It’s demoralizing when you take a step in good faith only to find out that it was a mistake and then realize that we need to change your route.
That’s where hundreds of thousands of people have found themselves in relationship to their faith and the institutional church.
So, I ask myself, what are some of these well-meaning, but misplaced steps that did not lead me where I thought they would?
For me, some things are in and some are out.
Out – Institutions. Historically, they have done a great deal of good (and some awful things, as well). But institutions get outdated and self-serving to the point where the mission becomes sustaining the institution. The institution becomes the main thing, rather than Jesus being the main thing. Yet, it is felt that the institution, the organization, and the structure must be defended and supported at all costs. It becomes self-serving.
In – Life. Life is enough. We don’t need an organization to try to live in the way of Jesus. Organizations do some good things, but there is something to be said for keeping the message and its application pure and simple. There are lots of opportunities in life. Life is where the mission of representing Jesus happens and it is where community develops. We don’t need a subculture to live out the way of Jesus. Just the opposite, we need to be immersed in the culture where life happens.
Out – Super Stars. I have seen so many Christian leaders fall. Mismanaged funds. Inappropriate sexual behavior. Leadership abuse. Even leaders from churches and organizations that seemed rock solid have fallen. It shocks. It hurts. It tarnishes the testimony of Christ, the church, and especially, the particular local church. Yet, it is a frequent occurrence.
Our desire for a charismatic leader is a set up for said leader to fall. We basically want someone who is better than us, which is both unfair and unrealistic. Who is the charismatic leader supposed to talk to, who can he be honest with? Churches have a vast array of expectations for their pastors: great speaker, winsome leader, compassionate minister who woos the young and comforts the elderly and everyone in between. These expectations are ridiculous and people within the church should be doing much of what they hire someone else to do.
In – Regular People. Jesus commanded you and me to love one another, to love our neighbor, along with loving God. He summed up the entirety of biblical teaching in that one statement. Anybody can love. Everybody has people in their world to love. And everyone needs loving. Some people are oppressed and don’t have the same opportunities that you and I have had. They really need some love.
Out – Politics. Jesus lived a geo-political setting far, far worse than ours with an anti-Christian occupying superpower and corrupt religious/political leaders. He didn’t say anything about it! No Moral Majority, no Silent Majority, no Culture Wars, no us verses them. He did say to pay our taxes. Ironically, the very thing we complain most about.
However, he did have many pointed and unflattering things to say about the corrupt leaders of the theocracy. He didn’t hold back on those who were supposed to be God’s leaders.
In – Compassion. We need to swap our emphasis on trying to change culture and focus on changing our own hearts until we love people like Jesus did. That is far more transformational. Love. Acceptance. Civility. These words are more like Jesus than a branded religion that rejects some people, seems to hate others, and insists on its own way.