Why does the faith of so many Christians waver? Why does their commitment run hot and cold?
A little of the blame rests on us preachers. For the past thirty years, we have feverishly responded to every person’s criticism of the church. Every time someone said they thought we were ugly, we smeared on more eye shadow hoping that would make them like us.
People said they didn’t like coming to churches that looked like churches so we built buildings that look like hotel lobbies attached to warehouses.
They said our sermons were too demanding and the preacher sounded angry, so we got rid of the pulpit and bought a three-legged stool and an iPad so we could just sit and talk about relevant stuff on Sundays.
They said we focused too much on dress and appearance, so we bought new clothes that looked old and got new hairstyles that (we hoped) looked younger, and made very Sunday Casual Friday.
Basically, people said they didn’t want to feel like sinful humans who need a savior, so we’ve done everything we can to help them squelch their conscience.
Instead of telling them that sin will slowly rot away everything meaningful in their lives, we’ve taught them coping mechanisms to deal with sin’s symptoms.
When we should’ve been preaching about finding life in Christ, we we were holding classes on how to love yourself.
And so now we sit in our unoffensive buildings wearing our unoffensive clothes preparing our unoffensive Sunday Talk on how we can get people to be more committed and faithful without offending them.
None of which Jesus did.
He walked into their businesses and demanded that they follow Him.
He told them they had to love Him more than they loved their families.
He put them in boats in the middle of storms, forced them to confront demonic spirits, chastised them for not being able to pray for one hour, set them at odds with their own religious leaders, and even called them devils.
He didn’t seem to care much about their feelings or emotional hung-ups or the baggage they carried from past relationships.
It wasn’t that He didn’t love them, but that He knew that if they followed Him they would be connected to the very source of the healing they needed. Jesus is the source of healing, forgiveness, and hope. Healing, forgiveness, and hope are the byproducts of walking with Him.
In our quest to make Church more attractive, we’ve moved Jesus further away.
Our Sunday talks are more about His grace that saves than about His grace that teaches (Titus 2:11-15). We talk often about what He likes, seldom about what He hates. We rejoice that He’s made us Kings and Priests, but ignore that He’s called us to serve.
We claim the promise of Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,” but have no room for the cross Matthew 16:24 says is part of those plans.
I know. The old traditional way of doing church isn’t faring so well, either. Hundreds of them are closing every year.
Connecting with God is more than finding a spot where you feel comfortable. The Bible reminds us of that on almost every page. Yet, we think we can humanize it, make it less painful and always enjoyable.
But that’s impossible.
The altar reminds us of the conflict between sin and righteousness. The baptistry insists upon a death and a burial. That conflict must be resolved before finding the place we want to hurry everyone into: that place were no one feels condemned, lost, or unloved.
The process IS the purpose.
It’s only after the death (repentance) and burial (baptism) that new life (Holy Spirit) comes (Acts 2:38).
The building you meet in really shouldn’t matter. It’s what goes on in real life that matters. That’s why Jesus taught often on the seashore and on hilltops.
Make church fun and enjoyable for everyone. Create a pleasant and comfortable environment for everyone to experience.
But make sure the process remains the purpose. Because no matter how nice you make the buildings, nothing you do can reach into a man’s heart and soul and exchange his sin for God’s righteousness. Your job is not to teach people how to cope with sin’s symptoms, but to bring them to the uncomfortable altar where the healing process begins.
The world will never embraced Jesus and they will never embrace you, so put the make-up and fashion catalogs away, and make sure that nothing blocks the path to the altar.