I ask the question because I’ve been talking with several people this past week who used to be Christians. From what they tell me (and I have no reason to doubt them) they weren’t just the marginal, pew potato Christian. They were active and growing. Something happened though. While each situation is different, the common matter at hand is the same: Hurt and disillusionment that led to a complete falling away from the community of God’s people and even faith itself. Some cases are so severe that love has almost completely been replaced with bitter resentment toward anything that smells Christian.
Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe we’ve made things smell too Christian. Maybe we’ve completely removed the focus from Jesus Christ, the One form whom our tribe is named, and replaced it with something. Sure, motives are great, intentions good, and it starts out as a noble undertaking…but we’ve taken the focus off of Jesus and we’ve put it right on ourselves.
We’ve made this system of rules and regulations that are all about our abilities…we’ve set up a legal system of piety that measures faith and spiritual growth by numbers, money, and how many times you can read through the Bible every year.
We have lost our focus. I have lost my focus. Maybe I’m being bold or naive or just offensive here, but if we’re so consumed by programs, ministries, and finances in our own congregation is it any wonder that people are literally dying spiritually in front of us and we don’t even know it? Is it any wonder the culture, the family, and society is crumbling at a break-neck pace and we sit back and grumble but refuse to do anything?
Let my boldness come into the picture again but a great many congregations are so inwardly focused, so cold, and so unchanged by the greatest story ever told that it is sickening. We have great ideas, great programs, great facilities…whoo hoo! Take a jaunt through the Minor Prophets and Jesus’ indictments against the Pharisees and “religious” to see that doesn’t matter one iota to God.
The truth is this: Jesus gave the church LITERALLY ONE JOB: To be salt and light and tell the world the greatest news ever! God came down, Emmanuel was indeed with us. That we don’t have to live with our pasts or be defined by who we were. That we are not defined by our past or mistakes, by our choices and sin, by our faults and failures, by our hurts and insecurities but that we can have a new identity; we can be born again of God (John 1). That we can have a second chance…not because we deserve it or earned it or can keep a perfect moral code…but all because God came to you…He died…He loved…He pursued…and He has called His people to do that very same thing.
I fear that I’ve lost my zeal for that message…that I’ve lost my passion for it. I fear the American church has slowly sunk into the deep sea of isolationism and legalism, and that the enemy is having a field day doing exactly what Jesus said he would: steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). The American church is littered with the spiritual casualties and its all because we lost our way; we’ve stopped our mission and traded it for a lie. I see it everyday…and I see it in myself.
Maybe I can encourage you through this post, or maybe you’ll just dismiss me as a naive novice who has no idea…i just pray someone will be moved to realize that we are severely deficient in mission…we talk a lot about it, but we have no idea what it means. So let’s stop theorizing and postulating while we sit on the greatest news, the saving words of Jesus and our neighbors, communities, and states slowly decay and rot. Lets stop ignoring the “least of these”, the people who annoy you, the people who may take a little more of your time than you’d like; the people you can’t stand and even the guy who cut you off on the way to work yesterday. Let’s stop pretending that someone else will come along and take care of it…because Jesus left that up to us.
So lets get our focus back. Let’s cry out to the Father together in repentance for leaving His mission and making up our own. Let’s get off our rears and out the doors of our churches and let’s BE the Gospel…it’s time to stop going to church…it’s time to BE the church. I don’t have all the answers…but the Holy Spirit and Scriptures do…if we’ll just come together and call on Jesus.