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Why Church Fails and How it Succeeds
Since the time I was a little boy in Sunday school, I have struggled to understand the Christian Science church: its design, function, purpose, and prosperity. I could not understand why the most wonderful, simple solution for all mankind's woes was associated with a church in atrophy. It has been dying for almost a century! If you look historically at the membership, the increase in membership was accelerating dramatically until Mary Baker Eddy's departure in 1910. For another decade or so, the numbers continued to increase at a decelerating rate until the membership reached its maximum and slowly began to decline. That decline continues today. Why, since the moment of her departure, has the church lost its impetus, and what can be done to revive it? These have been lifelong questions for me, and I have come gradually and partially to their solutions by acknowledging the following:
First, I acknowledge that Christian Science does not need to be worshipped any more than the science of mathematics needs to be worshipped. Human worship implies a degree of ignorance. Science realized and lived in accord with the Truth of Being supersedes ignorance. So if church is organized according to a divine plan, it must be a living example of God with us, a miracle expressed in every word and deed of those who partake in that spiritual structure. Otherwise, it is just a human collective, a mockery of Jesus' church. Mary Baker Eddy's church Manual acknowledges the Son of the living God as its very structure. By its unique design, if the divine impetus (Christ, Truth) is missing and if primitive Christianity is not practiced there, successful implementation of church is impossible. Therefore, any atrophy in the appearance or operation of church is a warning signal that erroneous beliefs have superseded reality. Truth needs no belief system to make it real. Two or three must be gathered together in My name or there is no collective church.
Second, if I saw my body sick, would I not pray to see perfection and continue in that prayer until I rested in that perfection? I would not just worry about it or struggle to continue on without seeking the solution. The human ego never has any beneficial effect on man or his church, but clothes the Christ in speculative mind forms, providing only the appearance of good. "Hypocrisy is fatal to religion" (SH 7:32). The struggle for true worship may seem difficult, but this warfare with one's self is vital to acknowledging the Son of the living God. Our ascension depends upon it. There is no middle ground. We are either living Life "like unto the Son of man" or we are residing in the cares of this world until the death of this misdirected trust (Rev 1:13).
Third, spiritual discernment of Mary Baker Eddy's true identity will heal every disparate situation and normalize vitality in living and communing.
Fourth, though hand joins in hand and voices harmonize a grand refrain, a temple filled with people who are ignorant of the Comforter will neither bring in the Millennium nor prevent Armageddon.
Fifth, there is no place where church as an earthly building or human organization is mentioned, explained, required, or desired in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. The Mother Church is not a human organization; it is a divine organization humanly circumscribed. While there is no reference to it in the textbook, it is part of Mary Baker Eddy's demonstration for the pioneers of Christian Science. She wrote, "Despite the prosperity of my church, it was learned that material organization has its value and peril, and that organization is requisite only in the earliest periods in Christian history. After this material form of cohesion and fellowship has accomplished its end, continued organization retards spiritual growth, and should be laid off, - even as the corporeal organization deemed requisite in the first stages of mortal existence is finally laid off, in order to gain spiritual freedom and supremacy" (Ret 45:5-13).
Has Mary Baker Eddy's church, as a material organization, fulfilled its purpose in Christian history or have its members failed to attest their fidelity to Truth in their demonstration of church? For the purpose of discovering a personal answer regarding my own fidelity to Truth and its subsequent demonstration, I withdrew from my local branch church and from all social activity. I then chose a new course of action - to pray every Sunday from dawn until dark. I spent many hours in my yard reading and listening for the word to become real, and this is what happened - every Sunday someone or several people would wander up my driveway. They were not invited; they just came. We talked about God, sat around the fire having Sunday school, and watched as the sick were healed. One day eighteen people showed up. Another day a man drove in from New Mexico, a thousand miles away. He said someone told him to come, but he did not know why. He was homeless, sleeping in the back of his truck. We talked for three hours about God and His love. I gave him a copy of Science and Health, and he beamed with gratitude. He said he now knew what he was supposed to do - take care of his father, who was back in New Mexico. He had driven a thousand miles to come to my growing sense of church, pick up a copy of Science and Health, and go back home. During that time of study, which lasted several months, I began to see that whatever is derived from God is alive, harmonious, and spontaneously attractive. Mrs. Eddy called her church "the structure of Truth and Love." God forms that structure and opens it like the petals of a flower. We can be holy witnesses to that bloom.
At one time, Mrs. Eddy dissolved her church against all the calls from the members, and the movement flourished. She knew that being "cumbered about with much serving" was strangling the high goal - divine Science. A few years later, her followers again demanded a place to worship God. Mrs. Eddy knew that, like the father and the prodigal son, she had to bring practical Christianity down to the level of her followers, so she packed their bags with her treasure map, the Manual, and let them go. Step by step we must find our way home until we know that humanity is governed by divinity. Departing from the commandments in the Manual will bring about suffering until we realize our mistakes and turn to the good.
Just as Christ always appears in the precise form and language that is needed, so every branch church can demonstrate Christ's appearing by either growing in cohesion and fellowship or by dissolving to remove the obstacle to a higher demonstration. If the divine idea of church is not understood, it cannot be demonstrated. (Without an understanding of mathematics, you best not apply to be an accountant.) There is no place to go and no one to ask but God alone for the answers to 'Who am I?' and 'What am I?' God has to answer, or you will not know. There is no priesthood in the practice of Christian Science or its church: no person to give guidance, and no arbitrary controls or format. God alone must guide man, for man is His image. Thus is the necessity to be there with Christ - solid as a mountaintop!
Wait patiently! Be expectant! Work, wait, watch, and pray, and then you will not be able to do it wrong. If you try it any other way, you will do it wrong. You may find yourself doing the nearest right under the circumstances, ever listening, correcting and improving your vision, willing to retrace your steps the moment you know the better way. Bless your community with brotherly love. You will be surprised at the effectiveness of this love, for God, intelligence, is the strength of every inspired act. By divine Love's surprise, you will know that you did not create such beautiful presence with your own mind. God is thinking you, guiding and lighting your way. Turn and enter into fellowship with Christ's scientific church.
George Denninger ©
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