by: Rev. Ed Schneider
The other day I was sitting in my office and while on the phone with a friend who also happens to be minister, I rrealized we were lamenting over the lack of passionate fervor and committed servitude within far too many of Christian churches all across America. After several minutes of moaning and complaining by both of us, I was getting more and more frustrated. I became frustrated not only with the content of the conversation but also by the two of us “gently dancing” around what seemed to be the remarkably obvious “Elephant in the Corner.” What do I mean by the “Elephant in the Corner?” Let me explain.
What both of us were refusing to say out loud referred to the question that started the conversation in the first place: “What’s wrong with the Body of Christ”? My friend was boldly complaining about the fighting that goes on far too often inside every church. He was talking about the unfortunate fact that a ridiculous amount of churches “split” over things that could have been resolved long ago. We both complained about the seeming unwillingness of some folks to move beyond that which is already known or comfortable.
Other subjects such as slothful tithing, self-serving music, issues of race, apathetic youth ministry, as well as out-of-control laity and unethical clergy were also discussed. We were, by all estimations, letting our negative feelings flow with an unyielding force so that we could cleanse our long list of spiritual and administrative frustrations. At the moment when we were turning rather sorrowful about the whole thing, my friend once again asked the question: “What’s wrong with the Body of Christ”? I said to him: “You know, we need to stop side stepping the real concern, the one that is screaming at us like that proverbial Elephant in the Corner that no one wants to admit is there.” Even though its big, ugly, smelly, loud, and out of place….we all have a tendency to pretend what is plainly obvious it really isn’t there.
So, what’s wrong with the Body of Christ? There’s not enough…Body of Christ…in the PROFESSED Body of Believers. Why are we so afraid to talk about “it” with openness? Why are we unwilling to look at the “elephant” and tell the big smelly out-of-place pachyderm that it doesn’t belong here…get up…get out…so we can clean up the mess you have made and get back to the work we are called to accomplish.
If we wanted to be honest…completely honest…we would have to admit there’s a lot of blame to go around. Every person needs to re-examine their “professed” relationship with God. Does your Christian understanding of being connected to the Creator of all that is known and unknown begin and end with the life, death, and resurrected reality of Christ? If it doesn’t…something is very wrong. If your church doesn’t…something is very wrong. It is never good enough to “think” you are a Christian because the word “Christian” is so much more than the sum of its letters.
Being a Christian first and foremost signifies something new, something transformed, and something moving in a gracious, loving and powerful direction that could not have been traveled before. It is a life that, in a very real and discernable sense, is being changed and enhanced daily. It is important to understand that just because a person may be demonstrating progress in portions of their personal life that doesn’t necessarily reflect a foundational change based on a Christian faith experience.
To have a mature and profoundly “Christian” experience each person must be willing to spiritually search for greater answers of life beyond the limits of themself. What I mean by that is, each professed “believer” is called to admit and then faithfully grasp the distinct probability that all that they currently are, the sum of their universal understanding of ethics, morals, faith, philosophy, and purpose may still not be enough to deal with the final questions of life.
In a contest to see who can throw a rock to the moon, I am sure a tremendously gifted athlete would be able to throw the rock much further than you or I could. However, all human beings, believers or not, would very quickly come to the conclusion that all of us would ultimately fall short of the task. Why? Because on our own it is beyond our reach.
Being a Christian provides every believer with an unyielding urgency to become closer to God each day of their lives. The Christian believer moves beyond what is “already known” as their basic understanding of life. A maturing Christian has found themselves divinely thirsting for what is still yet to be discovered. They are unwilling to yield to the demands of fear and failure. They are enabled to accept that even though they may fall short in the eyes of God periodically, it doesn’t have to be a permanent existence. They have learned the overwhelming value of “giving” instead of “getting.” These spiritually maturing souls are able to see beyond the hatred expressed by some ignorant and fearful people while boldly and courageoulsy testifying to the benefits of a God who created everyone and loves everyone equally and without precondition.
Finally, an authentic and growing Christian longs with all the depths of intellectual and emotional introspection to no longer attach any great significance to the once held acceptance of the mundane. They are empowered and want to empower others. They are truly and profoundly connected to something that is, in the final analysis, beyond their ability to define.
If….and I mean IF…we can really say we are following this “Christian” understanding then we be able to be a positive representative of God’s grace in this world. If we can start to look at life’s great possibilities through the divine lens of life everlasting what a difference the Christian church and all of its professed believers could make within each committee…each choir…each church setting…each district…each conference…each outreach ministry…and each searching soul. But first, we have to admit there’s an elephant standing in the corner. PEACE.