Saturday, September 11, 2010

Back To Church?

Tomorrow is "Back To Church Sunday." Churches are making an attempt to get people who have left "church" to come back. I will not be participating, for a number of reasons.

First of all, I haven't left the church. The church is Christ's body. Leaving the church makes as much sense as one of your fingers saying adios to the rest of your body. The institution that most think of when they hear the word "church" is another matter. I have left that building, and I doubt I'll be going back. I don't "go to" church anymore. I do gather with the church, in different ways and in different places. I am part of the church everywhere I go.

The second reason for not being part of the festivities tomorrow is that I believe churches are making a mistake in continuing with the notion that the mission of the church is to go out and get folks to come in and meet Jesus. Jesus told his followers to go. He didn't tell us to stay and invite. For many years we have invited people to come to church with the expectation that they would hear the Gospel, accept Christ, and join the church. One problem with that kind of thinking is that there are plenty of examples of church members and church leaders who live lives that don't match up with the way of Jesus, so folks aren't in a hurry to go someplace that has nothing to offer them (in their opinion).

Many members of the people formerly known as the congregation have got fed up with churches being more concerned with perpetuating the institution than serving their community, with the pastor as CEO mindset, and with the continual push for funds to create more programs and build bigger buildings rather than give to those in need. The culture war has sent some running for the exits. Others have left over a judgmental spirit and lack of grace. Some have departed because they don't believe that you can only minister inside the church building. Still others just didn't fit in.

Maybe churches should have a Sunday to take a good hard look at what they are doing, and see how much of it really fits with God's mission in the world.

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