It’s hard finding a church when church doesn’t want you.
Jenn and I have been visiting churches for the past few months now. The one we were at is great… but we worked there… and now we don’t… and it’s awkward and a little weird for everyone. So we’ve been looking for somewhere to take the kids and possibly be ministered to ourselves. It’s hard for several reasons. One, because we haven’t had to sit through regular church services for over 10 years. Two because as we were children’s pastors we’re pretty picky about what a church offers it’s kids… and we can see issues from a mile away. Thirdly, because church just doesn’t seem to be set up to accept, support and love broken people. And that’s what we are right now. Very broken people.
What Is Church?
Church is for people who are right with God. Or at least appear to be. It’s full of people who put out a lie about themselves. The lie is that they’re fine, successful, faith-filled and experiencing the daily victory that comes from a flawless relationship with Jesus. Either that or they get a pass because they’re rich so they can give their way out of having to do all that work. And they’re allowed to have wine in their fridge and no one will judge them.
Church is more than just a place people go once or twice, heck, maybe three times a week. It’s a huge part of our identity as believers. We don’t ask people if they’re Christians. We ask, “Do you go to church?” And when people answer that indeed they do, we sigh a pleased sigh because that means they’re saved and we don’t have to do anything. If they do not go to church… there is something wrong with them. They are defiantly not right with God and mostly likely living in sin. We’ve stopped seeing people as followers of Christ or those who need Christ and gone to making assumptions based on where they spend 10am-noon on Sunday morning.
Church works for most people. But it doesn’t work for me. Hear me. I haven’t given up on church… I’m just finding that my issues are not acceptable to the church. In a real sense the church has given up on me.
Church Is A Social Club
Church has become a social club that does charity work. It’s more about joining a community than it is about being disciples. It’s more about having it together than it is about getting it together. It works great for those who can maintain the lie about themselves and continue to believe the lie others put out. But when situations arise that are beyond your control and you can’t maintain the Social Christian image, when your issues don’t fit within the acceptable boundaries, measures must be taken. The affected parties must be shunned.
Church is not a hospital. It should be. Church should be exactly like a hospital. Hurting people should be drawn there naturally. They should be assessed and interviewed. People should get to know them. It shouldn’t even be a second thought whether or not they’re accepted or acceptable. They’re sick and this is a hospital. People are accepted and allowed to heal. They aren’t suggested spiritual quick-fixes or trite sayings about how a life of the Spirit doesn’t allow for their issue. They’re simply loved and accepted.
But we can’t accept sinful or broken people! If we love them we’re accepting what they do! It is our job after all to help God judge other people! We’re supposed to “love the sinner and hate the sin”! Even though the Bible just says love the sinner… and not to judge others. But we must! The difference between us an sinners is what makes us special! We are better than the World! Our lives are better! This proves that Jesus is real! That’s why you can’t be screwed up fellow Christian! Because it exposes the huge gaping hole in my American Theology! Life with Jesus can’t suck!
We’re No Better Than The World
We’re not better. Our divorce rates are the same. Same levels of depression, teen pregnancy, etcetera, etcetera. Maybe… just maybe we’re still humans with human issues even when we’re a follower of Christ. Maybe troubles, issues, and struggles aren’t indicative of a flawed Christian life and are actually just stuff that happens to people no matter what. Maybe we’re not better than other people. Maybe we’re down in the mud with them holding to the one thing we’ve found worthwhile. Maybe you can’t actually judge someone’s spirituality by the ease of their lifestyle.
When Jesus was walking the earth he ate with bad people. This made him bad to all the right people. So it used to be that if you were messed up Jesus would come to you and that if you were rich and put together, financially or spiritually, you had to slink your way in to see him. It’s not really that way anymore is it? If you’ve got it together you’re the top tier… if you don’t, you have to come crawling in shame to the throne.
The Early Church warned against giving special reserved treatment for those with money. Today the warning goes out to those who would give special treatment to people with more Value. If a person can add to the community they are accepted. When a person has nothing of value to offer, and God forbid needs to subtract from it, they are classified as second class citizens. And if a person of Value were to lose the ability to provide it he finds his acceptance is the consequence.
We can accept people and support them without agreeing with them. We will still attract people to Jesus’ love even if we don’t point out their flaws. Jesus is still the answer even when some of us don’t walk in victory. Approval of a person will not associate you with their sin. Separating yourself from the weak and lowly and sinful does not draw people to Jesus.
The World hates us. It’s not because of our love and devotion to Christ. It’s not because of our good works. It’s because of our self-righteous, judgmental lives. Christianity has become about what we stand against rather than who we stand for. We attempt to grow spiritually by putting others down so we look better by comparison. It’s just not the way it was supposed to be.
There Must Be One
I believe that there are churches out there who are not as I have described. They don’t expect or demand perfection and don’t hold themselves up as the standard of righteousness that others should measure up to. There has to be a congregation full of imperfect people who are tired of the lies we put out. The images we hold up. The standards we set. They look at people like Christ does instead of how we do. They realize that they will be judged the very same way they have judged others… and are afraid to judge at all. They let go of the religion of being Right and admit that they don’t have it all worked out. They hate the effect sin has on others more than they hate sin itself. They don’t despise the sinner or the broken rather they pity him. This church exists. Some are like this to a point… Only proving to the masses that God’s love does fail eventually.
Sinners and the Broken are in the same boat. I’m one of the broken. When I am recovered and no longer broken I will be acceptable again… but I will not be able to accept it. Like a fairy tale prince who turns from a beast to a man, I will then be marrying material. But Belle first loved the Beast. Her eyes were not blind to the truth, they saw it full on, and accepted it.
Through God’s eyes I have the same value now as I did at my best. Eyes that knew this time in my life would come and called me into ministry despite it. Eyes that never looked away, never pretended not to notice, saw me for what I was and loved that.
So Jenn and I are a bit lost right now. We’ve lost a lot in the past few months. People show what they’re made of when hard decisions arise. Really shows you who your friends are… and aren’t. It makes you lose faith, not in God, but in his people. I guess that’s what they mean when they say, “In Christ Alone”.
** Update **
I’m not looking for advice or church suggestions. This is a statement about the church and the way we do church in America as a whole.
** Update 2 **
This is not a commentary on The Church as in The Bride of Christ. It’s about church culture. I thought that was obvious.