I know that the answer is “UR” or ““You Are”, but that is not what I am getting at here. What is missing from the church today and why do most churches in America suck so bad? But to really understand this question I think we need to look at what the Church really is.
Never once in the Bible does it refer to the church as a building or location. In fact, the church is always referred to as a group of Christ-followers. But yet people keep referring to the building as the church, when in actuality it is nothing of the sorts. And I think when we call a building the church that we are actually degrading our value as the church. But that is really a whole other discussion that I won’t get into here.
So now that we have established that the Church is actually a group of Christ-followers, we can now begin to answer the question as to what is missing from it. The Pharisees in the Bible are what sticks out to me when I think of the current crop of Christians that make up the Church. And here is a passage from the Bible that I feel illustrates this point…..
When he finished that talk, a Pharisee asked him to dinner. He entered his house and sat right down at the table. The Pharisee was shocked and somewhat offended when he saw that Jesus didn’t wash up before the meal. But the Master said to him, “I know you Pharisees burnish the surface of your cups and plates so they sparkle in the sun, but I also know your insides are maggoty with greed and secret evil. Stupid Pharisees! Didn’t the One who made the outside also make the inside? Turn both your pockets and your hearts inside out and give generously to the poor; then your lives will be clean, not just your dishes and your hands.
“I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but manage to find loopholes for getting around basic matters of justice and God’s love. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required.
“You’re hopeless, you Pharisees! Frauds! You love sitting at the head table at church dinners, love preening yourselves in the radiance of public flattery. Frauds! You’re just like unmarked graves: People walk over that nice, grassy surface, never suspecting the rot and corruption that is six feet under.” Luke 11:37-43 (Message)
The church today is so concerned about their image and how people act. And we are missing the more important things. The Church today is so great at letting everyone know what we are against, but we are horrible at telling people what we are for. And what is it that we are for? What are the basics? You read it in that passage….. justice (or grace) and God’s love. But yet we really don’t do a good job of showing that because we are so concerned with all of the bad things in this world.
But let’s not talk about our image to the outside world, just yet, I will save that for my next blog. Instead, let’s look at how we treat our own.
I have a friend of mine who has said that God’s Army is the only military force in the world that shoots and kills it’s wounded and weak. How sad and true is that?
Look at this blog entry from someone who recently attended the Bible college that I graduated from back in 1994. She allowed me to quote it because she hopes that it will, “help promote change (or at least has that intention) in the Christian community”. And exactly why I am using it.
I managed to keep my faith through circumstances I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I endured physical and emotional betrayal and abuse, with deep scars that still have yet to heal. Yet I unwaveringly and unquestioningly (is that a word?) stood by my faith. Faith and hope were all I had to support those beliefs.
As I got older and was no longer homeschooled, I began to question my beliefs. When those questions were voiced to parents, leaders, and friends, I was condemned. I was called an unbeliever, a sinner, and quickly became the black sheep. This pushed me to further question my beliefs. I studied, searched, and came to the conclusion that what I had always been told, what I had always believed, was far from the reality in which I had lived and do live.
I left my controlling, abusive environment and my beliefs and faith in Christianity and their God. I began to live my life for ME, to walk the path I desired. I found happiness. This change brought about an onslaught of disgusting, horrific behavior on the part of my Christian friends and family. While they believed they were trying to save me, they were only pushing me further from their beliefs and deeper into a firm belief that they are wrong.
I no longer live my life in fear and self-loathing, I live in happiness and love. For once in my life I am truly happy. I paid a high price for that happiness. I have been shunned, disowned, hidden away, scorned, and hated. All this from the same people who so vehemently pushed their Christian beliefs. Perhaps it shouldn’t feel like a high price to pay, to trade all that for the happiness and love I have found.
That gives whole new meaning to the following verse…..
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and then you make that convert twice as much a child of hell as you are.” Matthew 23:15 (TNIV)
The Church today will spend a whole month or two to talk about giving or finances, because their offerings are low. Did anyone stop an think that maybe their offerings are low, not necessarily because people are going financially bankrupt or are having financial difficulties or that they “just don’t know about giving and so we must teach them”. But maybe they are morally bankrupt, or are struggling in their faith and instead of another lesson about how bad they are cause not only strugglingstuggling in their faith, but now they are also a horrible person and causing the church financial ruin because they are not tithing. Look back at that passage in Luke and notice that is one of the things Jesus was hinting at. So before anyone decides to jump all over me, because of that, realize that is what Jesus said as well.
Does that mean that the church should never fianances? Heck, no! We should! But dwelling on it and over-focusing on it is and can be a problem. Rob Bell at Mars Hill Bible Church preached an excellent message about giving at his church, that is no longer available for download on their website, but you can hear it here. It was great, by far the best message I have heard on the subject! But this is not about giving…..
It just saddens me to see the Church pick apart and show ungrace to other Christ-followers. The Bible says that they will know we are Christ-followers by the love we show for one another. (John 13:35) So does the world know that we are His disciples? I would have to say overwhelmingly that is a no. And that saddens me.
We need to do a better job of showing love, kindness and grace to those of us that are Christ-followers and that, I believe, will cause people to want to be a part of the Church. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a community where you felt loved and accepted no matter how you looked, how much you gave, or waht sin you may be struggling with? I can’t think of many people who wouldn’t want to be.
Tony Campolo would go to Christian colleges and Universities and say, “I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.” and just about every school would send him a letter complaining about his use of the word “shit”. Apparently, they didn’t get the message. Nor do they care.
The question is, “Do YOU care?” What will you do about it? Will you care about a curse word being used by a Christian or will you learn and begin to show love and grace?