I have been reading The Church Jesus Builds while in the dentist office waiting room today. I focused on the chapter titled, Tensions That Strengthen The Church. Wayne Schmidt, Lead Pastor of Kentwood Community Church in Grand Rapids, wrote this chapter and dealt with some issues that I have been working through on my own. I won’t take the time to address all of these but I will focus on a few questions that he asked.
After some church leaders heard Bono say, at Schmidt’s church, that he “previously loved Christ, but couldn’t stand the Church or Christians,” they “snickered.” This bothered Schmidt, as does me, and he asks, “Is it a sign that even leaders of the Church have surrendered to the cultural conclusions that the Church is at best a dysfunctional family, hopelessly idiosyncratic and beyond redemption?” (166).
Here are some concerns that I have had, in light of this question, for quite a while now:
- Is it really funny that Christians “snicker” at the Church and other Christians because the they have come into agreement with the world that the Church is out of touch, a sham, and/or has failed in her mission to be a Godly community in the middle of a Fallen world? Some Christians would go so far as to say that it is impossible to live by commands to love Him and others until Christ returns. If that is true, then how do explain Bethlehem in the book of Ruth?
- Do the more successful pastors, in the churches that everyone considers it a privilege to go to, take advantage of the Church and those who attend when they fall? In other words, are we bloggers and ministers, taking advantage of the opportunity to finger point so that we can say, or imply, that we are not like that?
- Have we, as church leaders, “surrendered” to the cultures label of the Church, that she is irrelevant in the 21st Century? In other words, government, human goodwill, and famous people can fix this world that can be so cruel? After all, 1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” I guess my question is do we, the Church, even think that it is foolish for the Church to be the Salt and Light of the world?
- Has the Church made friends with the idea that we are individuals first by looking out for our own interests instead of looking out for others? As church leaders, are we guilty of hoarding God’s money as individuals, and a local Body, by turning our churches into a savings and loan branch? The elephant in the room is that we say this is an “emergency fund.” Isn’t God our emergency fund?
- I am all on board with church planting. It is God’s mission in this world. Yet, are most established churches really beyond redemption? Can God not turn these organisms around? He can. So the question in the end that must be wrestled with is, when do the mega-churches, and/or church plants decide to encourage our creative and gifted people to be a part of the redemption process, instead of jumping ship to take part in the good times somewhere else? I know that some are called by God to do this, however, I believe that many of the average attendees that leave are not.
If you attend a church, or a leader, what are you going to do? Can you still find love for the Bride of Christ in your heart? Can you trust that God will redeem a troubled community of believers?
Here is an action question that Schmidt asks, “”Do you agree that our culture today, both inside and outside the Church, tends to devalue the Church as a “dysfunctional family, hopelessly idiosyncratic and beyond redemption”? List several specific ways we can be honest with ourselves about the Church’s shortcomings, yet affirm its biblical position within God’s redemptive plan” (175). I would add that you might list specific ways in your own church.
Hope to hear from a few of you.