I have been thinking a lot lately about a lot of things. And as this blog has become a platform for my musings, please allow me the opportunity to put some questions out there that are meant to spur reflection, inward thinking, outward reaction, open and honest dialogue, and hopefully change. Please know that the following does not represent anyone or any church in particular, but is a broad grasp at a bigger issue facing the church in North America today. Understand that this is not some rant against Christians or churches or denominations, but simply meant to cause us as believers in Jesus to rethink what we are doing, and then ask ourselves are we being effective for the Kingdom of Christ and are we representing Jesus in a manner He would be proud of?
We got rid of denominations?
Now bear with me for a moment. I know many of us, although we won't say it out loud, will live and die by our denominational dogmas and orthodoxy, our church's potato salad, and the worship style we have. But is it truly worth it? What would happen if churches began to remove whatever rifts cause them to become an island or a cluster of islands within a denomination and instead began to passionately pursue bringing Jesus into their towns, cities, states, and countries by having a united front? Is that too much to ask? Is it that too hard for us to lay aside differences on theology or dogma to embrace growing the kingdom? What is the worst that could happen if churches united to spread God's Word? Revival? I am not asking us to neglect doctrine or the core tenants of our faith, but instead to admit and understand that there will be differences and as long as those do not contradict the Bible, why can't we lay them aside for the greater mission: growing the kingdom of God?
We embraced sinners?
What if instead of turning up our noses to gay marriage and cringing when a man introduces us to his husband, we instead welcome them into the church just as they are? I know I took on another inflammatory issue within the midst of this statement, but it proves my point! We as Christians have done a stellar job at ostracizing different communities since the foundation of the church. Be it the Greeks in the New Testament, the Muslims during the Crusades, the doctors who performed abortions and the women who received them during the 90's, or the LGBT lifestyle that has become part of our current culture, the church has done a great job at pushing people away. Is that what we want to be known for? Do we want to be known as body of the Christ that loves and ministers to sinners like Jesus did, or do we simply want to become the Pharisaical church that people walk away from? What if we welcomed those who are struggling? What if we loved sinners instead of judging them? What if like Jesus did we hung out with the sinners and tax collectors? Would that be such a bad thing?
What if churches became a safe haven again?
There I go asking a question that immediately riles peoples' feathers. I am right there with you. I immediately want to cry foul on this and proclaim that my church, yes I attach undue ownership to what is rightly God's, is a safe haven for all people! Broken or otherwise, come as you are, love the sinner hate the sin. But let's be honest here...churches as whole suck at this! We ostracize people, we gossip, we break trust, we form cliques, we become elitists. Many of you would say "Now Nick the church is made up of broken people, and we are all still sinners. No church is perfect" but I would reply "Why not?! Why aren't we striving for perfection? Why do we throw up that answer as if it excuses us from loving the way Jesus loved?" Churches were meant to be a place where people could gather free of shame and guilt, free from the gossip and drama that plagued their lives, and free to come as they are before their loving Father who gave His Son so we could shed this sinful shell we call a body! But what if we became a place that the widows, the poor, the fatherless, the childless, the broken, the convicts, the outcasts, the "bigger" sinners could come and be cared for? What if the church again became a church where everyone gave of themselves so all could be loved and cared for? What if people no longer had to fear being pointed at or talked about during or after a service or counseling session? Maybe the church would grow...maybe people would see Christ and Christians differently. Maybe, just maybe, revival would once again take this land!
What if? Just what if? What if the church in America began to change? Would it be all that bad? Are we so stuck in our ways that we have forgotten our true calling as the Bride of Christ? Are we so caught up in making rules and guidelines and calling out others, that we have become spiritually blind to the greater issue at hand just like the Pharisees of old?
Like I said, I know that this is a post that will rile some of us up. I know it can be cringe worthy, but my hope in this is to help us as believers think through how we are ministering to others, and how we can better serve our Lord and Savior. So I ask you...