Within the past couple of weeks I’ve seen a couple of posts from friends who were trying to promote the Christian faith. In both cases, I quickly realized that I disagreed with the message they were promoting but not because I was on the opposite side.
The first post was a sincere and well-meaning pastor who made the statement that if your life doesn’t include weekly and/or regular involvement in a local church, then you are not living the life that Jesus intended for you. I immediately wanted to ask if there were any exceptions for invalids, people in rehab, prison, or parts of the world where a local church doesn’t exist. Of course we all know that any pastor will tell you there are such exceptions, and in those cases people can do a variety of things to share in the greater body of Christ even if they are not participating locally.
This begs the question as to whether any of us are free to follow the leading and model of Jesus by not going to a local body by instead participating in various ways in the greater body. The answer is that we are indeed all free to do so and thus the exception in this case proves the rule can’t be true.
Of course, church leaders don’t like this reality, because they struggle desperately to keep any and all people in the weekly fold, because that has a direct impact on their economic well-being. And while most pastors are authentic by saying that economics is secondary, economics always considered when making these statements.
I used to be this pastor and I used to say the same things. I now have a different perspective.
The second post was a forward of blog from a young reformed church planter who was blasting Joel Olsteen as a heretic. Joel and his ministry is always a target and I think its highly unfair. In the case of this article, the writer was taking the usual, hard core, fundie approach of “doctrinal precision” (read sarcasm) in conjunction with taking Joel’s comments word for word.
It was obvious this young pastor struggled with church attendance and finances and most certainly resented the success of Joel’s ministry. But implicit in his comments is a judgement on all Joel’s followers. They were somehow naive, stupid, foolish, or victims of heretical teachings. It’s all a big quagmire that could be sorted out if the just followed this guy instead. Really?
I used to be that guy. Except I was much more of a critical ass. I now have a different perspective.
You see, as we mature and evolve, we are no longer sucked into the polarities of life. Anyone who has true humility and has endeavored to find and follow the truth quickly comes to a place of personal bankruptcy and realizes how very little truth they actually possess. This allows us to give so much grace to those who are experiencing other aspects of the truth that we aren’t. Rather than try to diminish, erode or invalidate another’s experience, the maturing person can appreciate the different perspective and see the good that it brings and celebrate the light that it is shining in the world.
At what point did Christianity become so satisfied and puffed up with certainty that taking pot shots at a fellow brother or sister is now the pathway toward growing an audience? Yes, I know it is all in the name of “Defending the Fatih” because that is how I sustained years of my “assholeness”, but humility has taught me I wasn’t defending anything by my pride. Seems like angry Christians are probably missing something-doesn’t it?
True faith needs no defense. It doesn’t argue. It doesn’t take sides. Human faith can not be completely right or completely wrong. Faith is mixed with frail, broken, messy humanity and it exists in all people in all places and at all times. Whether it be an undeveloped embryo of transcendence or a heavy weight beacon of light, we all have it, touch it, experience it. Anyone who has the truest aspect of faith will have no problem recognizing and celebrating even the smallest kernel of it in someone else. And when we do that, we ARE the Church.
In my perspective, the pastor, the angry blogger, church planter, Joel Osteen, the invalid, the nomad, the skeptic and the fundy are all in my Church. There is no need to play “Red Rover.” Only a need to invite all comers into a deeper more meaningful faith that the one they possess today.