Dear Church

I saw an article on facebook this week titled Dear Church, Here’s Why People Are REALLY Leaving You. When I read it, I got a big rant that attacks five cliches of the evangelical church: the big productions many services turn into, the alienation caused by “Christianese” lingo, self-absorption, wrong priorities, and lack of genuine love. Fair enough – those things all suck.

But the article made me sad because all the pain that was harnessed into this attack is directed at big-C Church, which I consider myself a part of. The Church includes all Christians around the world and throughout history, and it is so much bigger than the evangelical movement (which, for all its failures, is part of the Church). I am heartbroken on behalf of the Church that we have been so misunderstood and that we have perpetuated the misunderstandings by inviting people to come to church at 10:30 on Sunday morning. I wonder if it would help to change our language – call a worship service what it is, invent a word for church buildings that are not cathedrals, and talk more about beautiful churches in terms of handshakes, smiles, tears and transformation, not the bricks and mortar that house them.

Part of my church on a trip at the zoo 🙂

When Hebrews 10:25 says not to neglect meeting together, I don’t think the author means just weekly services. We are told to stir one another up to love and good works (the major criticisms of the Church tend to fall into these two categories), and that takes more than singing songs together and hearing a sermon. Healthy churches consist of genuine relationships: friends and spiritual family who want to be together and live for God together, and those who discipline themselves to come together even when it feels easier or safer to go it alone.

The Church is the tangible presence of Christ on earth, so a critique of concert-style worship events and glitzy kids programs and hypocrisy is in some ways completely irrelevant. Those things are not why people are leaving the church, they are why people don’t even what church means any more.

Author Philip Yancey compares human suffering in the church to leprosy, a disease of lost sensation in the body. If as a church, we do not feel the pain of our members who suffer then they will continue to be damaged or even broken off and lost forever. This is true of the lonely, bereaved, persecuted, frightened and discouraged. But the article is an insult to every person in the above categories who is a Christian because they are the Church, just as much as the cliche-fitting believers who love Jesus and mean well but miss the mark in ministering to the hurting.

A church doesn’t need a board or a pastor or a children’s program to be “church,” it needs the love of Christ and to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Programming and staff and buildings and committees can all have a role in helping the church fulfill her purpose, and when they become obstacles they should be critically evaluated and possibly changed. But those criticism should not be lobbed in the form of a “Dear Church” letter because then from the very opening it is off topic.

Writing

Here is my own letter to the Church:

Dear Church, I love you so much. When things are good, you show me Jesus’ heart for a broken world, and your pour life into me so I can do the same. When things are bad, your mistakes have sent me to God in grief, rage, despair and sometimes in humble confession. I want you to change all at once to be your best self, but that doesn’t seem to be the way it goes. You remind me how far I myself have to go in this life pursuit of godliness and holiness.

Dear Church, let’s not give up on each other, okay? We are loved so extravagantly by the God who made us, the One who is making us new.

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Comments

Ericka M. 06-02-2015, 19:39

I do agree with the fact that people definitely leave churches, but for many good reasons. I know when I used to attend certain churches when living in Toronto, somehow, almost every time, I planned on going to a church event, something BAD would happen. For example, my alarm clock wouldn’t go off even though it was set to, so I’d miss going to a morning service, etc. But years later, I realized that it was God Almighty Who was preventing me from going to these church services and activities! Because the true Christian Church is not supposed to celebrate birthdays, Hallowe’en, Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter, May Day, Winter and Summer Solstice, and other “way of the heathen. It’s too bad I did not realize this until many years later, after I went through hardships because of all these evil spirits that were operating in my life. Oh and also, many modern “Christians” read the corrupted Bible English versions. I know the support of these versions on this site, but there can only be ONE word of God and God is not the author of confusion.

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alyssa 08-02-2015, 16:34

Hi Ericka, it is always interesting to hear your perspective. I agree with you that there is one Word of God, and we see in John 1:1 that one Word is Jesus. Certainly we can spend our entire life’s journey striving to know Jesus more, and I pray he continues to guide you and draw you close to him.
with love,
Alyssa

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Alyssa 09-02-2015, 09:34

Regarding the celebrations and holy days enjoyed by a majority of Christians, I would refer to Paul’s words to Titus (from the KJV, as you prefer):

Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.

If you are unable to participate in these events, then submit to your conscience with faith in God’s mercy. However, I hope you can refrain from judging other Christians over these differences.

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