A Parable of Sorts


There is a town in rural Texas that has an interesting intersection.  Just outside of the Metroplex (Dallas-Fort Worth for all non-Texans), this town is close enough to the Metroplex to drive into, but far enough away that it’s free from hectic city life.

This one particular intersection, however, draws interest, because at each corner is a church. These are the only four churches for the town. Here is a description of each church:

The Church of Saint Status Quo

Ecclesiology/Theology

On the northeast corner is the Church of St. Status Quo. They don’t really have a pastor so much as they have a collection of individuals who talk about spiritual things. The irony is though they worship St. Status Quo – that is, what is normal for a specific time and place in a culture – they view themselves as counter-cultural. Though they certainly can’t point to any one act particularly, they are rabid that they are a “counter-culture” church. They often attempt to show that they are more open-minded on homosexuality, abortion, and more liberal views. That’s certainly “counter-cultural” for rural Texas, but when it comes to the rest of the United States or even the world, they fit within the norm.

The pastors/members/friends put together a book one time titled, Every Which Way but Back: Why Moving Forward in Theology is Necessary, Even if You Must Betray God. Though it sold relatively few copies, it had a tremendous impact on the members of St. Status Quo who couldn’t figure out why no one outside of their church had ever heard of the book.

About their Patron Saint

Their patron saint, St. Status Quo, lived in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s in Germany. He was eventually canonized by Karl Barth in the early 20th century, but didn’t gain wide acclaim until the late 1990’s. He is famous for his “Trojan horse” method of theology – where one disguises himself to show that he believes just like a secular. Unfortunately, as some later criticized St. Status Quo, he never quite had an exit strategy. St. Status Quo taught that the only way for Christianity to survive was to adapt to the current culture.

Impact on the community

While this specific church was big on serving the community, it has died off lately. Many of the deacons went off in their own directions; some decided to pursue politics completely, others organized events while forgoing the needs of the needy, and others simply turned into whiners about the other three churches at the intersection. Though they still preach a sort of a social Gospel and the importance of community, there’s little action on their part to bring their teachings into fruition.

The Church of Saint Avarice

Ecclesiology/Theology

Across the street from the Church of St. Status Quo, on the southeast corner, is the Church of St. Avarice, with “Apostle” Glutto leading the helm. Most of the people in this church don’t really know each other and don’t care to know each other. To them, in following with their patron saint, they only attend church for their blessings. Many talk about how God is at our command to do what we ask of Him (they claim that He has bound Himself in this way). All we have to do is name what we want and claim what we want and He is obliged to deliver. Some might remember Glutto’s best-seller (at Christian book stores), The Wish: How God is Like a Genie, which summed up his church’s theology.

Lately, however, there has been quite a rift among the people as they have begun to split over their “spectology” (the theology of the watch). While some people are adamant that Jesus would wear a Rolex while healing the faithful and blessing others with prosperity in order to display His wealth, some argue He would wear a Cartier because they tend to be more innovative.

About their patron saint

St. Avarice is one of the few saints that hails from the United States. Introduced to uninhibited capitalism in the late 1800’s, St. Avarice fell upon the idea that God was a Capitalist. He believed that God didn’t want us to be content with Him and Him alone, even in poverty, but instead wanted us to be content in the things that He blesses us with. Thus, the less things a person has, the less God loves them. The same goes for health; he believed that God would never send sickness upon a person so that person could be a witness to the healthy or endure suffering for her own sake, but rather that sickness shows a lack of faith and sin in a person’s life. He was canonized by an unknown person around the 1970’s and gained notoriety in the late 80’s and early 90’s when his tele-disciples were in their hay-day.

Impact on the community

St. Avarice’s is famous for both its stance on the current health care debate and its “evangelism” conferences. On the health care debate, they have coined the slogan, “Jesus is my health care!” that can be found on t-shirts and bumper stickers.

They have a homeless ministry where they travel around in a van, shouting out how God can bless the homeless if they would only give the church their credit card number. As of two months ago, however, they were banned from the local hospital for handing out healing water from Chernobylclaiming that the Lord had blessed the water with healing qualities.

The Church of St. Id

Ecclesiology/Theology –

On the southwest corner of this intersection sits the Church of St. Id, led by senior pastor Narcis C. Sum. This church boasts a membership of 16,000/1,600 (16,000 members, 1,600 in attendance on any given Sunday – generally if that Sunday is Easter or Christmas). You may recall the book The Ratio: God’s Mathematical Gift to Church Attendance, written by pastor Sum. People are curious how such a small town can have such a large membership, but the pastor has explained that they generally invite people to become members even if they’re from out of town, that way they “always have a family to come back to.”

The church of St. Id is famous for its solid gold baptismal, it’s 1,500ft cross (which does look a bit awkward at night with the airplane warning lights flashing at the top), and the church’s ability to empower its members to any cause.

About their patron saint

It is not known when St. Id first appeared. Some speculate that it was in the mid 1950’s, but this is impossible because we have references to him in the Second Great Awakening. There are obscure references to him elsewhere in history, but nothing is conclusive. Because of this, we do not know when he was canonized. What we do know is that he gained popularity in the Second Great Awakening through its preaching on the self and self-betterment. The focus was taken off others and put more on the individual. However, churches in honor of St. Id really began to pop up in America around the 1980’s and into the current day. With people trying to find the purpose for their lives, what God can do for them, and being part of a church that won’t ask too much in the way of commitment, St. Id has found a multitude of followers.

Impact on the community

The members have been involved in many political movements, more specifically against abortion, homosexuality, and other social issues. Due to the money spent on building their newest sanctuary (8th one in 10 years – they want constant growth and improvement), they have no funds to help the poor in the community or to keep open their “Right to Life” clinic, which offered information on alternatives to abortion and even gave financial assistance to young mothers who chose to keep their babies.

The church is most famous for it’s annual “Bapta-palooza” where their goal is to baptize 1,000 lost souls into the eternal kingdom. Some people have been lucky enough to have been baptized 10 times in one day.

The Church of Pentecost

Ecclesiology/Theology

On the northwest side of the intersection is the Church of Pentecost. Laying no claim to a patron saint and offering nothing innovative (no new theology, no health/wealth, and no big church tactics), this church is often ridiculed by the other three churches. St. Status Quo’s congregation hates the Church of Pentecost because it’s too traditional, still holding onto 2,000 year old doctrines. St. Avarice’s congregation hates this little church because its members are working class and content with their wages. St. Id despises this tiny church because, well, it’s tiny, and they see it as sympathetic to sinners.

The grounding for the Church of Pentecost is self-sacrificial love. They take the two greatest commandments seriously; they love God with their entire being and love their neighbors as themselves. Because of this, they learn the importance of doctrine (the doctrine that matters at least) and on other things that have little to no effect on their relationship with God or man they simply toss to the side. They are a true family of believers.

About their patron saint

They have no patron saint. They recognize different saints and heroes of the faith, but realize that all of these saints ultimately point back to one man, Jesus Christ. They choose to emulate these heroes in the hope that by emulating them, they will likewise emulate Christ.

Impact on the community

The members are known for giving more than they receive. Though the church only has 300 members, each member gives at least 10% of his or her income (not out of obligation, but out of love for Christ and His Bride). This money is rarely spent on the church building itself (major repairs are generally done by volunteers).

Many of the members have taken single mothers into their homes in order to help both the woman and the child out. In the cases where the mother wants nothing to do with the child, the families have adopted the child. The church also helps feed the poor on a daily basis.

They also recognize that all humans are sinners and, in light of this, have much patience for those who struggle with sin. Though they do have a point where such patience must be cast aside, for the most part they work with those who wish to repent, even when those people relapse. There is no judgment, for they recognize that all of us were there at some point and, to some extent, are still there.

So the question is this: Which church do you belong to and which one do you want to belong to? Be open and honest with yourself. Maybe you see elements of all four, maybe one or two, maybe none. But once you figure out which one you are and which one you want to become, ask yourself this; what are you doing, as an individual, to move your church toward the church you want it to become?

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