The Church has got some problems. How big they are depends on how you measure them, but closings, declining attendance, and (my favorite measure) “good news for the poor” are all down.
A recent post on church buildings led to a discussion on what caused the Church’s problems. Please forgive me for ranting in bullet point fashion–I will likely be more thoughtful next post, but this is more of an emotional response.
Also, please remember that this is a “lover’s quarrel” for me. I believe that a person committed to a body has a greater right to criticize said body (in love–and, for all my frustration with her, I do love the Church).
So here goes:
- We’re selfish. Jesus said, “The one who seeks to save one’s life will lose it.” We get afraid of closing, and turn inwards. This is the death knell.
- We’ve mistaken the ends for the means, and vis versa. Buildings, money, media, staff, technology, and the fine arts are all means, not ends. The ends of the Church are loving God, and loving people.
- We’ve allowed ourselves to get co-opted by politics, nationalism, and commerce.
- We’ve settled for low quality in our programs, preaching, and worship.
- We’ve held on to inefficient and dis-empowering structures and systems.
- We’ve turned our faith into a system of belief, but failed to give people a way of life.
- We haven’t even communicated that system of belief all that well.
- We see the speck in our neighbor’s eye, but not the plank in our eye.
- We talk about sex too much and not enough. Too much focus on “other people,” without teaching ourselves what healthy sexuality is.
- We talk about how an individual can act justly even less.
- We expect people to arrive at the church perfect. We blame them when they mess up, instead of showing them new life.
- We’d prefer to fight with other Christians than show love to non-Christians.
- The things we fight about are not even the right fights.
- We’d rather run away from a problem than solve it. (This applies to people leaving congregations, denominations, and the city.)
- 2004’s “Saved” is all too accurate:
I guess the state of the church could be summed up by Gandhi’s reflection: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
The core of our problems? Much of what bears the name “Christian” has little resemblance Christ.
If (and God willing, when), we Christians seek first to follow Jesus, the rest–(sometimes called the ABC’s–attendance, buildings, cash), will take care of themselves.
Until then, hopefully, some mausoleums, museums, restaurants, or community centers take care of these magnificent buildings–because the church has bigger problems.