books. We insist that these seminaries have suitable endowments such that their finances are stable enough to be accredited by the proper accrediting agencies. And when the minister arrives at our congregation we want him or her to have the proper degree and to be ordained with a suitable title. And we want our church building to look respectable for the neighbors and visitors. How can we grow our congregation if we don’t look respectable, with a well staffed nursery and a suitable music ministry?
Congregation size is the supreme power in evangelicalism. That’s why almost all of the money goes to a preacher who can draw a crowd, and a building that is comfortable for visitors. The preacher’s time is spent figuring out how to orchestrate the Sunday morning service so that it will be appealing, and which programs to implement that will draw more families. All of this is the power dynamic and hierarchy of American evangelicalism. Almost nothing is spent on serving the underprivileged in the community.
Is it any wonder that when we attend church we don’t feel like we are vitally connected to Christ and His teaching? There are hardly any traditional churches that could survive if they truly heeded Jesus’ anti-hierarchy teaching.
There have always been small groups throughout the centuries that have taken Jesus’ anti-hierarchical teachings seriously. One group decided that nobody could wear fancy clothes to church, or anywhere, so that everyone would look equal. Several denominations banned the wearing of titles by church leaders, and banned distinctions between clergy and laity. Some churches really worked hard to shelter slaves that were running away from their masters, and dug root cellars that could be used for hiding slaves on the underground railroad.
Some ministries today are built around serving the intellectually challenged, the under privileged and disenfranchised of our society. In these groups it doesn’t matter if you are liberal, conservative, evangelical or fundamentalist, Democrat, Republican, Tea Party or Libertarian, Trinitarian or Oneness, Calvinist, Arminian or Pelagian, male or female, black, Arab, Mexican or white. All that matters is that you are joining the group in turning the world’s hierarchy on its head and lifting up the downtrodden of the community.