The Broken Church

A few days ago I posted a story I wrote about what a modern Christmas might look like. Those thoughts really jaded my Christmas church experience, though I wonder if I’m just too cynical or if I’m truly disillusioned with the faults of the modern church.

On Christmas Eve we dressed up with the family and headed to church. A lot of my complaints stem from differences between a liturgical-based service and the more traditional free-flowing service I grew up with. But aside from those differences, I was just put off by how cliche Christianity has become. We sing about the Messiah finally coming and spending his first night on a bed of hay, and it just rolls off our back as part of the story. It doesn’t seem odd or challenging or amazing or any of the things it’s supposed to be.

Later in the service we sang about the dumb speaking, the lame walking, and the leper rejoicing. Those mean nothing to us. We say we believe in a Messiah who can make wheelchairs obsolete, but do we really believe it? This Messiah hangs with AIDS patients, why don’t we? The mentally handicapped that speak in slurs and we avoid, this Messiah approached them and brought healing. We can’t even approach them, much less think our God would heal them.

And then comes the fact that we dressed up for the evening. We dressed up to come to church, which is completely contrary to everything that Christ came for. It seems so right that we should put on our best before God. I’ve thought that many times in my life. But do we ever think how that appears to God? We are crap, and somehow a nice shirt and tie is going to make everything OK? God asks us to come as we are, not to dress ourselves up and pretend that everything is cool. God approaches us as we are in our brokenness, which is the very foundation of our faith, yet we’d rather tidy ourselves up to come to church.

We’re denying our faith, and what’s worse, we’re driving people away because we refuse to accept them as they are. So many people are hurting in this world, just needing to be loved as they are. If only the church was doing our job these hurting folks would find welcoming arms in church, instead of judging eyes.

So many people who are put off by God are actually put off by Christians who despite all their claims don’t know anything about God.

My only prayer is that I can stop pretending to know anything about God and allow God to reveal himself in me.

2 thoughts on “The Broken Church”

  1. Kevin,

    It seems you’re making some dangerous sweeping generalizations in that post. How do you know whether the people around you find any particular thing to be amazing or not? I think the fact that so many of us keep showing up week after week implies that we believe Jesus is pretty amazing. Trust me, if I didn’t think Jesus was totally amazing, I would never in a million years give him the amount of money and time I do. I don’t think we have to show any outward signs (e.g. crying, rolling around on the floor, yelling, whatever) to show that we believe Jesus’ birth was amazing. We can believe it and show up and sing the songs just like everyone else, and that’s not a denial of any faith at all.

    I do agree about the clothing thing though. You probably knew that from seeing how I dress when I go to church.

    Who exactly isn’t accepting others in the church? Have you seen someone turn away a stranger at the door for not dressing nicely? I’m pretty sure that’s not happening.

  2. “Christians who acknowledge God with their lips, and then walk out the door and deny God by their actions is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” -approximate quote from Brennan Manning.

    That’s what I’m talking about. I’m not looking for an outward sign like singing or shouting or falling on the floor. I’m looking for people who actually follow what God says. Just because you show up every week doesn’t mean anything. The Pharisees showed up every week.

    The fact that the world completely misunderstands us, and to avoid sweeping generalizations, friends and family members that I know completely misunderstand Christianity because me and many other Christians I see around me don’t really live like what we believe is true.

    And you don’t have to be turned away at the door to not be accepted. It’s the dirty looks, the stares, the judging eyes. Personally, I’ve had my mom instill in me this idea that I should dress up for church. That notion was backed up by everyone in my church. That’s simply an untrue notion, perhaps socially true, but certainly not theologically true. Instilling that kind of incorrect theology is just as bad as sending me out the door.

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