Raging Against the Machine much? (numbers and disciples) 3 of 4

I wrote the previous blogs Part 1 and Part 2 about different church experiences to point out that we are all different and have different filters from different experiences and backgrounds.  This was in hope for us to be better at gathering together. Gee, Gabe why it that? Well I frequently see open letters to churches about why they are doing a poor job and why people are leaving. These along with how to find a “better” church seem to be on the rise. This is really not surprising as the church is made up with people and people are not going to agree on a lot of things as I said.

Now it is one thing to want to find another church because of gross theological concerns, but often these are usually about preferences and offense. So after reading yet another article on how the church or leadership needs to change or else, I thought I would add a thought to the discussion.

It is true the church has been poor in some areas. Sometimes we are poor at love, sometimes we are poor at evangelizing, sometimes we are poor at charity, sometimes we are poor at outreach, and sometimes we are poor at worship (this is coming), and sometimes we are poor on the Bible.
As much as I agree with some of this I think it is important to note that these types of articles seem to share a common denominator. They include that they at one point felt judged, or encountered something they didn’t like, and then they proceed to finger-pointing and departing. I am starting to get the feeling that these writers would rather that doctrine and sin not be talked about at all; and to empathize, I suppose I can sometimes understand that to a degree, but it really misses the point.
We are obsessed with love in our culture. Which is not really a bad thing. But how some of the church seems to have adopted this mindset is that love is looking the other way and being as inclusive as possible. But for Jesus love was meeting people where they were at, for sure, (which we like) but he never failed to tell them the truth. (which we don’t seem to like anymore). Jesus’ exclusive message of the Father and himself divided people, further the doctrines from the Bible will contain some exclusive truths and theology as well.

When we treat Jesus like a one-dimensional character like Cupid who is only concerned about “spreading love” we miss the point.  Jesus admits that what he is most concerned about is doing the will of his father. Fulfilling that will meant bringing a message and going to the cross. Both of those points were and are hugely divisive. That message was repentance and the kingdom. Repenting and joining the kingdom meant leaving things behind. Mathew left behind the tax collector life, the cheating and stealing and swindling his fellow Jews for money. The love is the sacrifice for sin, the calling is fellowship with him, and the relationship is following after him away from our selves. Romans 6 makes this clear.

So let’s not confuse what love is. This confusion has led to the very issue of church’s tailor making their services after felt needs. So then we get other articles that are pointing out that the church is shallow busy creating a big production and missing people. But could it be that church has fallen into being producers because the people have fallen into being consumers looking for their needs to be met?

 

I am not saying this is right, but demanding that felt needs be met is another reason why the church is doing exactly that. For the church to be a body we need to pay attention to what the head who is Christ is saying. If God is bringing issues of sin up in his church then our response should be to repent, not whine about our toes getting stepped on and then leave and find another church that is more lax with that sort of thing. It is sad, but if we are prepared to leave church because of an offense then some churches unfortunately will continue to change tactics to be as inoffensive as possible. And the ones that don’t? Well they get articles written about them. But when did the church becomes about getting as many seats filled as possible? The Gospel is an offense and a stumbling block. Pointing to sin and the need for a savior is offensive and has been driving people away since the time the Pharisees first heard it. But that message is also the same one that has been bringing people in.

If you are a disciple then you will allow correction into your life. When challenges come you will meet them, when hard encounters happen you will work through them. When offense happens you will use compassion and grace to attempt reconciliation. When sin is addressed you will seek forgiveness. In short, you will grow. But if you are a merely number in a church, then you will leave when uncomfortable and find another church to add to their count.
My point is not that we shouldn’t encourage our leaders to do better, as I have already added my own critique, but church will probably always offend in some way. We need to work on this internally. Not leave and then hurl criticism from the outside. As Christian leaders we should be working for more than increases in numbers and people should be desiring to become disciples closer to Christ. Are we going to be a family and stick it out, or are we going to take our spiritual toys and go home?

It is so easy to blame institutions for personal problems but institutions are made up of other people. The church specifically is not an institution but when articles are written this way it makes them out to be. It seems to often follow the rebellion of rock n’ roll against “the man”. The church gets equated with being “the man” so of course we should rally against it!  But the church is not “the man” but it is about a man, Jesus. So when we are quick to pick up stones against it we should really consider what Jesus said about it.

Jesus tells us that his church is the group that he if for on the earth. The church are the ones who will not be triumphed over by evil. The church is the one that Jesus left behind to carry out his will. The church is the bride of Christ. So before we rally against her let’s remember what we are doing. We are actively raging against the body of Christ. We are actively warring against his bride to be. Christ does not want his body abusing itself. Christ wants his body at harmony with the head which is himself. Christ is not angry with his body and disappointed with his body. Let’s stop threatening to take away the golden lamp-stands before their time.

It is easy to draw lines in the sand with ambiguous institutions, but the church is you and me. The church is the people and we are all a part. If you want change then be the first to do it. But do it while you are a part, not after you have written them off. This is how gossip is minimized and relationships are restored. But when you do, make sure you are wanting change in accordance with the head who is Christ. A church attendee always complaining about the church is as out-of-place as soldiers on an aircraft carrier rocking-out to Rage Against the Machine.

Now before we say “well if I am the church, then what’s the problem?”  The answer is because finger-pointing is not-self criticism. The Church is a body as we gather together and not as we depart. These open letters and articles pointing out the reasons for leaving, and affirming them, is simply under-girding the emerging philosophy of the church which is “If you offend me I will leave”. This is not unity nor is this helpful. Let’s work on these problems together not after we have jumped ship.

Christ’s prayer before he went to the cross was for our very unity, because he knew that our tendency is to depart, just as the writer of Hebrews also reminds.

So before we encourage more dismemberment, remember: A dismembered body is a corpse. In our critique of the church are we contributing to life or death? If the church is you and me, who exactly are we Killing in The Name of?

thanks

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