I’ve heard either directly from people who read this blog, or through mutual friends that what I write is a bit “shocking” for a pastor. Not in a bad sense. More shocking in a breath of fresh air sense. That’s a nice compliment actually. I’m grateful that what I write causes people to think or to see that they are not alone.
It’s shocking in the sense that what they are seeing in print is what they believe. I’m just putting words to many people’s thoughts. I certainly hear plenty from folks. Too often people think they are alone in their thinking. The reality though says differently. There are a lot of folks who think like you do, dear reader. Trust me on this. You aren’t alone.
People can’t believe that a pastor would be so open and honest about the state of the church or society or politics or the news. My blog has always been a place where I write very openly, play with ideas, and do not sugar coat things. There is no sense in that. I’ve never been one to avoid topics just because they are uncomfortable to talk about.
What’s it say about the state of the church if we can’t be vulnerable and open? What’s it say about the church if we can’t condemn racism, nationalism, greed, violence, toxicity, and so many other horrible things openly and publicly? What’s it say about the church if we don’t speak up for the poor, the stranger, the outcast, care for creation, the way of peace, seeing the image of God in others, and more? If we can’t do any of that, then what’s the point of the church existing at all?
What is it that we are so afraid of? Losing people? News flash – the church has been in decline for decades. We’ve been losing people for a long time. And in the process we have pushed other people away who have an inclination towards the message of the church, but they want no part of it because we are afraid to be authentic about who we are and what we believe – to put our money where our mouths and statements are.
Apparently, the church some time ago made a decision to be more concerned with a false peace (avoiding conflict with those who complain the loudest), so as to keep people and their money in the institution. It’s a scarcity mentality that is not sustainable, it is a direct rejection of people who embrace the Gospel message, and it’s a focus on decline. All for a fake peace – not real peace. Do we think that if we are just nice, that people will come around to a different way of thinking? No, they won’t. Why would they? The complainers are getting what they want. I’m speaking in broad brushes here of course. There are churches where the Gospel is embraced not just in word, but in action, with dollars, with attention, and with love. But I’ll tell you this much – there are plenty of churches out there that have valued avoiding conflict and have settled for a truce in which the words say one thing but are unmatched by investment in money, time, or other resources. Decline is an inevitable consequence of this decision.
I’m not exaggerating. All you have to do is look at a recent comment from Russell Moore, the former head of the Southern Baptist Convention. He has said that pastors have talked with him to express that people in the pews complain when the pastor preaches the Beatitudes or love your neighbor. When the people complain about these messages and the pastor responds that these are the words of Jesus, the people say it is weak and doesn’t work anymore. That’s a serious problem. And it’s been building for a long, long time. You don’t get to this overnight. Why on earth are we giving preference to people who are literally rejecting Jesus’ teaching? Why are we not confronting people and demanding they explain how they can claim to follow Jesus while at the same time rejecting what he literally calls on his followers to do? Is their money that good that it can buy off the church’s silence of Jesus’ message? What’s the church about after all?
We proclaim life, death, and resurrection in our pulpits, but do we actually believe it? Are we willing to embrace those things as more than just words we say we believe? Is money most important in order to sustain the church, rather than having a living church that is focused on Jesus and his message? Do we think that if we are faithful that the money won’t be there to support the effort? Is the avoidance of conflict more important than proclamation of a message that conflicts with the long running systems of our culture? Are we more concerned with saving an institution that isn’t going to upset the applecart or are we going to attempt to live the faith that has been given to us – a faith that is so impactful and transformational that it can change lives, communities, and societies when it is followed?
Why do I write what I write? Simple reason – There is a better way for this world and for the church. The status quo is pretty crappy. Why would we try to maintain something mediocre at best, and downright destructive for so many people, for the planet, and for future generations? Why aren’t we clamoring for a better world? Have we bought the message that this is the best we’re going to get? It’s not.
Why do I write what I write? Because someone has to say it. And I’m not the only one either, not by a long shot. I’m just one small voice who dares to confront the status quo to let it know that I can see through the BS and the lies and the false promises. I’m not falling for it. And I’m not giving it a pass either.
Why do I write what I write? Because I am compelled too. If I can’t attempt to live into and speak what it is I claim to believe, then what’s the point of believing it at all?