Tuesday, August 18, 2020

What's the matter with church?

Back in May, I did a blog predicting that the pandemic may prove to be a pruning season for the church. Now here I am telling you that my very own church will be closing at the end of September. So I thought in the tradition of the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5 & 6) I would do a post about what I see as the issues threatening the church from within; beyond the obvious things like holiness, finances, and attendance. Jesus’ teaching from the mount was unlike any of his other teachings, for he was challenging people's understanding, and correcting their misinterpretations.

But before I begin, let me be clear this is a general list based on observations of the church universal, not an attempt to condemn my own church. Nor am I claiming this is an exhaustive list.

Not living out the body of Christ model (1st Corinthians 12:12-30)
Scripture reveals that one must follow the Holy Spirit to live this lofty concept out. Where following our human nature only creates the opposite, unity through uniformity. Yet it’s that uniformity that we see more often than Biblical diversity. Let’s face it, sameness is more comfortable, safe, and easier than following the abstractness of the spirit.

Making worship about emotions
Internal conflicts about worship are usually about preference, not principle. Sentiment more than scripture. In the end, people just want to feel good and follow their emotions blindly, as if their feelings are some sort of universal standard. Which is more about worshiping self than God. I dare say the contemporary worship movement magnified this issue to catastrophic levels by confusing emotion for the spirit. (1st Corinthians 2:14)

Wanting to be served, instead of serving (John 13:1-20)
Whenever a church starts talking outreach of any form, some people get cranky. One time I heard someone blatantly say, "The people in the church already need help, why worry about outsiders?" Obviously, they didn't realize that serving others can be good medicine for the spirit. A major point in my Consider what it means to really live YouTube video. My least watched video I may add. People just don't want to reconsider how they are living, since how they live revolves around serving self, and they want to keep it that way. Nobody can be served unless people are serving, and the few who are can get burned out if too many people are only there to take, and not reciprocate.

Lack of spiritual responsibility (Proverbs 2)
We expect Pastors to meet our needs, yet everyone has different needs. There is just no way a minister can be everything to everyone. So they have to teach generally, and maybe address specific issues that they are aware of. Any genuine disciple worth their salt will come face to face with an untruth in their thinking eventually. So a responsible person has to take this challenge head-on, as well as seek out answers for their specific issues themselves. Instead of expecting your minister to take up that cross for you. If all you think you need is to have your feelings gratified, then you will likely dislike what you genuinely need. This can be a sign of a very spiritually immature person.

Lack of self-awareness
A licensed counselor once told me that most of his patients were merely looking for some sort of approval, acceptance, or validation. When one seeks this, it often means adapting to the people around you, so self-awareness is often seen as a deterrent to worldly approval. Yet, Holiness stands in opposition to worldly acceptance since holy literally means, set apart. Still, some people are of the impression that righteousness and conformity walk hand and hand. (Romans 12:2) {Also, how can conformity walk hand in hand with diversity of talent and skill as the body of Christ should be?} Maybe the reason we struggle with holiness so much is that our overwhelming desire for validation is moving us in the wrong direction. Not to mention we can't possibly know our purpose without understanding whom God truly made us to be. Which may be another reason why we are so averse to service, we are at a loss on how we can serve because of a lack of self-awareness. As you can see, this often unspoken issue is tied to many other issues.

Emphasizing the cross more than the resurrection. 
The cross is about forgiveness. Resurrection is about rebuilding a new victorious life with that redemption. Granted, we need both, but so many believers plateau in their faith by getting hung up on keeping their newly clean slate spotless, and never rewriting their story. The new and resurrected life is what delights and inspires people. Not playing ring around the cross as we try to fit our old life into our new faith. (Galatians 5:16, Luke 5:36-39) Yet, embracing resurrection requires self-awareness, and a desire to serve.

You might have noticed that there is one common thread in most of these traits, which is self. (Matthew 16:24-26) It lies at the root of everything that steers the church off track. As well as make us more like the world that we are supposed to be set apart from. I've often said that Christianity, as written, is not a religion that mankind would ever create for itself; yet how we practice it often is. So let me leave you with these questions? Am I confusing preference for principle? Am I confusing emotion for the spirit? Am I confusing self for God? If so, what are you going to do about it? What will happen to the church if we don't wake up to these issues?

a man getting a new perspective by viewing the world through the spirit and scripture.