I just saw in a local newspaper this article about a church hiring a married, openly gay pastor. Well, I actually saw it in my facebook news feed first and lately, with websites so full of ads they barely load, I have found I get a really good feel for the article based on the comments section. So now, many times, I no longer actually open the article and read (especially if it’s just clickbait), I just read the comments.
Now, I’m sure you can imagine exactly the kinds of comments that were there. More predictable than a sleazy romance novel. However, even with the absurd predictability of mud-slinging and hate speech from both sides of the aisle, I saw a comment that really got me thinking.
‘I think I’ll actually join the church again now.’
Join the church again now. What does that even mean?
Does that mean they will walk in the doors? Sit in a seat? Participate? Serve others? Love people? Seek Christ?
Because the truth is, joining the church has nothing to do with a relationship with Jesus Christ. And that’s what we seek, isn’t it? That void in our souls we try to fill with careers and relationships and shoes and men and women and chips and dogs and worthy causes and boats and drugs and vacation homes and sex and travel and bigger houses?
Friends, we have to do better.
We have to do a better job of preaching Christ to the world. Christ as he is. Not as we twist him so he fits into our worldview. Not as we distort the words of the Bible to fit the popular cultural agenda. As. He. Is.
People leave the church because they never experienced Christ. They experienced human religion. They experienced human agendas. They experienced fake community.
Let me tell you a little secret.
Jesus was not a liberal, he was radical.
Jesus did not advocate for socialism, he advocated for community.
Jesus did not condone sinful living, he offered the way to life.
Jesus did not sit quietly while people perverted God’s word, he challenged them.
Jesus questioned and challenged meaningless religious institutions. He challenged people to live to a higher standard. He challenged people to be righteous in private (Matthew 6) and not just out in public. The law said ‘do not commit adultery’ and Jesus said ‘don’t even look at a woman (or man) lustfully. (Matthew 5:27-28)’ Jesus said don’t even look. He said ‘if someone forces you to go a mile, walk two. If he demands your coat, give him your shirt too.(Matthew 5:41-48)’
Jesus did not come to earth to offer the sad, pathetic, and weak version of Christianity we know today in America. The version that makes people think it’s okay to walk away because they didn’t get their choice of carpet. The version that casts out people who are smelly. Or divorced. Or homeless. Or poor. The version that celebrates fat wallets but not a life fully surrendered to the lordship of Jesus Christ.
We maybe drive to church if it’s not too far and as long as the seats are comfortable and the music is nice, but not too loud, and we get ‘our seat’. We’ll participate as long as it doesn’t make us uncomfortable or challenge us. We’ll consider serving if it’s not inconvenient and and if it is, we just don’t show up. We have no problem putting other people in a bind when we don’t show up and don’t let them know. We like and praise the pastor if he makes us feel good but try to kick him out if he challenges us or steps on our toes or makes bold, biblical statements.
Friends, we have to do better.
This is not what the first disciples died for. This is not what people for centuries have risked their lives for. This is not what people hid and translated the Bible into common languages and were tortured and killed for.
Jesus said ‘Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many walk down it, but small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life and only a few find it (Matthew 7:13-14).’
What are we willing to do to help more people find the way to life? Jesus is the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6) and he comes to give us life to the full (John 10:10). Are we willing to sit back and watch people walk down the road of destruction or are we willing to do what it takes to try to reach out? Are we willing to lose friendships over it? Are we willing to speak boldly? Are we willing to be inconvenienced to serve? Are we willing to give up our ENTIRE lives to Christ? Are we willing to build margin into our lives and our bank accounts so we can be the hands and feet of Jesus when called?
Friends, this is why we are here.
We are not here to just join a church or leave a church because we got mad. We are meant to dig in, to read, to study, to fellowship together. Joining a church is meaningless. Living a life of faith in full view of everyone who knows us is our purpose, our calling. I hear people always trying to figure out the meaning of life or trying to discern their calling. Your calling, friend, is to point and lead others toward Christ wherever you are.