Suggestions including (but not limited to):
- feed the poor
- shelter the homeless
- take care of widows and children
- only collect 9% of congregants pre-tax income?
In deciding what criteria I would use to assess the Christianity* of each church I visit, I’ve compiled a list of actions Jesus undertook during his time on earth. I have disregarded any miracles a layman could not be expected to perform (faith healings, resurrections etc) and any actions to which Jesus was reacting.
Here’s what I’ve got for you – taken from the gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
1. Jesus was baptised
My interpretation from the book of Matthew (chapter 3) suggests Jesus was baptised as an adult, acting on his own free will, by full immersion under water.
2. Jesus preached/taught
This is a pretty common sub-heading in the gospels. Jesus preached on topics including anger, adultery, divorce, revenge, loving your enemies, giving to the needy, money & possessions. I imagine most churches won’t have a problem ticking this box.
3. Jesus fed the hungry
I’ve let this one slip through, as even though Jesus’ feeding of thousands was miraculous, the concept that he fed the hungry I think is still relevant.
4. Jesus cleared the temple
Jesus entered a temple and began to drive out the merchants and their customers. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the stalls of those selling doves, and stopped everyone from bringing in merchandise (Mark 11). My interpretation of this is he probably wasn’t stoked about people profiting at the temple, and therefore maybe making money off your congregants via sales isn’t the best idea for the modern church.
5. Jesus prayed
Jesus prayed in private (Mark 14) and he prayed in public (Luke 10). He taught others how to pray.
6. Jesus criticised the religious leaders
Jesus went to the house of one of the pharisees and accused them crushing people beneath impossible religious demands, and never lifting a finger to ease the burden and revealed other hypocrisies. (Luke 11) I guess here I'll be looking for a church that isn't afraid to tread on toes, challenge old views and focus on keeping a heart that is just and full of love (Luke 11:42b)
7. Jesus washed his disciples feet
When Jesus washed the feet of his followers it was a total act of humility and service. He told his disciples to follow this example (John 13). Culturally, washing feet isn't a big deal these days, so I'll be looking for a church that demonstrates a modern act of humility.
8. Jesus made friends with sinners
Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus' house, even though he was known as a notorious sinner. Mary Magdalene, believed to be a prostitute, was a close friend of Jesus'. I won't be necessarily looking for a church with a open invitation to tax thieves and hookers, rather a culture that welcomes all as equals.
Wish me luck!
* Christian means “little Christ”, so I’m using the term “Christianity” to explain how I think Jesus would behave if living with us today.