Friday, January 20, 2012

The Problem with Church

Originally written July 2011:
I've heard a lot of discussions lately about the problems facing the American church. There are many varying opinions as to why the church is struggling with being effective. I'm not even close to being a theologian or any kind of brilliant commentator on the subject, but I do have an opinion. Do you know what I think is the problem with the church?
The people.

The people inside the church pose the biggest problem. When the world is broken, tired, and hungry they should be able to come to the church. The church is supposed to be the one place where people should be able to find love. Instead, we fill the church with people of "our standards" and quickly pass judgment on anybody that doesn't come up to that level.

I was reminded of this again on the Kingdom Builders trip when one of our awesome adult leaders was "sized up" by the leader of one of the other churches. How sad is that! Even on a mission trip where we're supposed to be serving and showing the people of the community the love of God, we can't even get past our own ignorance to realize that there is no "model Christian." I love the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan. It's reached widespread acclaim, so you may have heard of it. In one part Chan says:
“We need to stop giving people excuses not to believe in God. You’ve probably heard the expression ‘I believe in God, just not organized religion’. I don’t think people would say that if the church truly lived like we are called to live.”

That's convicting isn't it! Are our actions as a church, the things we value, the people we pursue, the things we say to each other, preventing people from knowing the amazing love of Christ? I have several friends who are set against church because once upon a time, somebody who was a "Christian" said something or did something to them that cut deep. I can say from personal experience, some of the deepest pain in my life came from people in the church.

This worries me. I think about the way Jesus was with people. He had the audacity to sit and eat with the tax collectors, the harlots, and the Gentiles! He frequently called out the Pharoses for sitting in the temples and standing on "organized religion."

Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to
where he was baptizing, he said to them:
“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
And do not think you can say to yourselves,

‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out

of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.
The ax is already at the root of the trees, and
every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

-Matthew 3:6-10
Can we pause for a second and recognize that Jesus just called the religious guys a "brood of vipers?" When I try to think of something unpleasant, a bunch of crazy snakes would probably do it. Jesus is telling them that God is ready to get rid of anything that does not produce good fruit. If the church has become ineffective and is producing gossip, lust, anger, and jealousy, does this mean that God is ready to cut it off?

I don't write these things out of anger. God has already done so much in my life. I've met some of the most amazing and influential people in my life through the church. I write more out of concern that we'll forget that there are still people out in the world that we should be pursuing! We have to realize that the people don't always look like our children, our friends, or our neighbors. All of this really came to me when I was reading in the book of Acts.
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.
And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything.
Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else."
-Acts 17: 24-25
Jesus did spend time in the temples. However, most of his life was spent out in the world. I pray that God will help me be aware of the needs outside of the church. The Lord of heaven and earth does not live in temples built by human hands.

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