Imagine for a second a man, dressed in satin shorts and topless, ducking and stepping into a ring, raising his gloves to the crowd, and then beating himself in the face for a full twelve rounds. That’s what I’m going for with this post, that’s what I hope to achieve with this late night, emotional, string of bursting consciousness.
Any critique that does not begin with the understanding that we are the problem, ends nowhere worth getting.
Every problem is caused by us.
It is easy to criticise the government, the media, the police, big business, the wealthy, the poor…
But we are the uninformed voters who make it so difficult for politicians to choose socially advantageous policies. Socially advantageous policies are too often the way to lose an election.
We are the attention deficit retards who encourage Today Tonight, who buy the Sydney Morning Herald only when the front page is of Paris Hilton, who ignore anything in-depth, comprehensive and scholarly.
We own the companies (superannuation) and pay no attention to anything but returns (if we even pay attention). We buy the low cost products, ignoring the ethical record of companies. We make them focused only on profits. It is us that does it.
We are the rich, relative to the world.
We oppose the tax rises that would allow for welfare to the poor.
We are each and every problem and we can’t see it because our eyes are firmly shut, and when we open them, the log blocks our vision.
How can church be made better?
‘We need to be more creative in the way we reach out.’ ‘We need to care for the poor more.’ ‘The sermons are boring.’
These are statements I have made. They are ridiculous.
When I am criticising church the functional definition that I adopt is often either:
- That ‘church’ is the other people that go to my
- That church is the stuff that happens up the
We all adopt this. And in so doing collectively forget that we are the church!
So if asked for the problem with my church I may reply, ‘The music is too long and slow and it discourages me, and I am tired and it’s too late at night.’
What blatant consumerism?
How about this for an answer – ‘I am a mess. I fail to love any of my friends as I should. I often come to church for my own enjoyment, because my friends are there. I am a pathetic evangelist. I do not bear my cross. I need to do these things more, by God’s grace, through his Spirit. And given all that, as a little suggestion, maybe we could shorten the songs?’
Why don’t we think like that?
At planning meetings we ask, ‘What is wrong with our youth group?’
The standard reply is something like, ‘The kids are tired on Friday night and we should move our heavy content onto Sundays.’ Two years later, after we have done so, people say the opposite, as if that’s the magic bullet.
How about this – ‘The biggest problem is me. I don’t give a crap. Jesus says to take up his cross. To suffer for his name. Jesus asked men to give up their life’s work and families to follow him in a second, I won’t give up my university grades, or even my social contacts. Often I don’t even admit this sin. I am the problem and if I was better the youth group would be better. If I truly cared, if I truly loved, if I truly knew the gospel… but I don’t.’
“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” Jesus asked. Immediately the brothers replied, “No, we cannot, for if we did, we would not get Distinction averages.” Jesus paused, “Sorry,” he muttered, “I didn’t think of that,” and he continued towards Galilee.”
I met up with two buddies for a long time, just criticising the church. And we never realised that we were the problem.
How long do you think Paul spent considering structures verse praying? What was his ratio? How much time did Peter spent debating the length of ‘Ministry Matters’ verse caring for the lost?
I am not saying that structure is irrelevant, or bad. Run a great service, organise the music, yes! But it isn’t as important as we make it out to be.
It is too easy to put the blame on others, to miss the forest for the trees, to become obsessed with the irrelevant.
‘If they would only encourage me better, then I would be a great leader.’
Encourage them, inspire them, forgive and love them! Do it intensely, and I promise you that they will encourage you back.
If my church had the perfect structure, then the end product would be 5%, or 10% better.
If my church was filled by people who carry their cross daily, who love each other and love God intensely, who are extravagantly generous, who are humble, who are gospel-centred etc, etc etc.
Then the church wouldn’t fit the building.
We are the problem. I am the problem.
I am not a radical. I am nominal.
Anders Breivik, the asshole (like me) who killed seventy-six people in Norway five days ago, was described as a Christian-fundamentalist. He wasn’t, because religion was not even slightly central to his thinking, because a few quotes in a 1,500 page manifesto do not make someone a fundamentalist, because he called himself only moderately-religious, because he was motivated by bizarre nationalist, political, racist motivations and because he evidently knew nothing of the borderline pacifism that Jesus preached.
But I would love to be called a Christian fundamentalist, because that would mean that my life was filled by a desire to love God, and to love people.
Moreover I would love to see a church filled with Christian fundamentalists.
That would be my definition of the ideal church, not a place with better coffee, but a place with better people, by God’s grace.
I will only see it in heaven, but why does small mindedness mean we don’t even talk about it now? Why don’t we even seem to care?
I often feel that I have it tough, working part-time, doing ministry, and studying a full-time postgraduate degree. When I feel like that I go home and play computer games to relax.
We are the luckiest generation in human history, living in perhaps the most plentiful setting on Earth, giving up not more than 10% of our time and money, and we feel hard done by. We feel owed. God owns 100% of your life. He gave it to you, he gives it to you every second you breath. He owes you nothing. You owe him everything.
We have to realise that we are pathetic, and we are the problem.
That I am pathetic, that I am the problem.
And then we have to see grace, our despair has to end in glory, or we will be missing the forest for the trees.