Ephesians 5 lists Jesus' fivefold ministry of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, and Teachers. The first three (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist) focus on pioneering, while the last two (Shepherd, Teacher) focus on sustaining. Since Constantine co-opted the Church, sustaining became the primary value, while pioneering was left behind. There was no longer a need for apostolic movement, prophetic challenge, or evangelistic fervor. After all, why advance the Church, confront sin, or make converts if everyone is already a follower of Jesus simply because the Emperor says so?
And so, the Church was organized into a hierarchical structure, with bishops and priests, cardinals and a Pope. The primary focus of the Church became to teach and shepherd the flock, at the expense of other equally vital church focuses.
Why is this a problem? Well, it set us up as Christians to have a seriously unbiblical understanding of what the "Church" actually is.
First, we see the Church as existing for us. When teaching and shepherding are the only celebrated gifts, we see our churches as having the sole purpose of feeding (teach me!) and caring for (shepherd me!) us. Is this wrong? Well, no! But it's incomplete. And without the pioneering gifts, we become our own gods.
Second, we don't advance God's mission. We become our own mission. When being fed and cared for are the mission, we neglect the lost and can even find ourselves defending a model of church that is counterproductive.
Third, we lose patience with our church community. If the Church is the people (and it IS), then shouldn't we value the people over the programs? But we will quickly break covenant with our spiritual family because the church (as an organization) doesn't meet a need we feel is important. You see this all the time. You might even find yourself doing it. A person enters a church community, builds relationships with its people, then leaves when s/he discovers that it doesn't have a certain type of music, a style of teaching, or a particular program. We should instead seek ways to remain in community with our church despite what it lacks.
The reality is that Constantine did not initiate the greatest advancement of Christian movement in history. He effectively stalled the movement that had already begun. If we don't repent of his version of Christianity, we will continue to model the church after something that was never Christ's intent.
How has Constantine affected how you see Church?