Okay. I have avoided any pushback for a long time. I didn’t want to be thought of as one of those guys who just doesn’t get it. I think I get it. The church in USAmerica is declining. I have read gut-wrenching articles outlining everything that is wrong with the church. I have read blogs about “why we are leaving church” and “why we don’t go to church.” I have been a pastor for just over 30 years now. (Ouch! I did start very young!) Trust me. I know the church isn’t perfect. I have had an angry church member make the motion to cut my salary during a business conference, because he didn’t like the job I was doing. I have received anonymous hate mail over sermons I have preached. (They were about love and being inclusive. I guess grace isn’t as popular as we have been taught.) My very small list of the meanest, most unethical people I have ever met is compiled of people who have served on church boards. So forgive my lack of sympathy for you being offended because you went to a church once and they served you a cold latte!
I want to tell you why I still believe in the church. Even though it is home to some vile people, it is often haplessly behind and is often self-serving, there is another side of church world. It was because of the people and mission of a church that I became a Christian. I was accepted, embraced, loved and made to feel important by people who had no reason to love me other than because they were followers of Christ. I have seen people in the church with little money give generously to help provide for others in need. I have seen people selflessly give and serve others through ministries of the church and community. When I have hurt, it has been church folks who embraced me and loved me and were the comforting hands of God to me. This is the experience of millions of others as well.
Church isn’t perfect. I know. Neither am I. Neither are you.
I have noticed that a lot of the complaints leveled against the church are the same complaints leveled at just about everything else in society. The church is not alone in facing some of these problems. Church leaders wring their hands over what the church is doing wrong because people aren’t as committed to church as they used to be. Newsflash! Business leaders are wringing their hands wondering why their employees aren’t as committed to work as they used to be. And they pay them to come! Have you seen the divorce rate? Could it be that we live in a culture that just isn’t as committed to anything as it used to be?
Church leaders are as anxious as cats not to challenge or require much from people attending church because they might just leave if you do. At the same time business leaders are struggling with employees who have a lack of conflict resolution skills. That hampers the businesses from keeping employees long term and having an enjoyable work environment. Could it be that we live in a culture where people just leave when something happens that they don’t like. Not as many people are willing to stick around and work things out when things don’t go their way.
We live in a culture where many are entertained to death and think they are entitled to having everything go the way they want it whether they put any effort into it or not. By the way, this is across the board, not just any one generation.
So why do we expect people to flock to a community that would dare try to hold each other accountable? That would focus on us changing and becoming the human beings God created us to be? That would require service and selflessness? That teaches that joy comes through service? And even asked for you to give some of your money! Many people leave when they realize this. The people we convinced to show up for the entertainment, celebrity pastors and the latest coffee that all the cool kids are drinking are often unaware of the cost.
I know the church has issues. I have worked for decades to try to help the local church be what God has called us to be. Sometimes I get discouraged. But, when people ask me, “why are there so many hypocrites in the church?” I answer, “Have you ever seriously tried to follow Jesus? It’s hard. That’s why I’m a hypocrite.”
I really believe that there are some good churches out there. If you really want to find one, I believe you can. Most people I know who want to, do.
The church has its problems. But it is not just the church.