thCCL8FCLAby: Rev. Ed Schneider, M.P.Th.

You know what I love about “modern” Christianity? It is so easy to be a part of it. There are almost no rules to follow, no guilt to experience, and certainly no process of personal discovery regarding the fundamental flaws within the human condition. No one seems to find it necessary to look into the spiritual mirror concerning humanity’s foundational lacking of personal honesty regarding its true natural state. Churches all across the American landscape practice a “feel good” approach to get “seekers” to walk through the door.

Let me make this next part very clear. I am NOT saying there exists zero possibility that any human effort can not be helpful or valuable. It can. It does. It should. Our collective missional outreach is by its very nature a positive expression of how God has blessed us and how we, as a collective body can help influence a positive transformation in others. There are plenty of non Christians who do great things frequently. They should be acknowledged and appreciated with honesty. However, far too many churches of every size, flavor, leadership styles, and geographical location play the psychological “game” of attempting to reward people’s vanity regarding their innate “greatness.” They will teach, preach, proclaim, and print how God is there as some sort of an after market product to advance your foundational greatness and, along with your willingness to “work at it,” take your basic “goodness” and make it even better by walking and leaning of God.

Churches all across the American landscape practice a “feel good” approach to get “seekers” to walk through the door.

Far too many churches of every size play the psychological “game” of rewarding people’s vanity regarding their innate “greatness.” They will teach, preach, proclaim, and print how God is there as some sort of an after market product to advance your foundational greatness and, along with your willingness to “work at it,” take your basic “goodness” and make it even better.

Somewhere between the loud music, light shows, no chairs, granola bars, and hopping around in the “worship center’s” auditorium as though you are in a well lighted 1980’s light rock concert, “modern” Christianity has placed itself right in the middle of a “market place” of ideas, philosophies, educational options, and alternative life-styles. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Wow! What an empowering message. You are great! God can make you better.

What are we thinking? What have we done to the testimony of The Bible’s eternal messages of a gracious, transforming, empowering, and convicting deity?

The answer; we have immensely cheapened the Christian message by willingly placing it “equally” along side the rest of the shallow and morbidly defeating “self-help” contemporary ideals.

thQ4E54WXMThe basic assumption of this trite theology is “feeling good” about humanity’s basic condition, and by logical association your own condition. This is without question the epitome of “junk” theology. This type of “feel good” preaching is quite literally being perpetrated on a prideful, vanity filled, “me-first” population who are merely experiencing the periphery of Christian understanding not its tremendous depth of personal discovery and spiritual growth given by God Almighty.

To think that we come to God as anything other than a broken vessel in need of practical, spiritual, and tangible repair is denying the basic foundational proclamation of the Bible. To draw people based on their personal vanity while providing an environment that is intentionally employed to “stroke” their personal sense of innate “goodness” is incomprehensibly cheapening the humble characteristic of one who awakens to the call of God. It also is, WITHOUT QUESTION, a heretical blasphemy against the basic truth bound within the testimony of scripture itself.

God empowers what we can become AFTER we awaken to our unworthiness. It is through our humility of approaching the throne of “grace” that we become open to being reanimated under the banner of The Creator’s Holy Spirit. It is through the understanding of our complete brokenness that we enter into the Divine “rebuilding process” of a loving, authoritative, and transforming God. We must never be led down the path of our own abilities, talents, or even our “innate” goodness. Because if we do, we come to God as though the Christian “call” isn’t a direct response to humanity’s natural tendencies of “thinking bad” and “doing bad.”

There is but one way…one sure way…of addressing this fundamental flaw in the human condition and it isn’t modern Christianity’s ridiculous and theologically bankrupt partnership with self-validating, false personal imagery, and the basic foundational greatness of human capabilities uplifted and encouraged outside of a revived, reanimated, and regenerated awakening of a genuinely committed relationship with the Creator of all that is known and unknown.

I can’t help but thinking to myself that Christianity is its own worse enemy. We say one thing….and more often than not….do another. By the very nature of the human condition, Christianity will always remain a struggle to honestly and sincerely reflect what God has called it to be because humans are given the responsibility to live out in practical terms the faith they claim to have. And yet, I often ask the question, “Why would any thinking person be drawn to Christianity?”

It is abundantly clear to me that more of us Christian leaders need to grasp an unfortunate truth and distasteful reality that what the Bible describes as faithful and transformed followers of Jesus of Nazareth, or what has come to be known as “Christian,” does not, for the most part, represent what the “institutional” Church has come to be known.

Also, it is clear that far too many individuals who claim the title of Christian have little authenticity to what the Bible describes as true Christian demeanor.

John 13:34-35

34 A new commandment I (Jesus) give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Ephesians 5:2

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

Galatians 5:22-23

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Matthew 5:14-16

14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Romans 6:12-13

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Even though this expresses a rather negative reaction to what I firmly believe is the state of the contemporary Church, I certainly acknowledge there are remarkable examples, both individually and collectively, where a vibrant view of Christianity can be experienced. However, given the reality of the general lack of fervor, attendance, sustainable participation and faithfulness to missional outreach, why would any person believe anything “the Church” says it stands for and holds as proclaimed truth? Really…..why would they?

Why are any of us prompted to claim we are Christians?

Several decades ago there was a growing moaning by some that “the church’s troubles” are found at the feet of a severely changing cultural reality. More than a few suggested that the culprit of what was seemingly a downward spiral of attendance was the social infestation of a train of thought called, Humanism. The church, like most everyone else, always favors looking for an outside causation before it looks inwardly. In other words, since the problem “can’t be our fault” it has to be something being “imposed” on us.

In general, non-religion based humanistic thought settles on the idea that “collective humanity” is superior in practice than the perpetuating the mythological deity or deities of any religious expression. The fact of the matter is in the last couple of generations, the very concept of “church” as an assumed social-positive has disintegrated into the slippery slope of irrelevancy, and the honest reflection of this well documented fact is we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Both the individual Christian and the institutional Church can share much of the responsibility in the failure to tangibly validate to the outside world whether Christianity, as it is described in the Bible, is true and actually practiced or nothing more than a long-term cultural anomaly based on superstition and indigenous folklore.

I know this may seem like heavy-duty stuff, but it lies at the heart of the difficulty the Christian church finds itself. No longer can the Church depend on blind loyalty from a traditional base of population. No longer can there be assurance of assumed multi-generational family participation within a local church setting in general, or even religion in particular.

Gone are the days where Sunday school was about actual study of scriptural and theological points of reference instead of donuts, coffee, crayons and babysitting. Gone are the days when clergy are assumed to be the most thoughtful, caring, ethical, useful, morale and theologically astute individuals in the community they live. There is no one to blame but ourselves, and we have got to stop hiding from this overwhelming cultural reality and do something about it.

How can we take back and set up what is supposed to be biblically authentic and overtly honest Christianity? Start with the following two points of reference.

  • First, the Church does not represent authentic Christianity –– each faithful believer does! Without authentic individual believers, there is no Church.
  • Without honest, passionate, self-sacrificing and profoundly loving individual followers of Jesus, there cannot and will not be actual Christianity experienced.

The reality is the Bible is replete with the message that God “hates” religion. This biblical hatred of institutional religion can easily be found in Amos 5:21-24, where it reads, “I, the LORD, hate and despise your religious celebrations and your times of worship. I won’t accept your offerings or animal sacrifices –– not even your very best. No more of your noisy songs! I won’t listen when you play your harps. But let justice and fairness flow like a river that never runs dry.”

I certainly can not presumed to know the mind of God, however, to extrapolate from several threads of biblical understanding it seems to shout at me that God doesn’t care one bit about the size of your local church’s physical structure. That is irrelevant. God doesn’t care about flat-screen TV’s or the color of the plush carpet in the sanctuary. God certainly couldn’t care less how many prominent folk adorn the pews. Why? Because if an authentic believer isn’t living and breathing the message of a loving, inclusive, affirming, evangelical, and validating environment of spiritual and practical transformation, it is useless in the sight of God. This is where honesty Christianity lives and breathes.

If the universal body of believers –– both smart and not-so-smart, the spiritually mature as well as the spiritually searching, all age demographics and every ethnic and racial distinction who claims the lordship of Christ –– doesn’t start acting like it and take back the Gospel of Christ from the heretical and stifling structures of institutional religion … we will continue to see a cultural fading into irrelevancy.

 

Advertisements