Nearly everyone I know has experienced the stigma. People have walked away from their faith. Christians have stopped attending church. Congregations have continued to shrink over the years. The demonic sycophants of evil have embroidered a Scarlet Letter upon the breastplate of the Christian Church, as many believers have enshrined a pedestal of legalism, sin, and guilt.
“They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” Titus 1:16
DISCLAMER: Before I begin, first, allow me to fully disclose my position. I am FOR the Church. Many people suggest the Church is not important or necessary-that’s not me. According to scripture, the Church is the Bride of Christ. Not only is the Church essential to the Father’s grand design, but God’s children uniting together as one to worship Him is biblical. I know MANY congregations who are wholeheartedly showing the love of Christ through effective ministry and missionary work, and spreading the Gospel with compassion is their priority. These pastors unapologetically expound on the Word of God without adjudicating the spectators with a God-complex…but rather they simply point to Jesus. To them, I applaud.
Yet despite this great calling to follow hard after Jesus as a unified body, there are people within the congregation that mess it up for everyone else. Whether this is the complainer, nagger, or a pugilist within the pews, the collision can feel more like a shellacking experienced in a Mayweather vs. McGregor fight rather than a spiritual encounter with God the Father.
“He replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:’ ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.’” Mark 7:6
So can clowns within the congregation ruin church for everyone else? Yes. The greatest tragedy I hear time and time again in ministry, are stories of individuals quitting church because the flesh of man failed to meet their expectations. This wrath can be suffered through a quibbling cavalry- determined to purge worldly sins with their haughty eyes, harsh words, and leather-bound whips jagged with nails, or through a Body of Christ who merely pays a casual homage to the Cross, with a one-dimensional lip service once a week and a shallow faith the rest of the time.
Notwithstanding the orifice, I refer to this kind of Christianity as Junk Christianity. Rather than genuinely demonstrating the love of Christ, we are often mesmerized by our own reflections in the mirror. Consequently, many Christians have limped away from church with a spiritual subdural hematoma. Their minds have been so severely beaten by the Pharisees of our time; their decision has been made-to walk away from the Church…for good.
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” Romans 12: 9
To be fair, several of the stories I’ve been told are narrated with narrow perspectives. While one person may have felt like they were being mistreated, their stories were conveniently missing self-incriminating details and were purely one sided. In other words, many folks are looking for an excuse to blame God for anything or sometimes even everything. Nonetheless, others have legit complaints.
No one can deny the Church seems to be in a bind. Attendance is suffering. Doors are closing. And stories of preachers falling from grace often ratify the skeptic’s preconceived notions toward religion. There seems to be more individuals who casually “identify” with Christianity, rather than people “actively” involved within a congregation.
“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have hid in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.” Luke 12: 1-3
Why is this so? Well, that answer isn’t so simple. However, we are going to address a few of the pressing issues head on. Self-examination is a good thing. One should always be willing to evaluate their tactics. Moreover, the Christian ought to frequently assay the degree authenticity in their relationship with Jesus. Admittedly, the human flesh by nature often resists this effort. It’s much easier to critic someone else’s life rather than their own.
Several years ago, a blurb floated around social media. I do not recall all of the specifics so several of the details have been filled in. The tale goes a little like this…
One Sunday Morning a trendy mega church was expecting the arrival of their new pastor. Pastor Kassler Jones was well known within the Who’s Who ranks of Evangelical Christianity. A Summa Cum Laude graduate from the finest universities and seminary, he was polished, well spoken, and was sure to fit in perfectly with the affluent suburb.
The time had arrived. People crowded the pews. An aroma of chic perfume permeated the air. Old money sat in the front of the congregation. New money occupied the center. Everyone of importance was in attendance. Meanwhile, a homeless man entered the building. “I just want to hear about Jesus,” he told the front doorman that questioned his presence. The keeper begrudgingly let the stranger through. Dressed in dirty rags he wobbled through the masses until he found a seat. Tattoos covered his arms. A stench followed his trail. Church members stared with disgust. Quiet snarling commenced beneath bated breath. Laughter ensued. Fingers were pointing. Security positioned their-selves close by in case a situation erupted.
The service began. Yet Wonder Boy was nowhere to be found. An associate pastor stood at the podium. Well aware of the lead preacher’s absence, his voice nervously crackled. “Um, Reverend Jones can you please come to the front sir?” The audience was silent. No movement. Everyone looked around. Anxieties intensified. “Has anyone seen Kassler Jones?” the minister pleaded. “Mr. Jones are you here?” Staff had only communicated with the pastor by phone over the last several weeks.
After an elongated pause the homeless man stood to his feet. He removed his disheveled coat and toboggan. As the scrounger began to walk to the platform, the audience quickly recognized him as Kassler Jones- albeit a more scraggly and less suave appearance. Yet this time, he no longer limped like a timid leper, but rather a man in pursuit of a mission.
Immediately faces coward in shame. Rather than welcoming the needy with open arms people rejected him because of appearances. He began to graciously speak. “The question must be asked. Do we follow Christ or the love of status?” His words echoed upon guilty silence. That Sunday morning the congregation’s true character was revealed.
Although the original story and this loosely based anecdote were merely fictional sagas, the overall illustration draws a worthy recognition of Junk Christianity. While there are many solid institutions across the globe, superficial churches do exist. Sacred walls have become defiled. Anything is possible when our eyes are taken off of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Rather than welcoming strangers, we act as the Great Arbitrators by exhausting only our preconceived notions when drawing conclusions. Our shallowness and selfish desires are a repellent to the truly broken hearts. Sure, sticks and stones will break your bones, but quite often, our words will cause much more pain.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
I believe this issue comes down to a matter of authenticity. For a second job, I drive for a popular transportation service. Here, I regularly have the opportunity to engage a variety of individuals with differing lifestyles and faiths. I’ve toted many a unique individual. Today, I chauffeured an elderly woman named Delilah. She was a very successful real estate agent who serviced an affluent income bracket. Immediately, upon my arrival, she was catty. I was early, but not nearly early enough. My truck was too high. And apparently I sprayed too much Febreze in the back seat. Ms. “Hey there Delilah” found something to cavil in everything I said…until of course…she discovered my Bible. Then the tides of conversation began to change course. Sweet Delilah altered her demeanor 180 degrees when she learned my profession. No longer was I this unemployed loser working part time. According to her, I was a “Man of the Cloth.” I was somebody.
Was Delilah a bad Christian? I doubt it…but honestly I do not know. God will ultimately make that determination. I can only assess that thirty minutes she and I conversed. However, I do think she momentarily had a lapse of authenticity- like we all frequently do throughout the day. I just had a front row spectacle to her wretched performance. Through God’s eyes, I am no more valuable as the President of the United States than I am as a transportation driver. He does not show favoritism. So how can congregations fail so miserably? The answer is simple…because we are all a bunch of messed up Delilahs. The Church is a hospital for the broken, not a high society for the Who’s Who. Moreover, Jesus Christ is the litmus test for all of Christianity, not Delilah, nor the spiritual inept crouching at the end of the pew.
“Then Jesus told His disciples, ‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.’” Matthew 16: 24-27
In this series of Junk Christianity, light will be shed upon the misfortunes and misunderstandings within Christianity. These issues are the inhibitors of the faith. Nevertheless, the culture does not determine these measures- Scripture does. The Word of God is the foundation in this resolve. Jesus Christ is the example to follow. Merely because one is offended does not constitute an argument. The Father is the Judge of Junk Christianity, not a popular trend.
Part One- Christian Marriages: Pornography & the not so sacred wedding vowels.
Part Two- Judging: What do the words “Do not judge…” in Matthew 7: 1-5 really mean?
Part Three-The Pugilist within the Pews: The Christian judger and hypocrite.
Part Four- Christian None’rs: Following Christ from the couch.
Part Five- The Shallow Surface Preacher: The breakdown of the podiums and the withering pews.