I want all of my church folks who find their way to this piece to understand that I am a man who digs the value of your mission. And frankly, I love you for it- as unscholarly as that may sound. I do not live by it or follow it but I sincerely respect it and often find myself in the position of defending it against what I see as unfair attacks by other heathens like me. My favorite folks are the “Marvin Gay Christians” I wrote about in this space a couple of months back. I see the necessity of formalizing and organizing around your guiding spiritual and/or religious principles. And I do respect your commitment and devotion- as far as I can tell it from the outside.
The fact that I am not a church person myself does not limit my appreciation for the value that you bring to our society. With that foundation of respect in place, there are questions that must be asked and answered to address so much of the confusion about the role and efficacy of established religion and houses of worship in the future of western culture. It could not be clearer that we have a crisis of confidence and competence in our national leadership at this time which raises the stakes on institutions and individuals who may be positioned to help us turn it around. And that means y’all, church folk. But you are not being singled out for scrutiny. Government agencies, schools and our corporate citizens will also be challenged in this space on areas of evident concern.
This is something that may be difficult for many of you to hear, but there are many committed Christians and faithful students of the Bible who have given up on being a member of a church congregation. The contradictions have become too difficult to reconcile and they don’t want to work that hard while they are trying to praise God and be in a place where that’s all that is supposed to be going on.
I’ll keep it simple in this discussion and just point out the basic questions that need to be answered to keep the church from becoming a relic of a bygone era- or at least from becoming completely marginalized in terms of influence on the state of the world. If you are a Christian and a committed church member, please help the rest of us to better understand the following:
When did Church become a commercial enterprise?
I know what the IRS says, but I am not talking about technical legal designations. I am talking about why it has become a clear objective of the church to make money. I have my thoughts and suspicions but they are the musings of an outsider and for me to just throw around conjecture about something so important would be disrespectful and that is not my intention. I do not want to hurt you or insult what you believe in but you have to understand that outsiders who could potentially be drawn into your world are very likely to pull up and pause like a cobra ready to strike if somebody at a church asks them for any personal financial records.
What does my profession or my W2 have to do with the fact that I need to worship God and want to share fellowship with you while doing it? Is there a cover charge to get in to the service? Wouldn’t it be easier to just charge me ten bucks per worship service at the door than for me to divulge all of that? Then, like at the ballpark I can pay more if I want to get a better seat- you know, closer to the action up front where God is at? I’m just saying. It is a peculiar dynamic to outsiders that seems to have become commonly accepted in the church community. It is a barrier for a great many of us who don’t like looking like that mad cobra up there but will surely strike if somebody shows too much interest in our pockets.
Is it really cool with you that your pastor lives an opulent lifestyle?
There is nothing wrong with loving your leadership. In fact, most organizations would collapse without a healthy emotional and psychological bond between the leadership and the membership. But you have a serious problem if the leader of your church is driving something that looks anything like this:
By the time your pastor’s car costs more than what many people’s homes cost that emotional bond has become an affection that is troubling. Gifts and trappings which appear extravagant to the objective observer are going to turn off the caliber of membership in the numbers that you need to thrive as an organization- particularly male membership. I will put a finer point on it: A conscientious man who has worked hard to make a living for himself and his family is not going to hand over his money to another man who preaches for a living so that man can drive a flashy automobile and live in one of these houses.
Generally, you will find that men who are willing to do that were acculturated into the church world as children and are already a part of core membership. In other words you will not expand or sustain your numbers that way.
I can’t prove this but if Jesus were here today in the flesh and was going to drive a car, I’m guessing he would drive a Toyota Prius or a Nissan Leaf. And if Christ was really just feeling himself, maybe he’d boom his gospel down the street in a Tesla. Can’t see the Messiah having any interest whatsoever in a Benz or a Bentley. Extrapolate from that how He might feel about the primary purveyors of His word rolling around like that.
It just does not make sense that anybody should be living that lifestyle and their core function- their “calling”- is helping people find their way to salvation through Jesus. And last I heard, Jesus is free. Folks, that is a turn off. A country-club and jet-set lifestyle is incongruous with a ministry of serving the poor, and feeding the hungry. As much as I respect what you folks want to do, I cannot understand for the life of me how that dynamic has been permitted to penetrate the culture for so long.
Why does depravity in leadership persist and why is it protected?
This questions is a tough one and may not be entirely fair, I’ll grant you that. But the scandal in the Catholic Church provides the starkest illustration one can imagine. Those who may find an interest in becoming a member of a congregation will be affected by the denials of the Bishop Eddie Long types and the Conspiratorial Catholic types that create a most depraved and twisted relationship imaginable between church leadership and membership. This guy down here has got to go and only the membership of churches can exorcise him properly.
Pastors and priests are just human so their failings are not as surprising or troubling as the institutional reflex to protect them from prosecution and accountability. The circling of the wagons will have the affect that you may want it to have- but it will also have unintended consequences. When you circle those wagons, you may be keeping attacking enemies out, but you are also keeping new friends from getting in- or even wanting to come when the crisis passes.
Thank you for listening to the pleas of a heathen that might need a healing one day that a good church could provide- but doesn’t want to join an LLC, get pimped, or have his son, daughter or wife bedded by the Reverend Doctor Dewey Feelgood. If anyone out there can shed any light any of this, I’m all eyes and ears. In the meantime, God bless you.
∞ Thanks for checking in- Do your thing today and I’ll see you tomorrow π