Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hating Christians?

Our current series (The Top 5 Things I Hate About Christians) has generated more than a couple inquiries. What are we trying to say? Why are we lumping all Christians together? Why are we attacking "our own"? What do we hope to accomplish by being critical of the church?

I think all of these questions are understandable, but there are also good answers. Here's what I would say this series is all about:

1. Taken all together, the church in America is failing. There are exceptions, of course, but when you take all the good and all the bad in the American church, what you end up with is much more bad than good. This is not debatable. By whatever means you want to measure, the church in America is failing in its mission to make disciples. Attendance is declining, biblical knowledge is declining, virtuous living is declining, giving is declining, serving is declining. The church in America is becoming more and more anemic. We need to admit the reality that exists and take stock of ourselves--we do ourselves no favors to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that everything is just fine.

2. The church does not have to fail. We have every available resource (and more!) that other believers have around the world. We have the Spirit and power of God, we have millions of people ready to be mobilized for God's glory, we have a huge mission field around us (America represents the third largest mission field in the world), and we have tremendous financial and capital resources that God has blessed us with. There is no reason the church is doomed to failure--we need only rise up and give ourselves to the Lord and to the task he has given us.

3. By taking an honest look in the mirror, we can address our blind spots. I don't believe the church is failing because we intend to--we've just drifted off-course. We need to be confronted by scripture again to draw us back to what we're supposed to be, as God intended us. The Old Testament prophets routinely slapped Israel in the face verbally when they strayed away from God's commands; we need a slap to wake us up and help us see how dire our situation is and how far we've wandered from God's intentions.

The goal of this series is to help us be "a different kind of church."

  • If most churches are failing, we want to be different. We want to be purposeful, intentional, strategic, wise, winsome, honest, creative, and thoughtful.
  • If most churches are just continuing to do what they've always done in spite of the fact that it is increasingly ineffective, we want to be constantly ruthless in our evaluation of how we can be more fruitful for God's kingdom.
  • If most churches have grown comfortable with their failures, we want to nurture a godly discontent that insists our unfaithfulness is not acceptable.
  • If most churches have created an environment that is hostile to unbelievers, that denigrates them, and that makes them feel unacceptable to God, we want to welcome them and make room for them. We want to serve them and show them what it really looks like to care about people the way Jesus did when he was on earth.

I'm so sick of a Christianity that exalts everything else above Jesus--whether it's the Republican party, financial prosperity, membership in an "in" group, a self-righteous sense of superiority, traditions of men, or any other idol that would set itself up in competition with Jesus Christ. WE--evangelicals--have become those of whom Paul spoke:

There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. (1 Timothy 3:1-5)

And what should Christ-followers do? "Have nothing to do with them." That's why we're addressing the things I hate about Christians.

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