You may be wondering about the title of my blog. I mean I am a pastor. I should LOVE church. But the thing is: I don’t, at least not always. Don’t get me wrong, I love church when church gets it right. But more often than not, I see church getting it wrong. And please know that when I am speaking of church, I don’t mean the buildings because those are just the spaces we gather. A building can’t do what the church is supposed to do, which is to be light to the world. The church is the people. And that is where we struggle.
Too often, I see people being and doing what we are not supposed to be and do when we claim the name of Christian. That name signifies that we follow Christ. And yet, I see Christians doing very un-Christlike things. I see Christians saying very un-Christlike words. And I am not at all surprised when I hear people who have called it quits with the church saying things like, Christians are judgmental, know-it-alls, fakers, hypocrites and dishonest. If those words sting, they should. Because that is not who we have been called to be by God.
We are called to be kind, loving, generous, patient, joy-filled, good, faithful, gentle, and have self-control over our actions. If these words sound familiar, they should, as they are the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit, and you will find them listed in Galatians 5:22 – 23. If they don’t sound familiar, then please read Galatians. Know too, that this kind of proves my point as Christians are not literate when it comes to scripture. As a whole, we don’t read scripture as much as we should. So, since we don’t read scripture, we don’t know what God expects from us, and since we don’t know what God expects from us, we can’t do what God needs us to do. We are in a rather vicious circle and instead of being a beacon of light to the world, we only cause more harm and inflict more trauma into a world already brimming with harm and trauma.
The question for Christians to ask themselves is this: “How can we be Christians if we don’t know what it means to be Christian?” It is important to our faith, our life journey, the way we respond to the people around us to attend worship services, read the Bible, and find a small group to join. In this way, we will know what it means to be Christian as we follow the example Jesus set for us.
So, I hate when “church,” or rather Christians, don’t live as we are called to live. People who are part of a different faith tradition or those who are outside any faith hate it too. Which is why we get so many negative names attached to us. But even more than the names we get called, assumptions are made about us and the expectation we have for those who are not part of the “church.” People tend to assume that we just want to fix them, so they act just like us. Or we give them guilt-trips until they become just like us. We treat people as if they are outsiders and not welcome unless they are just like us. We have double-standards for behavior. We can act poorly because we are forgiven but everyone else must be perfect. (BTW…Jesus didn’t teach this.) We don’t talk about the real issues in life. Everything is happy and good and nothing bad happens and when bad things do happen it is all the individual’s fault because they didn’t believe enough or pray enough, or they have sinned against God. None of this is in the Bible either and if we read it, we would know that, but we persist in believing these false statements anyway.
So, I hate church when we get it wrong because when we get it wrong, we become a stumbling block between people and their relationship to God who loves them. We cause harm when we have been called to bring good, when we have been called to be light bearers to the world.
If you have been hurt by “church,” please know that not all Christians do the above. Many are welcoming to all people and are wonderful examples of the life Jesus led in this world. If you have been hurt by “church,” I invite you to talk about your experiences to someone you trust. If you live in the Merritt Island area, please know that I am willing to meet you at the local coffee shop and you can share what you feel comfortable sharing about your experiences. If you have been hurt by “church,” I am sorry for the pain you have been caused. This is not what God wanted for you.
May God’s grace and mercy be with you all today and may you know how much God loves you.