One of the most painful places to be betrayed, lied to, swindled, taken advantage of, abused, ridiculed, maligned, and otherwise bamboozled is none other than the church. “Ain’t no hurt like a church hurt,” as I’ve heard said in the South. For clergy and laity alike, a wound that occurs in the place which touts the most potential to be a vision of God’s kingdom on earth can be devastating.
Literally, I know dozens of people who will cite being offended by “believers” as their reason for not finding church valid. Some of them were bitter, jaded people before they stepped foot in a church and had insatiable expectations for what church could do for them and probably would’ve walked away from Christ himself. Tragically, I also know church people who have little patience for those who don’t conform to themselves (Christ?), often subjecting them to observation or “testing” before welcoming them. They privately dismiss those who leave the “discipline of community” as obviously proven their status to be not of the elect.
The other day, I was in a store minding my own business when a woman talking on her cell phone loudly and inescapably included me into her conversation. She was talking about “church folk” and how “they talk a good talk, but they’re not to be trusted”. “They’re just like the rest of us,” she said. “Ain’t no difference.”
And that would be true. George Barna and the Barna Group have the statistics to prove it. The church has failed in many ways to provide the world a view of what could be, but is slowly becoming a picture of what painfully is. David Kinnaman described it as the fact that we, the people, have become the stumbling block, and not Christ.
We are sinners saved by grace, but still sinners who gather in church. And that’s our excuse, right? That this is not a reflection of God, but of our sinfulness…but the problem is, is that the church is to be a reflection of God’s kingdom. Why is it that we often claim the first, but fail to live out the latter? Why is it that we teach about worldviews, but not how to move the world? We wound each other so much more gravely by not being open about our sin, by projecting this condescending legalism (aka accountability), and always speaking from a position of power and self-righteousness, rather than brokenness and vulnerability. It’s like we teach people more about why they should hate or avoid non-Christians rather than love and serve them.
Like Paul, it makes me wonder…Seung Hui Cho went to church. That’s like saying the walking wounded made it all the way to the hospital. I don’t know about all the collective shame our Asian culture professes, but I feel the same way I did when my wife told me yesterday of a doctor not calling the right diagnosis which led to an eleven year-old dying before he had to. Seung Hui Cho died before he ever got a glimpse of why he was created. And he was willing to kill others because he didn’t see any value in them or himself.
If it’s true that many in America are disillusioned from church because of church people, at the very least, shouldn’t we project a vision of what could be? Was Martin Luther King the last dreamer? Do we not dream dreams or see visions?
Is it because we don’t know what could be?
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.