Thursday, February 19, 2015

An Open and Honest Discussion

                Or, “Give me what I want, not what I asked for.”

It happened again.  Another article about some person who has left the main-stream church—or, in this case, church entirely—and is hoping that their speaking out will cause churches to finally talk about the issues, or have a dialogue, or some such contemporary catch phrase.

Yes, I am treating their desire lightly.  Because I have serious doubts that it’s what they want.

Telluride in the summer
Years ago, I saw a documentary about a prominent and popular singer who had a reputation for, shall we say, something less than sobriety.  He was a professing believer, or so he professed, and used to even teach Sunday school but had quit the church because they had some kind of wacky objection to him being high while teaching the youngsters.  He was convinced that the attitude was the church’s problem to overcome rather than his own.

And he’s such a good singer that, well, we’ve got to listen to him, right?

The more recent article was about another singer who had left the church because she had decided to engage in a sexual lifestyle that ran counter to what the church she had been attending taught.  She claimed to only want said church to have an honest and open dialogue about her proclivities.

Call me skeptical.  I don’t know the woman—which is one of the reasons I am not mentioning her name here—but I have a sneaking suspicion that she only wants a dialogue if she’s pretty certain the outcome will favor her and her lifestyle.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe she’ll sit down one day with the leaders of that church and they’ll all have a calm, reasonable, loving discussion about the issue.

How will she react if the church finally says, “Ms. Entertainer, we have enjoyed getting to visit like this with and we love you, but after careful study of Scripture we still believe the lifestyle choices you have brought before us are sinful and, therefore, we cannot condone them.  We humbly entreat you to repent of them and we would love to be here to help you fight these temptations—just as we would like to have you help us fight ours.  However, if you cannot admit that these actions are sinful and refuse to make any effort to submit them to the Holy Spirit, we’re going to have to ask you to leave.”

I realize that last paragraph started with a question, so there should be a question mark somewhere, but I’m not sure where to put it.  How about here?: ?

Anyway, how do you think she would react?  Is it unreasonable for a church to behave as I have just described?

What I have found is that a lot a lot of people want a middle ground.  They don’t mind if the church teaches that their particular vice is a sin, just so long as no one calls them personally on it or does anything about it.

So they go in search of a church that will uplift them (somehow) with appreciated music and encouraging speakers but won’t ever trouble them with any kind of “thou shalt not”s.

Now personally, I am not a fan of the pulpit-pounding-brimstone version of church oratory.  I like to be encouraged.  I like uplifting tunes.  I am also a great believer in and fan of grace—that free gift from God that none of us can earn.

What if, however, having accepted God’s grace and submitted to the Lordship of his son, there is an expected life to be led?  Not in a “how close can I get to the edge without falling out of God’s favor?” but as in a “how close can I live to God?!?”

What if these churches are not trying to be nefarious but are actually doing the best they know how to lift their people closer to God?  I don't deny that there have been abuses in the name of God, but in the modern era I am convinced that such infractions are the vast minority.  Unless you are of the opinion that anyone who tells you "no" is somehow infringing on your rights or just harshing on your mellow, the most harmful thing done to anyone today by the church is probably to leave them alone.

Living better involves eliminating some things from our pre-saved life and I just don’t think a church that doesn’t encourage all it’s members to strive to live better, to daily climb back up on that altar and offer ourselves as living sacrifices, is worth being a part of.

My reply to some wonderful comments (below): Thanks C.D. and D.S. for great comments.  We live in an age when more and more people are turning hostile to the gospel, while claiming it was the gospel that turned hostile to them!  For a case in point, read this article I found just this morning:  The author is honest enough to admit, though, that if the church changed she probably still wouldn't attend.  Could that be because she knows that a church that waters down it's message to meet a fickle public isn't worth the bother.