Un1ty – rough draft

Posted: June 19, 2008 in Uncategorized

I spent a good amount of time after dinner last night talking with a couple of teenagers in our church about church itself.  I think the main point of the conversation was that churches should be safe places where people who have royally screwed up (haven’t we all?) can find an opportunity for acceptance, forgiveness, and being equipped to move on.  After all, Jesus accepted all kinds of people, forgave people of their sins, and equipped them to lead a new kind of life.  He never overlooked sin or washed down the seriousness of it, but he knew how to cut right through the legalism, hypocrisy, and spiritual prejudice of the day to connect with people.

So it blows my mind to think about how far we – as Christians in churches 2,000 years later – have lost this kind of love in our churches.  In fact, the church, as a whole, is in decline in America – the “free-est” nation on the planet, where the worst government persecution we face is whether or not we’ll offend someone by praying before football games or putting up a nativity scene at a fire station.  We ought to be thriving.  We ought to be world-changing.  We ought to be people others see and absolutely cannot wait to find out what makes us tick.

So what happened?

  • Many churches have become legalistic, moral authorities more interested in shunning those in sin rather than helping them heal from it.  They post holy “soldiers” outside abortion clinics and homesexual gatherings to let those people know how much they are hated.  People in these churches who mess up are virtually cast out.  People outside these churches aren’t welcome unless they dress right, talk right, and get their life “in order” first.
  • Many churches are so caught up in a “we’re right, you’re wrong” attitude, that division has become Christianity’s greatest testimony to the world.  “You can only worship God with a pipe organ and a choir.”  “No, you can only worship God with electric guitars and a band.”  “No, you’re both wrong – no instruments should be used at all.”  “But you preach that you can lose your salvation.”  “But you believe in Baptism of the believer.”  “But we use the King James Bible, and you don’t.”  “You’re both wrong if you have church on Sunday.”  Sadly, churches build arguments and even entire ad campaigns around our differences, rather than what should unite us.
  • Cultural disconnection has done a lot of damage to the church, too.  Content to stay glued to 75-year-old worship styles…or worse, eager to avoid the “contamination” of the world at all costs, to outsiders we appear to be museums of Christianity.  “See that Timmy, that’s a church:  c-h-u-r-c-h.  People there used to worship God or something.”  When we set up barriers to the world and are resistant to change (to find the best, most relevant ways to reach people), we do not have an impact on the world – the very world we are called to reach out to and be a loving, caring, moving force for God within it.  On the extreme, there are churches who don’t want to engage the world at all.  They are content with their small crowd of 50 people.  Forget people who don’t know Christ.  On the other end, however, where churches want to connect and maybe even acknowledging their ineffectiveness, it’s easier to blame the world rather than examine ourselves (our churches) and dare to ask the question:  “What’s really wrong here?”
  • People within churches have so privatized their walks with God, that the whole concept of “community” is often lost.  And when community is lost, friendships, accountability, and the effectiveness to work together as a body are all impossible.  “You can’t approach me about sin, you sin-Nazi.  That’s between me and God.”  “I can’t serve with so-and-so because they act like a jerk.”  “What’s wrong for you might be right for me.”  This problem is a tricky one because it flirts with everything from self-righteousness to relativism, and people often answer this problem or privatization with another problem – legalism.  But in true community, our walks with God are not supposed to be private.  That it should be is such a myth.  God designed this “community” so we would have people to lean on, so we’d have strength in our diversity, and so we would have people to help keep us in check.

Because of these problems, people are not attracted to what we are.  A person struggling with sin is not going to walk through the doors of a place that will only condemn them.  Non-Christians are not going to break down our doors saying, “Man, give me some of that division!!”  A stand-offish attitude towards the world will not make people feel welcome or lead them to Christ.  And if we have such a private attitude about our faith that no one can question us, well…”why go to church at all if I can just develop this personal thoughts about/relationship with God according to my own thoughts/beliefs where no one else can question me?  Who needs ‘institutionalized’ religion after all?”

I know this post has been messy and my thoughts about all this stuff are not nearly complete (don’t even get me started on church and politics, for example).  But I post anyway because the situation is overwhelming at times.  I am sick and tired that the bride of Christ – the church – has divorced itself from Christ on so many levels that we are unwilling to even acknowledge that.  We are too busy arguing.  We are too busy judging.  We are too busy with our own agendas.  We are too easily offended.  We are too unwilling to change.  We are too critical of each other.  We are legalistic about everything but our need to love people (that one really trips me up – that legalistic people are generally legalistic about every commandment except the one to LOVE OTHERS.)

***

The teenagers I talked to last night are frustrated with this situation.  But I still find encouragement amidst all this, because they see the problem, and they want Christians to be better than that.  I’m encouraged because they are the future of the church.  I’m encouraged because they have a passion for God and a zeal to reach people.

We need more people like that.

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Comments
  1. Jason says:

    You are so right brother.

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