Estranged from the Church


Disenfranchised, disillusioned, disconnected from the organized church? I get it. Many people today are estranged from the local church. Though I've had some highs, I've also had some lows. I've been burned out and angry, too. As a pastor/traveling speaker, I think I hear more bad stories than good ones. Not wanting to exhaustively diagnose the problem, except to say that I think the problem is twofold: First, we're all flawed people—sinners, to use a Bible word—and it's a long shot without amazing grace that a group of people like us could sustain healthy community without conflicts at some point. We're all the problem, so we should expect conflicts if we're going to try to do this, and we need to become experts at resolving conflicts in a more productive way. 

Second, and perhaps the cause of the first, is I do believe there's a systemic problem in the church with our message. There's massive confusion about what the gospel is. Therefore, there's massive confusion about what the gospel does. Without clear and powerful preaching on the love of God in Christ, the sufficiency of Christ, the insufficiency of ME, the power of the cross, and justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, our fruit will leave a lot to be desired. Let me say it a different way: If our Christian teaching is only moralistic—reducing the gospel to principles, morals, rules, certain behaviors, self-help, pragmatics and imperatives, there's no way to know the electrifying beauty and power of grace. Why? Because moralism focuses on man, not Christ. Why do you think there's so many sermons today where Jesus barely gets a mention? It's because the gospel is assumed. "I already know all that," we think. And here's what we end up with: BIG MAN, little jesus. Dang that's deadly. Moralism inevitably results—eventually—in discouraged people who become disenfranchised people who become defeated people who ended up hating God (and His people), not loving Him. God help us. Christless moralism produces jerks in the front and the back of the church. People get big egos, because, after all, I made it. It creates absurd competitions where people try to out-religion one another, out-humble one another. Religion is the Olympics for rule-keepers. But here's the thing. I didn't, I couldn't—I wouldn't—keep the rules. I needed grace, or I'm out. You do too. This is freeing, not limiting. We're accepted by love not by performance.

If you've been hurt by jerks in the church or stung by human religion, I would suggest that the way you start again might not be by "going to church." It might be by starting a relationship with "the church"—God's people. Sitting down over a coffee and talking about your pain with one or two healthy gospel-centered Christian friends might bear more fruit than going to a thousand meetings. Church services can come later. Don't worry about that right now. Your hang-ups might hang you up. Start with private relationships or a small group in a home. Let the gospel heal you through relationships.

Well, there's some thoughts for the day. :)


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