by MK Bashlor
“Secularism and Religion are both all about your personal performance. The Gospel is the performance of another applied to you” Timothy Keller
I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out what exactly is going wrong with churches today, why people feel lost, and why there is so much turn-over. A big part of the problem, as I see it, is this strong notion that nothing is wrong. The implication of rebellion in even suggesting such a thing, causes a thinker such as myself to create even more distance. I don’t really want to be an outcast. I never wanted to be an outsider at all. However, when considering what is best for their church, especially in a particular very large church, which is attempting to grow larger, it was decided that I don’t fit into their program, and therefore could not serve there. To save myself, my self worth, my value, my motivation to go on every day, namely in the service of God, who did in fact put me here (I was His idea!), I finally leave. Yes, the same God they purport to be serving, this God is unarguably in favor of me. They are at odds with this.
But where is the focus here? What is the true purpose of such a church? Should not a person decide whether a church is right for her, rather than the other way around? Why such a focus on the church itself, as though an “idolic institution?” When did the church stop serving people? Such churches do not look inward at themselves to incite positive change, and merely ignore the mass of people coming in and out the doors, never to return, nor those of us who inhabit the building faithfully Sunday after Sunday for years, eventually leaving never to be heard from again. This kind of church embraces those who embody the fantasy that despite the things they will not look at, everything is going very well. And to the ones gifted by God to come in and turn over the rocks so that the leaders may get a first glimpse at all the bugs crawling underneath, it is assumed that such outcasts as do not belong at their church, simply put the diabolic forms there themselves.
There is a frenzy on the outskirts of such institutions, a confused muddle of truth tellers looking for support for what they have endured, and those trying to aspire unto a higher perspective of forgiveness, turning the situation over to God, and thereby refusing to gossip. With no constructive outlet ( ie. a method of confronting the church leaders), the talk continues outside the walls of the church, but inside it is the fantasy of perfection and righteousness which is upheld, by staying in denial, thereby keeping the truth on the outside, where it cannot touch and dispel the lie which the community lives by, and seems to thrive under.
One particular phenomenon I have observed in such churches as described above is a move away from the traditional idea of “church membership.” It is implied that such a church would rather regard everyone as a member. The problem with this is that instead it seems that no one becomes a member and a system of insiders conspires. The hired hands, and assigned offices become the only true members of the church, who set the rules, and basically run everything. Those who have no hired position, or place as usher or elder for example, are stuck on the outside. When these few positions are reserved for men, there is the additional issue of having a church that is run solely by men, and thereby missing the intuition, creativity and sensitivity, among other gifts that women have to offer.
On the issue of not asking for a commitment from members, not only is the church attendee set in a place of not being included (unless he or she manages to earn it), the church in turn is afforded the luxury of not having to feel committed (or responsible for) those who otherwise would have been members. Again, it is the politics of such a church which then determines who the true members are. Those who wish to be included play political games to try to get to the higher places of the church, and the true meaning of serving and loving people is all but completely lost. Scriptures are utilized in ministry as the Bible is set up on a pedestal, but there is a dire loss of application of such scriptures as center on humility, love, and servitude, at the same time as declaring such attributes as though they are automatically to be ascribed to the church leaders. Anyone who would dare question is out of place for rebelling against such authorities, and no one seems to notice the extreme pride in this, nor its contradiction to the implications of the Bible.
The failure of such a church to instill a method of church membership, alleviates leaders from their responsibility to members in a manner which is indicative of a man not wishing to commit in a dating relationship. Therefore the relationship of such a church to its members is reflective of a dysfunctional relationship where a couple perhaps moves in together, but not having made a commitment to bind them together, eventually faces the inevitable. One partner eventually grows wings and moves on from something which they must finally confess is not good for them.
This I propose stems largely from the lack of commitment, not on behalf of the church patron who comes to a seemingly wonderful church longing to serve God, desiring to please Him, and offering herself as a participant in the methods the church has established, but from the ostensibly larger member in this relationship. The church patron must accept a stance of accepting she is actually the bigger one, who knows more, and to preserve her integrity, must move on.
Exceptionally onerous is the fact that such an establishment purports to reflect the living God, but while refusing to commit to its members, alienates the ones who are different, refuses to face its issues, and seems to insist on a system where people are there to serve the church, rather than the church being in service to its people. Such a church does not even miss the “would be” members, as the leadership was so careful not to ever truly establish a relationship with them in the first place. As in a bad marriage, the one longing to commit must move on, count her losses, and carry the pains of the divorce alone, while the church remains on a spinning wheel of its own devices which, not unlike an intense addiction to a substance, really seems to be working for them.