Because someone asked and the answer got so long that I felt weird putting it in a Facebook comment…
Escalade driving pastors. Church hopping pastors who are willing to leave their flock behind in search of better opportunities, bigger congregations, and bigger salaries… as if the shepherding the Bride of Christ is akin to moving up a corporate ladder. Pastors who have affairs. And then kick out their whistleblowers. Pastors who sexually abuse. And pastors who are friends with the aforementioned kind and do their best to hide their sin. Who sweep it under the rug and forget the victim. Who say, “One small mistake shouldn’t cost him his whole career.” And they forget to mention the name of the teenage girl whose innocence got snatched away. As though she is the collateral damage and not the very beating heart of God.
Building projects. Expansions. Fund-raising campaigns for a new campus. Million dollar (sometimes multi million) dollar buildings. Granite counter tops and flat screen tv’s. State of the art sound systems and an actual staff to operate them. Excess. Incorrect management of the tithe. Dealing with the needs of the naked and hungry, the widow and fatherless (or single mom and her kids) according to that budget line rather than seeing the full tithe as the Lord’s. It’s not salary money, ya know. We aren’t Levites, and even if we were, they didn’t live in 5000 sq. ft. homes and have trouble keeping their butts home from Maui and Mexico.
Choreographed sermons. Hollow sermons. Sermons that take the Roaring Lion of the Old Testament and turn him into Santa Claus. That have the audacity to make him palatable enough that today’s issues and today’s demographics won’t find him offensive. That remove his claws and trim his mane. Fruity tooty sermons. Feel good sermons. “Milky” sermons. Sermons with no accountability. No hole poking. Aren’t we supposed to be like the Berean’s after all? Do I set a meeting for that? And how is that done in a zero dialogue setting where one man preaches and the rest bob their heads. Without reading, without digging, without exegeting. Woe to us all for listening to one man who might (and often does) have it all wrong.
Choreographed music. “I Surrender All” played during offering so as to incite the best outcome. Special songs picked carefully and skillfully to bring about the right emotional response to the reading of God’s word. As if the Holy Spirit had lost its power to move a person’s heart. As if strings of emotion even ought to be pulled during a time when solitude and silence would best enable the listener to hear from God. From God… not their emotions.
Budget announcements and fund raising drives.
Inappropriate and unholy delivery of the Eucharist.
Vacant-headed listeners who raise their hands without scratching their heads.
No critical thinking and no asking questions, they open their mouths and swallow it hook, line, and sinker.
And yes. Bad behavior.
It’s interesting to me how Christians, especially leaders, want a pass on this. Have you missed the parts of Scripture that talk about millstones around necks? About greater accountability and damnation? Those who name themselves leaders in the church do not get a pass. In fact, their accountability card is more stringent, more rigid, than anyone else’s.
I expect the congregation to gossip. I expect them to not diligently study but to take the word of the man at the pulpit. I expect all the silly nonsense from them that is rampant. But from the leaders, I expect more.
Also, it’s true. Christians are jerks. Not all of them and not all the time. But as people who are supposed to have a new nature and the old should have been stripped away like a garment, the amount of inconsistency and lack of new birth is actually quite staggering. When people are leaving the church – and worse, the faith – in droves, it’s time to stop saying “Well Christians aren’t perfect. We’re human too.” No. Stop it.
Last, here is my tip to you. Never tell someone who has been badly damaged by the church that you hope they give it another chance. That would be like telling an abused child that they hope they are able to give their abuser another chance. Also don’t prescribe involvement to them as a cure for what they must have done wrong. You wouldn’t know this, but I have never been a member of a church where I have not also been a very active participant and volunteer. I’ve taught Sunday School and AWANAS. I’ve been a youth coach at so many churches and ministries that I’ve lost track. I’ve served in the nursery and “Kid Zone”. I’ve been the usher/greeter and the person up front who is waiting to pray with you if you need someone. Activity and involvement is not enough to blind open eyes.
When someone tells you that they’ve been wounded, listen. Ask questions. For Pete’s sake, people who don’t even know God know how to do this. Example: My Crossfit affiliate recently began losing members. We are all a tight, close-knit family. Rather than posting ridiculous things like “Crossfitters are leaving our gym because they don’t have what it takes to do our WODS” or some silly nonsensical reason that takes the blame from the affiliate and places it upon those who left, they looked inward. They sought those people out. They listened without judgement and refrained from assigning reasons that were more palatable. And when they saw their error, they changed. They didn’t accuse their ex-members of being unrealistic in order to absolve themselves. They hunkered down and found out what their real problem was.
Every time you post a meme or a quote or something that assigns motives to those of us who have left the little “c” church, you effectively tell us that we don’t matter. That you don’t want to hear about our damage. And that you sure as heck don’t want to need to be convicted. To need to repent. To need to change. To need to recognize that you’ve built a corporation where the bleeding body of Jesus used to be and that it might be time to forsake that. That it might be time to return to the example in the Upper Room.
Just a small group of local believers. Some songs of praise and moments of confession before the God of heaven and earth. His word read aloud. Earnest examination. A shared understanding rather than taking the word of one man. Fellowship. Breaking of bread. A proper observation of the Eucharist.
Gather. Pray. Exhort. Teach. Learn. Live in community with one another. Caring for each other and each other’s needs as Christ did his bride.
No mortgages. No salaries. No programming. Stop it already. Let go of your excess. Repent of your greed and mismanagement of God’s tithe. Review Malachi. If God’s feelings for those who withhold their tithe from him are as severe as he blatantly says, what do you think he feels about those who receive it and misuse it. Images of Eli’s fat belly with a dagger in it come to mind. Send your pastors who want salaries and big houses into the corporate world. Let them minister wherever they might go.
It’s time the church stops pretending that the people who leave are leaving because there is some silly little blemish going on. A pimple or some bad breath. No, the little “c” church has cancer, and it has pus seeping out its pores.
If you happen to belong to a church that somehow fits zero qualifications that I mentioned, fantastic. Consider yourself rare. I’ve been part of many church bodies and the things mentioned are things I have all personally experienced. They aren’t hypothetical. Nor are they excusable under the “we’re just people” clause.
I’m not a church hater. If fact, I love the Church. But the Church I love is not a building or a gathering place. It’s a body of people. And they don’t need a building or a program or a pastor or all of that.
Time to just be salt and light. Stop the wounding and the blame shifting.