Given recent events in my life and the shift in readership of this blog, I have found the need to lay a different sort of foundation for my thoughts and this forum. It has occurred to me that I have kept many of my thoughts buried for many reasons, not the least of which was fear of being alone in my position and fear of being rejected by those in my faith community.
However, circumstances be as they may, I have come to a place where I must either make the leap or pack up and head home. And I have not been one to pack it in. What follows is largely a private journey that I have been on for more than the last decade. It began as my faith and worldview began to be deconstructed in the course of college classes, oddly enough at a private Christian university. My journey had led me to places where I have had the honor of rubbing shoulders with schizophrenics, prostitutes, and criminals as well as “Christians,” atheists, and the spiritually apathetic. In the course of the last several years I have come to the firm belief that we all have much more that unites us than separates us.
In the course of seeing life for myself, I have come to a very controversial and potentially alienating conclusion: the church is dying. For a time I did not want anything to do with it, but never have recanted my faith. What follows are some of my candid thoughts about the state of the church, its (our) sins and my hope for its redemption.
For those of you who have been following me for some time know that I have had to do this before: click here if you missed it.
Several people have mentioned to me concern about a recent post regarding Starbucks as a model for the marketing of the church. While I thought that I had dunked it in my vat of sarcasm enough for it to ooze and drip, apparently it was not quite obvious enough.
Seriously, though my honest thoughts on marketing the church are that it is important to look professional and not like we just rolled out of bed to preach the gospel. The message of Christ, however, should always speak for itself, with no need for help from us. The Word of God is living and breathing, alive and active.
Frankly, I am ashamed of churches that put so much time, money, and attention into branding a sermon series or making sure that they do something to get on the evening news that they miss what is most important. If you undercut the gospel message to sell your product, then what are you really doing it for?
Again appreciation to those who challenged me about that post, and you know who you are. I hope that you will chose to make your comments public next time so that we can use this as a forum to challenge one another through dialogue. To those who have stopped reading accordingly and who may never read this I would say the same thing.
If you say some of the things I do then you are bound to get some of them wrong. That is the beauty of the community we share as followers of Christ: when we get out of line we can be confident in gentle, although firm correction and challenge.
Jesus was a change agent, in case you missed that. He had a certain way with sharing what really needed to be different. He talked directly to religious leaders and told them that the way that they were living, in spite of following the letter of the law, was sinful. Harsh!
In Romans 11 Paul writes to the church in Rome about Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice. The book of Romans has a special emphasis: Jesus’ death opened the door to those who were not Jewish. Wow! This was actually an incredible difference. This was something that not only Paul had to learn, but many of the apostles and early church congregations had to learn this as well. It was such a profound and new idea for everyone, Paul wanted again to be sure that this was clear to the church in Rome and that they would not fall into the trap that others had, thinking that to become a Christian you first had to become a Jew.
Remembering takes a lot of imagination.
In the book Stumbling on Happiness, author Daniel Gilbert talks about how science is showing that memory is not a video that we play back, but that it is constructed with parts that we know or believe to be true already. To demonstrate Gilbert describes a scenario where a person approaches a stranger to ask for directions. During their conversation two people pass between them carrying a large wooden door. Unknown to the stranger the person asking for directions is changed to someone else who has made no effort to look like the first. The conversation continues as if nothing has happened.
If it is difficult for our brains to hold information that describes a person in a brief encounter like this one, it may be that our memory for details of our own past are not as sharp as we believe it to be.