10 Ways American Christians Are Compromising Our Own Testimony In The World

Great article!

john pavlovitz

Not listening

If this were a prize fight, organized Christianity wouldn’t quite be knocked out yet, but it would certainly be on the ropes and we’d be way behind on points coming to the bell.

It’s no secret that people are leaving the Church in record numbers and although they may not all be rejecting Jesus, they are surely saying no to the faith that bears his name—and for many good reasons.

I spend a great deal of my time each day listening to many of these good folks and they educate me. Based on what I see from where I am and what I’ve learned from nearly two decades in church ministry, here are some ways we Christians are obscuring Jesus and hurting people, and severely damaging our testimony in the world in the process:

1) Vilifying non-Christians.

In the face of attrition and growing public ambivalence, too many Christians and Christian leaders lazily lean back on attack language…

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Dehumanization

I was given the privilege of witnessing something quite awesome this week, a major step that would seem but the most minor from many perspectives, or perhaps a step in the wrong direction for some. Someone with whom I’ve had the opportunity to walk along with in our journey, made a small statement in speaking for a group that doesn’t have the opportunity to speak, in that forum, to those people, for themselves. They didn’t do this because the guilt of “I have to.” They did this because their heart has become so full of love for all of God’s children, that it hurts to remain silent while these others are condemned and shunned.

A group was stating their bias against another group of people. This person, respectfully and meekly asked if that was the best way to view an entire group of people without knowing each individual and their unique circumstances. While this might not seem huge to many, it was a major step in this person’s life. I got to see the fruit of just walking alongside another in Christ.

In the past, this same person would have been in agreement with these Christians. Instead, they stood as a shield of love for a group of human beings that had no voice in that conversation otherwise. While this person was “politely” ridiculed for voicing their thoughts, I was brought to tears in their bold meekness of being guided by the Holy Spirit in their life.

It’s truly beautiful when we start living in the approval Father has already given to us instead of seeking approval from others as to how that relationship should look and unfold.

I’ll admit, I’ve done more than my fair share of dehumanizing others. At one time, it was because those others were the enemy, and I was told I should stand against them, though I knew little to nothing of their personal journey and struggles. On the other hand, when I began to enter into those others’ lives, I began to see the vitriol and hatred of the stances I had supported, and my dehumanization methods turned on those I use to be in league with. This wasn’t necessarily the “right” approach, but it was a process of detoxing I underwent in order for the Holy Spirit to lead me to where I am today. I’m beginning to try to embrace these others again, but it’s difficult to say the least because I won’t conform to their performance metrics. If I don’t conform to their rigid stances, they in turn withhold relationship from me as an attempt to force my compliance—love abuse. The most powerful gift God has given us, we in turn attempt to abuse others with for our own gain or in belief that we have to assume control over another’s salvation. The Holy Spirit is perfectly capable of leading if we allow him, both in our life and others.

It often saddens me that our relationships have come to such a state. Though, I’m starting to realize that many will only see this if they are willing. Otherwise, I can only step back and allow them to take the journey they are on if they are adamant about placing contractual terms on relationship. It’s a complicated conundrum to say the least.

My point in all of this is that we often dehumanize entire people groups that won’t conform to what we insist they should. We’re adamant that we have the correct formula and bitterly refuse to enter into their lives.

Even if we do enter into their lives to some extend, it is under the agenda of conversion. “We’re going to get them saved,” is a phrase I often hear. What I really get from this, though, is self-righteousness, “We’re right, they’re wrong, and therefore we have to convert them to our ways.” When we approach others in this manner, many can see our motives dripping with agenda. No one wants to be another notch on someone’s belt. In turn, when our methodology is thus, many are repulsed. We then condemn and dehumanize “those evildoers” because they won’t conform to our “gospel.” Subtlety, without realizing it, our approach becomes more about making disciples of our agenda instead of helping others as they become disciples of Jesus.

Are we missing something?

The Pharisees actually weren’t the horrible people we might make them out to be in comparison to us today. They were striving to hold their society to Biblical standards in an ever changing world.
Sound familiar?
However, they were doing this through politics and force. They were well versed in the scriptures and knew well there would be a Messiah coming from the line of David. Jesus didn’t fit the bill for the conqueror they were expecting, one who would put all those sinful heathens in their place once and for all and establish Christians Israel as the dominant force in the world.
The Messiah that came brought a message of love. He taught that the Kingdom was open to everyoneand that the gatekeepers were the ones who weren’t allowing people in (Matt 23:14). In fact, even though they were teaching the Law, they were making converts twice the sons of Gehenna as they were (Matt 23:15). Ouch.
Are we still missing the point?
Are we still insisting on politics and law as the way to be a Christian?
What if we focused on loving our enemies like Jesus taught us (Matt 5:44), even if it costs us our life? Maybe then the political spectrum would begin to change because of us showing Jesus’ love. If we insist on doing it by political means, then we have to play by worldly rules. This alienates us from what Jesus taught and defiles our message to the rest of the world. If anyone is to blame for the state of the world, it’s Christians that refuse to be the salt and light. We can’t serve two masters….
Jesus had some harsh words for the Pharisees, but it was because he loved them and was trying to break through the callous exterior of stubborn religion they had erected around their hearts. For some, like Nicodemus, it seems to have worked to an extent. Others continued as they had always done and riled the other Israelites to rebellion.
Is that our goal? To rile Christians to rebellion? Is that what Jesus taught? Take a look at what happened to their rebellion in 70 AD. Is that the direction we want to go? Is this the same hateful stubbornness that we’re heading for? It seems history is starting to repeat again and we refuse to learn the lessons relayed by our own religious text.

Assuming Love

(Note: I intended this topic to be about something else when I started it, but God led me in another direction as I wrote. I’m leaving in my original start as reference.)
Near the end of a prior post, I listed some “assumptions” that I’ve made while reading the Bible. To me, the way God has always been presented to me, these assumptions would be very natural. To sum up, I assume that Jesus was right about everything he said, spoke in a way the disciples would understand (once they got their hearts in the right place), and wasn’t intentionally being evasive or confusing. Likewise, the apostles all communicated to the early Christians in this same manner.
Many Christians may agree with the above positions, but the popular Biblical interpretations today seem to contradict this. In light of such contradiction, Christians that begin to voice their concerns and confusions are told not to be doubtful, even being threatened that it’s sinful. In as polite of a manner as I can muster, I’d like to say that’s hogwash. In actuality, many presenting these claims seem to be just as confused and afraid to make any considerations outside of the indoctrination to which they’ve been bound. All of this, in turn, hurts our witness to the rest of the world. We try to force beliefs on others that don’t make any sense in our own head or heart. How can we adequately witness to the world if we don’t even understand our own religious text?
We assume that people are damned to hell based on what little knowledge we have of them from an external view and what little assumptive knowledge we have of the afterlife. We simultaneously condemn from a distance while refusing to enter into their lives. Inviting them to meetings that only present more confusion and guilt doesn’t help them either. They will only start believing in Jesus when we start showing him through our lives! I can type until my fingers are bloody and I can talk until I go hoarse, but it won’t change a person’s heart until they start seeing my faith lived out in me—until they see Jesus in me. In other words:
Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, proof of things not seen.—Hebrews 11:1 (emphasis mine).
Is that proof evident to others who see us? The burden of proof of Jesus’ love is on us as Christians! All the proof needed to convince others should be evident through the life we live. This doesn’t mean doing all the acceptable “churchianity” things and laying guilt on others. This means embracing those sinners even when other religious folk condemn us for it. This means following in Jesus’ footsteps of love. This means choosing love even if we think we’ve found a valid Biblical loophole not to.
I can make arguments. I can exegete and eschotologize. I can use big words that I’m not even sure I understand the meaning of (or if they’re even words for that matter). I can give my interpretation of the Bible. I can even lay down my life—and if it’s God’s desire, I will do so. But all of this means nothing if it isn’t in love. Is the Christian walk we’re presenting love? Are we truly embracing the “tax collectors and prostitutes” like Jesus did? Are we adamantly holding on to our religious doctrines like the Pharisees did? Have we redefined what it means to be a Christian—that is, our political beliefs, our patriotism, our American dream, our traditions, etc…?
Are we insisting that what we’re upholding is love, but it looks nothing like 1 Cor 13? Have we redefined such scriptures to fit to our Westernized comforts? Have we, like the religious leaders during Jesus’ ministry, chosen comparative righteous over love, all the while condemning even those who are trying to live out love to others because it makes us feel uncomfortable and guilty?
Jesus, please help me to live what I believe in love and remove from me anything that isn’t showing you to others! Help me to assume that you love everyone just like you love me and not assume that they are evil, malevolent sinners that deserve such a severe fate as eternal punishment. Help me be the proof of your love to a hurting world!

Control, Approval, Nostalgia, and Moving Forward.

Lately, I’ve been writing only when I have the desire to. Previously, I had to think more on what to write about. In recent weeks, however, it seems there is something I’m inspired to write about almost daily. I try to make my blog as free-flowing as possible, not forcing it into a scheduled pattern of topics that I must post on certain days, etc…Today, these were a few thoughts on my mind.
Prophecy and the Bible
As probably already noticed, one of the topics I’ve developed a desire to know more about is prophecy. A year ago, I wouldn’t touch the subject and it was even scary to read or hear about it. As I’ve grown closer to God, I’ve had a desire to study the Bible more and more. I can say now that I love it! I don’t like a lot of the stuff that went on in ancient times, but I love the ever evolving story of God redeeming humanity and guiding us step by step into a brighter future. My view of the Bible hasn’t always been like this though.
Control
It would seem much of our current religious views revolve around control. Fear is weaved into much of the Biblical message we’re given to keep us obligated in some way. Much of this isn’t intentional and much of this is just following tradition out of fear. Yes, there were (and still are) consequences for actions. God didn’t punish those who were living out love though. Those who were punished within Israel were the ones insistence that their religious rule-following made them more righteous than others. These were the ones who considered themselves better than the rest of society, readily judging every action while hiding behind a defense of “don’t judge” as it pertained to them. Jesus laid out quite plainly what was going on in Matt 23. Are we still following this same pattern today? Are we attempting to control people by our religious views instead of walking out the journey with them, in love, to show them Jesus? Are we attempting to conform others externally while their pain, confusion, etc…are either pushed deeper inside or somehow twisted to be something satanic? Are we regurgitating garbled, often contradictory, cliches to lay guilt on others or are we pursing them through the love of Jesus?
Approval
I’ve stopped playing the approval game. For some time, even after I left the institutions, I hoped to still be approved of by other “Christians.” I’ve come to realize now, little by little as it was weened out of me, I don’t need religious approval to develop a real and joyful relationship with God. Many, both inside and outside of the traditional congregations, have tried to convince me otherwise. It seems religious approval has been so ingrained in our society, that many who haven’t set foot in a church building in years still defer to that validation in some form, often without consciously realizing it. However, the beauty of the removed burdens of performance, confusion, and conformance have proven to me personally that a direct relationship with God transcends human attempts to replicate or control it. It can only be accepted and lived by the Holy Spirit within and Jesus alongside. Sometimes I just have to laugh (to keep from being saddened by such attempts) when someone tries to manipulate me by withholding their self-righteous, religious approval. Being in a love relationship with Jesus doesn’t require external validation!
Nostalgia
It seems many look back to better times. When I look into these “better” times though, I see things like racism and misogyny. Are those the “better” times? Often, there’s a false nostalgic memory that people long for in the past. Some even look to Biblical times as the example that we should revert back to which seems to be an insult to New Covenant grace. When this method was applied before, it plunged the world into the Dark Ages. Much of that same methodology is still vehemently held on to today. Fortunately, humanity has advanced enough not to be as controlled by it to drag us back into such an era. While we have our problems in this day, I for one feel lucky to live in the new age (Heb 11:37-40).
There were a handful of “good” times under the Old Testament, but it isn’t an age I would want to live in. God is beckoning us forward, step by step, by the Holy Spirit in us and Jesus beside us. With every prejudicial hatred that is whittled away, with every bigotry that dies a slow and agonizing death, humankind inches forward into a brighter future. Sometimes it’s two steps forward and one step back. Many tend to anchor their hopes in a lackluster past instead on walking day by day with Jesus into new and better days.
Revelation
I intended to study more of the prophecy in the gospels and epistles first, but God seems to be prompting me on to Revelation. This is admittedly a daunting endeavor, but as I began studying some yesterday, I noticed it wasn’t hardly the beast of the apocalypse that I’ve previously viewed it as (at least so far :D). As I’ve began reviewing this book, I notice something almost immediately that is repeated throughout. It’s the same concept that was stated in the gospels and epistles—soon. My next post may list these out as relevant, but for now I’m still studying with a great joy in discovering things that have often been contorted to rob us of the New Covenant promises of God.

The Widening Gap

Lately, I’ve seen many articles on the movement away from the traditional congregations. Leadership in these institutions is attempting many ventures to win back members, but to little or no avail.
Why?
Surely there are those who don’t believe in God at all. As I’ve stated before, I can’t really blame them because we as Christians haven’t truly shown that he is love. As Christians, the burden of proof through love lies on us here, not on them to disprove God. Are we showing his love to the rest of the world, or are we showing God as a long list of rules, obligations, condemnations, and performances. Those that don’t see Jesus’ love in us tend to reject our beliefs outright.
Others have left to seek a real relationship with Jesus. They’ve tasted that God is truly good (1 Peter 2:3, Psalms 34:8), not just because we say so, but because of his infinite love for us, his children, created by his own hand. Once they’ve fallen so deeply in love with Jesus, it is very hard to tone it down enough to stuff themselves back into a religious box. In this case, they are relegated by the religious into the same group as the “unbelievers.” In actuality, this group is similar in that they can no longer believe the misconceptions presented, unintentional as they may be, about our loving and gracious Father. As they draw closer to Jesus, they become more vocal about their passion for him, not caring about their own life anymore but instead speaking the truth as he lays it on their hearts. This often alienates them and gives religious leaders targets to claim heresy against. Regardless of their love and passion for Jesus, they are made to be examples of apostasy and accursed. However, Jesus said it would be so for those who love him (Matt 5:10-12, Matt 10:25).
Therefore, the gap widens. It seems falling deeper in love with Jesus means growing away from that type of religious society. Those that continue to exist within the institutions dig their heels in and struggle to find some type of solutions to the decline, ignoring those pointing to Jesus’ love as the way to relate to others.
Some go with more flashy services to appeal to the young.
Some go “back to the basics,” which are often rooted in misconceptions but appeal to the nostalgia of the older generation.
Some go with popular opinion—if my sermon gets “amens” of approval, then I’ll use those type messages to appeal to my congregational base.
Some spin the situation to claim a sort of “cleansing” of Christianity, claiming those leaving were never really Christians to begin with. Oh the lovely judgment, guilt, and manipulation tactics that Jesus seemed to dislike so much.
Some beg and plead for one more chance, though no movement towards a more loving expression of Jesus has occurred. It’s like the abusive spouse who repeatedly begs a mate to return, claiming some change has happened, but eventually regressing back to the same patterns as before as the external performance gives way to the internal corruption.
Some apply misdirection techniques to push the blame to anything else—politics, mega-churches, secularism, millennials, etc…instead of looking at whether their love relationship with Jesus is evident to others.
Some claim that others shouldn’t be judgmental and insist that they are just human, yet no spiritual growth takes place (Hebrews 5:12-14, 1 Cor 3:1-2). It’s perfectly fine to be human and fallible, but spiritual stagnation in favor of man-made agendas is often the cause. Those that leave are seeking a deeper relationship with God and not just a facade of religion.
Some press obligation even harder, demanding that those who remain are to give even more to the institution, promising rewards from God in return for such “faithfulness.”
Some use a combination of all of the above, creating an overbearing machination that eventually collapses into itself because of the financial and physical pressures involved in the production.
So what’s the solution? To me, as hard as it may be to watch those hurting that have tied their lives into institutions, I have to step back and let God’s plan take its course. It is a self-inflicted wound to continue to insist that religious performance and rituals are the way to Father’s heart instead of a real love relationship with Jesus. That relationship reaches far beyond the confines of the Sunday morning institution, deep into the world of hurting people.
On a similar note, the temple wasn’t just a worship center, it was the earthly replica of the temple in heaven (Hebrews 8:5), yet God still allowed it to be destroyed as the Jewish religion had become obstinate. If God allowed his own earthly house to be destroyed permanently in 70AD, what makes us think he will allow the institutional church to survive if it isn’t truly aligned with his will, regardless of the spin, rhetoric, and claims of righteousness that are presented? The Jewish religion made the same claims and defiantly stood the same ground though Jesus gave them implicit warnings on the coming destruction at the hands of the Romans (Matt 24).
Still, we can deny everything and close our eyes tight, cover our ears and hum a little ditty. We can stand defiantly in defense of our religion, but it may fall into obsolescence just as the Jewish temple system did. Attaching God’s name to our institutions doesn’t make them holy. Talking about and knowing things about Jesus only makes us stalkers and not followers. The proof of his love and being THE church is in living out our life in a relationship with him that the rest of the world starts to see as we mature spiritually. This love relationship doesn’t seem to be found in man-made religious methodologies though.

Moving Forward

Last week I was writing a post about the withering away of my bitterness towards institutional religion. I never got around to publishing that piece as some other things came up. After some beautiful conversations with God this weekend, I was rereading that draft and could see, after only a few days, how much my viewpoint was changing.
Admittedly, I’ve had my objections to the institutions, and still do, but many were from a place of severe disillusionment. God didn’t really try to force me out of this state, but gently guided me and eroded away all of my disappointment and heartache. Now, I’m beginning to be able to love the religious people again but in a better, more real way.
Before, I loved those who were raised to acknowledged the same views as me while distancing myself from, if not vilifying, those who were different. As I studied the Bible and talked with God more and more, I started seeing discrepancies with that approach. One day, after asking a series of questions, the carpet was ripped from under me as I saw just what I was supporting.
My heart was broken to say the least, but I felt Jesus’ presence strongly comforting me. It was like he was physically there wrapping his arms around me. I began to interact with those I was led to believe I should avoid. To my amazement, they were surprisingly human. The dehumanization techniques I had been blinded by were blown away when I actually entered into their individual lives to try to understand them more, while laying aside any of the presumptions I’d had before.
After that, I became quite bitter with religiosity. Now, I’m beginning to be able to love more openly. I don’t think I’ll ever be a part of an institution again, but I feel like I’m able to find common ground for loving discussion with others even if we don’t see eye to eye. I don’t feel a need to force my viewpoint, but rather just openly and honestly listen and respond as the Holy Spirit guides me.
This journey is wildly unpredictable, but I’m loving the new things God is showing me everyday. Regardless of how obstinate I’ve been, he has led me to a better understanding and a deeper relationship. Jesus has turned the negative experiences and attitudes I’ve had into beautiful opportunities to love others. Maybe that’s a part of the plan—to redeem all of creation through even our most despondent conditions.

A Beautiful Experience

First, I want to state that this isn’t bragging on something that I did. This is stating something that I happened to experience with God. It had little to do with my actions other than I’ve been seeking a deeper relationship with Father, Son, and Spirit. I will keep the details generic as to not bring attention to those that may not want it.
I was talking with someone recently about the Bible. The things we were discussing wouldn’t be allowed in most traditional congregations and would probably be labeled as heresy or something. I don’t want to discuss the details of the question that came up because I’m still trying to process the answer we received myself. When the question was raised, a question I had contemplated but had no real answer for other than the standard line most know, I found myself giving an amazing answer that I had to struggle to comprehend. Profound words that weren’t mine, coming from my mouth. We both set in stunned silence for a few seconds as neither of us was expecting what we heard.
Now, the answer itself was amazing, but equally awesome was that the Holy Spirit spoke through one of us in such an amazing way. I’ve experienced this personally in bits and pieces, but never so profound. I was both humbled and thrilled to experience that. The words could have just as easily come from the other person’s mouth in the conversation.
It is amazing the place God has led me. More and more I find myself ostracized from popular Christianity but experiencing an ever growing relationship with Jesus. I don’t say these things to brag on myself, but to present the type of relationship that Father wants with us, his children. A direct relationship where he is free to move and be among us even if it is only 2 or 3 that are gathered.
Now, anyone reading this can throw out anything I’ve just written. I would half expect it as I probably would be skeptical of someone claiming the same thing. I would only like to say, whether this story can be believed or not, that God does and will speak through those that are willing to let him lead them, and it will likely be shockingly beautiful when it happens.

We’re all just sinners, saved by Grace

This is a lovely notion. We all stumble and fall. We’re all broken in some way. We all need the community of others who love Jesus to share each other’s burdens.
It is great to have a group of people that love you despite your faults, despite your sin. A fellowship of people devoted to each other and to the lifelong journey of being more Christlike.
Sharing the life of Christ and growing spiritually is great. Admitting our faults and embracing others who are broken in different ways is a beautiful concept.
However, this doesn’t seem to be what is actually happening in the vast majority of congregations. Some sell this line of the Church being full of sinners so we’ll all fit right in. That sounds great on the surface, but then the hook.
In order to really follow Jesus, in order to really break free from your sin, in order to really fit in, you gotta do it our way. You must attend all of our services. You must tithe to keep our building open and build it bigger. You must agree with our rules and regulations. You must take active roles in our ministry and do it the way we tell you. You must actively tell others they are to be here, even if you have to use the threat of everlasting torment to convince them God loves them. You must support our political party and our agenda. If you don’t do all of these things then you aren’t really a Christian. You aren’t really saved by grace. If you are doing all these things and you’re not growing spiritually, well, then it’s your fault. You’re doing something wrong. You need to pray more and read the Bible. Oh, you have questions about the Bible? Then you’re being doubtful, divisive even. Just believe what we tell you and you’ll be okay….eventually. Just keep believing that even if you don’t feel spiritually free, you will be in the next life.
It always seems to start out great. A fellowship of broken humans trying to be more Christlike while helping each other out. Then, manipulation and obligation take over and people are guilt tripped into doing and provided more and more until they reach a point of numbness with a few emotional reactions once in a while, or they give up all together.
Is this really the abundant life of freedom and rest that Jesus promised? Are you really experiencing that relationship with him?
If therefore the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.—John 8:36
The thief only comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.—John 10:10
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”—Matthew 11:28-30

Experiences with the Church

Many consider the weekly gatherings, that tend to follow a routine, the primary expression of the church. For example, sitting in pews facing a stage, singing a few songs together, public prayer, passing around a collection plate, listening to one speaker, etc… This isn’t the way all of these type of meetings go, but it’s a general format many seem to use.
Another view of the Church is that referring to the body of Christ throughout the world.
The two entities mentioned above are two separate things for me. They may overlap here and there. There may be people of the body inside the weekly gatherings as well as people who don’t gather in the traditional ways that are part of the body.
Why do I make such stipulations? There are many concepts, including “The Church,” that seem to have been co-opted over the centuries and translations to have a different meaning than their original intent. This may not have been intentional, but the dilemma still remains. Our religious society ends up believing adamantly in misunderstood concepts. I’m not saying this as though I know it all, but the Bible has become understandable as a whole once I was able to view it in proper context. The institutional understanding that I was taught was just chaotic and contradictory as the full context was often not considered.
I ended up leaving because I was unable to uphold the misinterpreted mandates being presented as well as being withheld from discussion of things I’d been discovering. I began asking questions. The answers ranged from “I don’t know” to threats of “there’s some dangerous things out there.”
I admittedly had a severe dislike for these gatherings when I first left. I thought maybe I was just burned out and needed a little time away. However, something quite odd, and opposed to what I’d been forced to believe, happened. I began drawing exponentially closer to God once the institutional agendas were no longer able to force their way between us.
Several months passed and my disdain for these institutions has subsided in many ways. I’ve tried to attend a few services with high hopes that I would see some way to be an active participant in these meetings. I didn’t go in looking for things to criticize but was more hopeful that some of the Biblical discoveries I’ve came across would give me new and better perspectives of the gathering. Unfortunately, these services were even less appealing to my walk with Jesus now that the blinders are off.
I’ve never had much of a desire to sing, but there are a few songs that I don’t mind singing even within a group of people. I’m mostly the type to think about the word meanings. That said, many of the congregation’s songs had the same shortcomings as the rest of the theology. Now with this new perspective, I could see much more clearly how skewed many of these meanings were.
I won’t get into the tithing portion or the public prayers as these have been debated a lot already. I will say that giving money to the homeless is a better option for me. Prayer for me has become a dialogue with God, not a one way oration of what I expect of him.
The one point I tend to actually like, and even get a little excited about, is when the scripture is read. During some of the readings, I began to see the beauty of God’s love and plan for humanity. I get excited to hear this communicated through the speaker. Then, something awful happens. The message gets skewed in the direction of obligation, performance, financial gain, fear, and/or political agenda. Then, I pick my shattered hopes up off the floor and leave thoroughly disappointed.
I don’t say any of this out of spite—more out of sadness. If there was a way that I could be an active participant to help bring the living Jesus Christ into these institutions, I would. It’s been made clear in many of these organizations that I am to follow their conflicting scriptural views and carry their party line. No discussion or questioning allowed openly. After attempting discussion to show how God is love and his amazing plan for all of humanity, I felt Jesus telling me to “leave them alone, they’re blind guides.” It seems people will only accept real freedom in Jesus when they reach a breaking point and can admit that no amount of religious rule following or service attendance will get them there.
The Church, outside of the confines of religion, seems to be flourishing. People are free to be a “work in progress” and question where they need understanding. Meanwhile, obligation is being pressed even harder inside the institutions and attendance continues to dwindle as leadership adamantly upholds defective mandates and cliches.