I’m writing this because I love the church and because I love its vision. I want to see us return to the glory of the early church and a pure expression of what Jesus wanted, for us to be liberated from the life-sucking vine of consumerism.
Yet I see that in church there is an implicit contract between the churchgoers and their church.
I see this kind of thing at work specifically within western churches. At its face value, western society is predicated on enlightenment virtues, that is, individual thought, individual freedoms, and the exaltation of the individual destiny. It’s become so interwoven with our western churches that it’s nearly impossible to notice unless you take some time in another part of the world.
Here are the unwritten terms:
- We will bring our family as long as church helps our kids become stable and successful.
- We will donate money as long as we have the means to do so comfortably.
- We will continue to show up as long as our appearance compares favorably with other churchgoers, as long as we look as put together as most others.
- Leaders will continue to lead as long as the people under their care don’t become more influential than they are
- Love will continue to be preached as long as the love is directed at others in our socioeconomic class who follow our political and doctrinal persuasions, or are willing to change, and as long as our comfort is not violated and our values are not threatened
- Personal Bible study will be encouraged as long as it leads us reach the same conclusions as the rest of those in our denomination
- Missions will continue to be celebrated as long as it’s compartmentalized to a select few who feel a specialized calling of God and that their lives are not put in danger
- Corporate giving to missions will be encouraged as long as it does not compete with the church budget for facilities, programs, and multimedia
- Prayer will be encouraged as long as it doesn’t take time away from more pertinent and quantifiable activities
- The Bible will continue to be read from as long as stories are emphasized which promise personal success and stories are less emphasized which promise personal persecution and suffering
If it any point any of these conditions are breached, we will discontinue our attendance of said church and spend a given period of time outside of church until we find a church that meets the aforementioned conditions.
Do we call ourselves Christians yet look nothing like Christ?
- We have comfortable facilities, but the Son of Man had nowhere to lay his head. (Mt. 8:20)
- We spend most of our time with people who are like us, but Jesus spent his time with sinners and personae non grata. (Mt. 11:19)
- Jesus rebuked the one who was productive and defended the one who was getting nothing done. (Lk 10:41-42)
- Jesus ministered to diseased outcasts and foreigners involved in scandal. (Lk 17:11-16; Jn 4: 9, 18)
- Jesus preached truths that lost him influence and power. (Jn 6:65-66)
- Jesus left behind no military or political organization. (Jn 18:36)
I’m just concerned that it’s all too easy for us to go to church week after week, Sunday morning after Sunday morning, and do much more to consolidate our wealth and influence than to bring the gospel to those who are hurting, broken, and look different than us.
The gospel has been dealing with me, and I’m personally challenged.
Perhaps the way to life truly is narrow (Mt. 7:14).
// featured image credit: Photo by R.D. Smith on Unsplash