I’m back on my soap box today. This is a post that is mainly for the Christian, a matter that has been heavy on my heart lately. The Christian Church today seems to be experiencing hurt and much of the time the hurts come, disappointingly, from those that should be nurturing. But read on, and we will, hopefully, end on a positive note.
“I have cried a lot. I am embarrassed and I seem to be the bad guy, trying to hold my family together.” These gut wrenching words came to me recently from a friend who has experienced deep hurt to himself and his family from someone they trusted unequivocally.
This type of cruelty should not be named among us in the Christian Church. But it happens all too frequently. Some have their own personal agendas and expect everyone to honor them. Some see supposed wrong in the local church and take it on themselves to eradicate it, while others just can’t be happy about anything, always on a search and destroy mission to be sure everyone else is as miserable as they are, leaving a trail of bodies in their wake.
To use the now cliché from President Bush #1, “Why can’t we all just get along?” would seem trite and empty in the face of the soul piercing that Christian brothers and sisters experience from each other from time to time. It seems that these people would rather proclaim, “It’s my way or the highway!”
And, while we are quoting clichés, one that seems fitting is, “The Christian army is the only army that shoots its wounded.” Having our way, demanding others agree with our view seems to be the life goal of some, while never thinking about the repercussions of their statements and actions. And “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a lie out of the pit of Hell itself. Words cut to the quick of the inner person and the damage is almost never, if ever, repairable. No, we must realize, words can hurt more than sticks and stones.
Is it any wonder that so many in our society have deserted the Church and so many unchurched people have no interest in visiting with you at your church? Think about it. If you were an outsider, looking at whether or not you should investigate the claims of Christianity, would it make sense to you to go to a church if what you witnessed is how well that church argues and complains and abuses each other? It doesn’t take a lot of investigation to find out these juicy tidbits among a church membership if it is occurring. They can get the same treatment elsewhere. Why bother?
Yes, the Church today, in many cases, looks too much like any other organization that you will find. Companies, fraternities, community service clubs, labor unions, ball teams and card games are all made up of people. People are people wherever you go, and we expect and live with and work through the conflict there. But the Christian should strive daily to be different, because we are different. The Bible says that God has “granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through knowledge of Him…”
Are those just nice words or can we believe them and live by them? If we have everything we need for life and godliness that means living like God. Hmmm…What’s the agenda then – our own selfish determination or how God would be honored in our life and relationships?
The facts are currently staggering for the Church in America. Gallup polls say that 40% of Americans attend church services on a given Sunday. But sociologists C. Kirk Hadaway and Penny Marler reach a different conclusion. They see the percentage is closer to 17%. No matter how you slice it, America seems to have more important things to do. It seems that only 6% of churches are actually growing and the other 94% are losing ground rapidly. The increase in churches is only one fourth of what is needed to keep pace with population growth. And as youth leave home for college and university, 75% are leaving the Christian faith.
So, “Where is everybody!?” to quote an old Twilight Zone episode. Well, maybe they are sick of seeing people who claim to be God’s children acting like spoiled brats. Maybe they expected more from their leaders and fellow believers. Maybe they see the Church as irrelevant today because of infighting and harshness. Maybe they are at the golf course, mowing their yard or sleeping in and avoiding more hassles like the ones they left behind at the job on Friday.
Christians, we must wake up to who we are and what we are about. We must get over ourselves and renew our commitment to Christ and His people and His work. The Bible also says that we should “make the most of our time because the days are evil.” We cannot make good use of our time if we only think of “me, myself and I.”
I believe church attendance for the Christian should be for a refilling and encouragement each week. We should be burning ourselves out for Jesus during the week and then return to our fellowship for renewing, encouragement and filling with God’s purpose so we can go out there and do it again the next week. We should be building up our relationship with the Lord and not tearing down relationships with others. When a member is wounded, we should run to them in nurture and not in a judgmental attitude.
For those of you who are not in church and possibly do not claim to be Christian and have read this far, please don’t give up your search for Truth. There are churches still out there that are dedicated to Truth and serious Christians there who will love you and accept you. We all know that bad news outpaces the good much of the time. But the Truth has a habit of surfacing and winning out eventually. So keep seeking a fellowship that nurtures its flock and cares for its wounded.
Ah, church life – gotta love it! It’s a constant challenge for those Christ followers who truly desire to make a difference. So don’t give up because of a few selfish hard heads. Keep standing for Truth and do as the Apostle Paul writes, “stand…and having done all, to stand.” There are many out there who need your encouragement and need to see you stand for what’s right.