At what point did it become normal and expected for the church (I’m speaking in broad strokes here), to proclaim crappy news and a gospel that brings people down?
I have seen far too many examples over the years of church being the exact opposite of what it claims it is and what the message is.
I just finished reading three articles on how churches have degraded and demeaned women. I didn’t have to go searching for these articles. And they aren’t the only ones. These women were women in ministry and they were ignored and passed by men because the men couldn’t imagine these women in ministry. This isn’t anything new of course. And that’s not an excuse. But seriously, why does this continue? I thought we were about valuing people and seeing the image of God in all people. But there is a strain of church in which the gospel of demeaning and putting women in their place and devaluing women is considered good news. If that’s good news, I don’t need it. And neither does anyone else.
I have seen examples of churches that have focused on proclamation of damnation. Why? To scare people into holiness? That doesn’t even make sense. If fear is your message, then where is the good news? Good News is supposed to free people from fear, not chain them in it.
I have seen examples of churches who find ways to separate people and “otherize” people. The stupid church sign that says that heaven has strict immigration policies but hell doesn’t. Umm, sorry, but you are wrong. Read Revelation – the gates are wide open for people to enter into the New Jerusalem. Wipe open. Stop making access to God so restrictive that only a select few privileged ones can get in. It’s really ugly. It’s not good news. It’s crappy news. Who needs it?
I’ve seen examples of churches that degrade LGBTQ+ people. Why? Don’t give me “because the Bible says homosexuality is a sin” thing. The word homosexuality didn’t even appear in English translations of the Bible until the 1940’s. And Jesus doesn’t talk about it. You’d think if homosexuality is such a heinous sin Jesus would have said something. You know what he talks about though far more than anything else – money and greed. But hey, that’s inconvenient for our culture and our churches, so we’ll ignore that or spin it away or assume that Jesus didn’t know what he was talking about.
I’ve seen examples of churches deal terribly with race. From not acknowledging the problem of racism to being afraid of even uttering the word. What is it about white church people being with other white church people and being afraid to even talk about race and racism? Not talking about it doesn’t make it go away. It means we’re too captive to sin and cannot free ourselves. Pretending that racism doesn’t exist is the equivalent of standing in a down pour without an umbrella and believing that you aren’t wet. It’s delusional.
The list could on, but that’s really not the point. My goal isn’t to just complain. It’s to offer this: It doesn’t have to be this way. Here’s a few things to consider:
- Can we just admit that churches are full of broken people? Really broken people. Can we just be honest about that finally? Enough with the facade of having our act together. We don’t. None of us. No matter how good it looks on the outside. We’re in church because we are broken. If we can acknowledge that as a church openly and honestly, I think it changes the message we start to proclaim. No need to proclaim a message of condemnation and degrading and dehumanization any more because guess what – we’re no better than the people we are condemning. There – see how freeing that is?
- Who is our God? Who is that we actually worship? A politician, a nation, what a nation stands for, a political party, etc. Or God? Christians are supposed to worship the Trinity. How about we let go of the other stuff because anything that is outside of God is just temporary. It’ll go away and then what? No politician or political party lasts. They leave office, they die. Political parties dissolve. Thanks be to God! Nations come and go. Why would we equate all these things with God? Those things will pass, but God won’t. Nations, politicians, political parties are all things that can be good and decent, or proclaimers of crappy news and a whole range in between. They aren’t equivalent to God. They don’t proclaim the Good News. So, can we see them for how flawed they all are, just like us. And recognize that they are not God and that they need God too.
- What is Good News? That we are released from captivity. That exploitation ends. That abuse is not a part of God’s kingdom. That violence is not the way of God, but rather peace is. That there is hope. Life, death, resurrection. Let go of the other stuff.
I have seen some great churches. Churches that proclaim Good News. Churches that serve. Churches that focus on discipleship. Churches that turn outward. Churches that care about people and creation. Churches that are willing to talk about difficult topics because they matter and those conversations can be transformative and release people from whatever is holding them captive. Churches that worship God well.
That’s what churches are supposed to be. Those aren’t special churches – every church can be like that. You know what it takes? Letting go of control and following Jesus. Actually following what he says and doing it. That’s it. When that happens, amazing ministry takes place. And crappy news is replaced with Good News!
I was so uplifted last evening. We tried an alternative outdoor worship in our pavilion. It was low key and casual. Some people had food to eat while we worshipped. The format was simple and we had all the essential parts of the ordo – the order of worship. The highlights for me were three things. 1. In place of a sermon, we had discussion in small groups. The conversations were incredible. The theology was deep and meaningful – all from lay people too. The insights were a blessing. People were seeing things, connecting portions of Scripture, asking questions, tying parts to other parts. It was a blessing to be a part of. 2. For the blessing, I had people do a blessing with those at their tables. Some spoke incredible words of blessing. Some hugged. Each gave heartfelt blessing to others around them and received those blessings too. Unbelievably uplifting. 3. For the prayers of the congregation, we went around to everyone who was gathered. Everyone had an opportunity to lift up a prayer or a thanksgiving. And each person offered a wonderful prayer, speaking from their hearts. This was an example of the beauty of church and faith in action. It was a blessing that fed my soul. It showed me the beauty of what is possible. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful that in spite of what some churches have become, that I got to witness what churches should be and in many cases are – inspirational and uplifting. The bearer of Good News.