Monday, May 18, 2009

Putting Lipstick on a Pig (with an added comment)

The Church is supposed to be the Bride of Christ. I'm afraid that many today would say that the Bride is pretty homely looking. I think that it is time to get the Church ready for the coming of the Groom. Maybe time for an extreme makeover!

Thanks to all of you that have responded to my survey. Please feel free to respond if you haven't yet. I posted the survey in my Facebook Notes and received several responses from that as well.

Although a few responses were positive and from active church members, I am really more concerned with the ones that are not church members and their reasons for staying away from church. I you fall into this category, I would like to hear your story. I think that we (as the church) need to examine our failures if we are going to learn from them.

I've gathered a few of the common complaints about the church and mixed in a few of my own. I've also added some thoughts about each.

The church is full of hypocrites, gossips, back biters, people that are judgmental about political beliefs, sexual preferences, etc.

It is both a blessing and a curse that the church is a place for sinful people to come together and worship a forgiving God. A friend once shared the thought that if we are willing to let a hypocrite come between us and God, then it is the hypocrite that is closer to God. As difficult as it might be to forgive others, we must. Too often we make the choice to be judgmental about them being judgmental and leave. Not only do we manage to distance ourselves from them, but also from the God that forgives them (and us). It is important that we remember who is in church. We all bring our own baggage of fleshly nature into the place. We all need to make allowances for each other's faults. We all need to allow others to grow in spiritual maturity.

I want to address the political part separately. If you've been a reader of Out of My Hat for very long, you already know how I feel about politics and church. I don't think that God has a favorite political party. I don't think that one party's platform is any better than the other's (spiritually). I don't look to a party or government for my spiritual leadership. I don't believe that changing the behavior of people through legislation will bring them into God's favor. I do believe that bringing them into God's favor (through salvation in Jesus) will change their behavior (with or without the legislation). Since politics is such a polarizing thing, it needs to be kept out of the pulpit and the educational part of the church. The church needs to focus on the teaching of the Bible.

There were also those that feel that church people are closed-minded, both to other beliefs and to science.

Although it would be difficult for me to address the exclusivity of other beliefs (other than Christian), in each case that this was mentioned it was in reference to a Christian denomination. I'll deal with it from my perspective. Please understand that this is not representative of any church doctrine--it's just John on a rant.
I believe:

that it is by the grace of God
by the death, burial and resurrection of His only begotten Son, Jesus
by believing in my heart that Jesus is everything that the Bible claims
and by oral proclamation that Jesus is my Savior and Lord

that I have a home in heaven.

I also believe that you must be able to make the same statement of faith if you are to have a home in heaven. I understand that that is extremely exclusive...most religions are. (Religion is as polarizing as politics.)

Having said that--intolerance is a completely different thing. I am not anybody's judge. Jesus gets to be the judge. I am very willing to talk to you about your beliefs. In fact, I am as willing to talk about your beliefs as I am about my own. I want to know what you believe, why you believe it, what is the benefit of your belief--all of it. I want to know.

If you are a Buddhist, tell me about it. If you are Mormon, I want to know about your Jesus. If you are Muslim, teach me about Allah. If you are an atheist, tell me why. A Darwinist, let's talk about The Origin of the Species. If you're just a really hacked off Catholic, Baptist, Protestant, whatever--come on. Feel free to vent on John.

In the end, it comes down to this: Do you believe in a heaven and a hell? In your belief system, how do you get into one and stay out of the other? Are you sure enough of what you believe to bet your eternal soul on it?

I think that there is a heaven and hell. Not believing in it doesn't change that. Each of us has to figure out how to get to heaven. Hell is the default...doing nothing gets you to hell. Doing the wrong thing, gets you to hell. We have to find the way to heaven and we have to help others to find the way.

I believe that churches should help us find The Way. I believe that churches should be--first and foremost--places to worship God. I believe that (in the Christian churches) we are to make disciples of Jesus, teaching the things that He taught. I believe that the value of the local church goes far beyond the social networking that some have mentioned. It has to be more than the Rotary Club or local country club.

If you have comments, bring them on. If you don't want them published, just say so.

John <><

Reading this several hours after posting it I see that it may sound a bit like I'm bashing the comments that I solicited. Trust me, that isn't my intent. I do want you to feel free to comment without fear of harassment about your beliefs. I hope that you can take the difference of opinion as it is intended.
J. <><


Sicilian said...

Interesting post. . . . . I think that I can say this. . . . I don't mind attending church. . . . I go with my children. . . . occasionally attend by myself. . . but I am not engaged. . . . my daughter said to me. . . . mom I am not going to do what you did . . . . I am only doing one job at church and am not going to run myself to death like you did.
That comment alone spoke volumes to me.

Mike said...

I have to get paid off with a TD first.

TC said...

I love that line about the hypocrite being closer to God! I am going to use that, often.

Recently I had an awful experience with a church that I loved very much. I gave them my all for over 4 years and in the end, when I told them I was moving on to "bigger and better" things, so to speak, they turned on me and made me a pariah.

I'd always opined that this very little church needed to do more than pay lip service to its claim that Christ was the head of the church. There was a lack of spirituality there, IMO, and they were becoming a social club that avoided religious things except for a worship service on Sunday morning. They simply did not allow Christ to permeate the church's life and decisions, activities, governance, etc. It was too much about the personalities involved, and what camp you were in, who got credit, who was in charge, etc.

Over the years, people joined and left shortly after. They were people who were looking for something deeper. Churches struggle with their identity at times, and sometimes that struggle can take years. I'd encourage people to keep looking. There are churches out there that will feed your hunger. Sometimes you just have to look. harder.

When people say they stopped going to church because they had a bad experience, met a bad person, ran into a bad minister, etc, I usually ask them if they would swear off having indoor running water/plumbing if they had a bad experience with an incompetent plumber!

Good stuff, John. Thank you.

heidi said...

A very thought provoking post and I think religion is something that is so personal and controversial.