Tuesday, April 17, 2012

One thing the Internet has taught me...

One thing that the Internet has taught me is that I used to be very narrow minded. I did not think that I was, until I saw the vastness of the mindsets that are out there. I thought that people who did not go to church or did not believe in God were just closed-minded. But reading the thoughts and blogs of a variety of people, I have found that many are well thought out and passionate about their beliefs. That does not mean that I agree with them, but I am learning to respect them more, and myself a bit less.

That being said, I have found a blog by an author named Rachel Held Evans. While I do not agree with all of her views, I find a bold and refreshing honesty in her writing. And a willingness to dialogue and question things in life.

Recently, she worte a post titled, "Better conversations between churched and un-churched Christians." This is a topic that is near to me, considering our recent, well blogged about church experiences.  I responded to her as follows:

Just a few thoughts:
You said, “The comments that hurt the most are not the meanest, but the ones that hit close to home.” What a beautiful and profound sentiment. I believe that it is also full of truth, so much so, that it is hard to sometimes look at these issues objectively. Rather than wondering why so many are leaving, we feel the weight of guilt because sometimes we equate church attendance with Christianity. Jesus went to church, well, to synagogue. But he was not so well received there either. So maybe instead of looking at this issue through the light of our own shortcomings, we need to look at it through the shortcomings of many churches. And the truth is, many churches are more concerned about a person’s attendance than they are about their depth of commitment to Christ. And this is something that many Christians, young and old, are becoming more and more disillusioned with.
Most evangelical’s idea of evangelism is to invite someone to church. Every Sunday, pastors encourage people to invite their friends and neighbors to church. We even have “Friendship Sundays” to make this easier. But in the process, we have lost sight of true Christianity. Suddenly, the church becomes this magic beacon to attract people in. We build lavish buildings, have spectacular worship services, and then complain that people leave because of consumerism, when the consumerism process started with the churches! It’s like seeing that magic product that will clean everything, ordering it, using it, only to find that the stain remains. Would you really then order more? I love your line, regarding when someone has been hurt by the church, “the proper response is, ‘I’m so sorry; tell me what happened,’ not ‘suck it up kid.’
I understand the “unhealthy appetite” for negative church stories. I have my own. Misery loves company, so the saying goes. But that negative company only goes so far. Yet I believe that many churches also supply the needed company of fulfilling an “unhealthy appetite” that misery loves so well. Truth is, we all love company, acceptance, etc., and will seek to fill those needs in whatever way fits us. Just because one goes to church doesn’t make them a Christian, any more than going to McDonald’s makes one a Big Mac.
You seem to nail it when you say, “What we want to see is real change, not new paint on an old fa├žade!” So what about the churches that are growing? What about the churches that are attracting 20 and 30 year olds? What are they doing different? Perhaps a useful exercise, instead of looking at what does not work, would be to look at what does work.  I know churches like this do exist, although they may be rare. (The Village Church in Dallas and Redeemer Presbyterian in New York come to mind.)
May your prayers be answered and may your seeking be rewarded.
I believe that it is important that we be able to separate the flawed church from the perfection of Christ. When we look to the church to be perfect, we will be disappointed. That said, I do not think that we should just look the other way when we see a problem in the church. Paul didn't, and was even willing to confront Peter when he saw that his behavior was not in line with the truth.

I just keep coming back to those 3 little words. Ask, seek, and knock. And perhaps we might add, be patient.

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