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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Church: Here’s REALLY why people are leaving you! ...My response

     A friend of mine posted this article on my Facebook TL today with the caption “ wrote this, didn’t you?” I did not, and he knew this. But he knows enough about me to recognize when something sounds like I might have written it or at least been thinking it.
I like this article. I particularly like point number 1. The production has worn thin. In many churches it is about nothing more than entertaining the masses and self aggrandizement for the worship team. Worshiping God is a distant last to giving a great performance. It shows, It’s been showing for a long time now.
     My take, as I said, is a bit different.  So here goes...

     1:  You have the absolute worst self-image in the history of mankind.
Jesus said “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you to come out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)  Jesus told us we’d be hated and yet you keep wimping out and backing down and standing for less and less and trying to make the world NOT hate you. That accomplishes nothing. People aren’t going to church to feel good about where they are right now. Deep down they know something is wrong...they want to change. They DO want to come to a place where it is safe to admit they are screwed up and where it is safe to say “I need something!” Which brings me to...
     2: It’s about Jesus...remember Him?
Remember songs like “Jesus is the Answer” or “Tell Them?” Remember when you believed that when Jesus said “I am THE way THE truth and THE Life and nobody comes to God unless he comes through me!” (John 14:6) He meant it and wasn’t kidding?  When did you think He changed His mind? When did it become cool to be so accepting of other “paths?” Jesus never brooked that possibility. He was cut and dried. “It’s me or nobody!” As far as I know, He hasn’t issued a redaction of that text nor has he relinquished His claim to the Only Way. Stop putting words in his mouth.
     3: You DO have a weird language...try going back to the words that changed the world for about 2000 years. Remember when Jesus told Nicodemus “Listen...don’t be surprised that I tell you that you must be BORN AGAIN!” (John 3:7)  So why don’t you use those words anymore? Why aren’t people “born again” and why don’t they still “get saved?” You use words like “engage” “encounter Jesus” “have a relationship with Jesus” but Jesus said those things are not possible without a one-moment-in-time, specific, instantaneous, head-on-collision with the cross of Christ. The cross is vicious and harsh and demanding. Why have you bubble wrapped it?
     4: You play the popularity game.
Face it...a lot of you are phonies. Every move you make, every song you sing, every mission trip gets blasted on social media, a press release gets sent out, and you try to announce your humility. You act like you don’t want recognition, but you claw and scratch for it. You use the tired phrase “Make Jesus Famous” but you really do everything you can think of to make YOU famous, thinking that your fame can add to His. That’s a travesty.
     5: You are the worst age discriminators on earth.
You are loaded to the gills with older folks with a lifetime of knowledge and wisdom and you run them off with your pabulum-infused songs and contemporary services. These are the people who seem to know how to balance a checkbook, stay faithful to one church and one spouse for a lifetime, and raise good kids. yet you isolate them by complaining that they need to change with the times. The times SUCK. Maybe they had it right. Maybe you should listen to them a little more.
     6: You’re a pastor...stop camouflaging that. Wear a suit now and then. Shave that hideous beard. Stop wearing girl jeans and capri pants. Try drinking black coffee once in a while. Cut your own grass. And for God’s sake, maybe it wouldn’t kill you to NOT try for shock-points by talking about your favorite beer, your sex life, or your favorite KISS album. You were called to lead by get WAY OUT IN FRONT and be very different...not barely different.
     7: You are here to love people. Sometimes that means putting a hard finger in their face and telling them “This is bad. STOP!” Sometimes it means shutting up and being silent because you really aren’t that smart sounding, and the person just needs a silent arm around their shoulder. ALL THE TIME it means you are kind. Kind even in your hard, immovable stance on sin. Still be kind.
     8: Lastly. You play favorites. And the world sees it. When half the staff are either related to you or your best friends or friends of your best friends...the world sees it. That’s crap. It’s crap in the secular business world and it’s an outhouse full of crap in a church. STOP IT. This is GOD’S church...not yours. You are NOT a CEO. You are a shepherd. Shepherds love sheep. Period
     9: You are a church...aren't you? Changing your name to something that sounds like a sandwich kiosk in the mall food court doesn't fool anybody, and it doesn't help. People see Church as a landmark. A touchstone. It is supposed to be definitive and clear. Why do you try renaming yourself? Because there are a few "bad Baptists" in the world? A couple of crazy Assembly of God's who went rogue?  The Catholic Church has almost gone out of it's way to shoot itself in the foot, what with priests behaving badly and all. Yet they never considered hiring a PR firm to reinvent themselves. They believed in their core foundation and they believed that it was real, and necessary, and that simply living up to it once again would eventually restore people's faith in Catholicism. 
Some people call that being resolute. It's a good thing. You should try it. People died over the course of history to give you the Theology you adhere to. What are you so ashamed of? My daughter calls me "Dad." I'm not a perfect dad, and sometimes I mess up. When I do, I place the onus on me to be a better dad, and deserve the moniker again. What I don't do is tell her she can start calling me Craig, because "Dad" has some bad connotations attached to it. You're a lighthouse...not a glow stick.
     Finally: How about an altar call? How about a specific time in EVERY service where God can specifically do business with the people you are preaching to.
Because since we are “all fallen” (as you keep reminding us when one of your favorite flockstars falls) we ALL need time to repent and do some housekeeping. And how about some hymns mixed in with the hypno-trance worship songs. And how about a few testimonies now and then,  and maybe asking some dear old saint who has been praying for 50+ years, to pray audibly so the kids can hear what a wizened old saint sounds like when he prays. You have probably a thousand years of combined "walking with Jesus" in your midst, and yet you play to the babies. In any other culture that would be written off as foolish. 
Because it it. 
     That’s my take. I’ve sat on both sides of this, and this is what my almost-51 years tells me. The church has tripped over itself apologizing for being Godly. Guess what? That’s what the ungodly actually want from you...GODLINESS! So start doing it. Stop making them so darn comfortable in their ungodliness! That's not why most of them came to your church. So you can stop going out of your way to blur the lines between what an actual Christian is and does, and the rest of the world. That line was never supposed to be blurry. It was supposed to be bold, and stark, and it allows no turning back once you cross it. 
THAT is what they want. They are leaving because, after a few weeks of being in your presence, they feel like there isn't much different between them and you, and now that they've settled the unrest in their hearts, (sadly, they settled it with the Christian codeine you sold them) they'd just as soon stay home or go fishing or golfing or to a craft beer festival. They came to you looking for a way to be different. They came away, not with the words of Life that change you and make you different and infuse that difference into every pore of their being, but with the feeling that they don't really need to be different. 
They are leaving you because they feel like they didn't really need you after all. That's your fault...not theirs.

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