I'd Rather Skip Church, Thank You Very Much...
I have been reading the book They Like Jesus But Not The Church by Dan Kimball. It is, to say the least - eye opening. Kimball (who is a pastor also) brings to light the fact that there seems to be a resurgence in our culture today. There is actually a growing segment that adores Christ and His wisdom, but ardently opposes the institution of the church. And speaking honestly, can we blame them? I had viewed a debate several months ago which pitted the Catholic Church against a board of atheists. The question of the debate was, "is the world a better place because of the Catholic Church?" One of the opponents on the opposing panel was famous professed atheist Christopher Hitchens (the same who now suffers from cancer). In short; Hitchens ate the church defenders for lunch. It was hard to watch. He sited occurrence after occurrence of when and how the Church had failed. There is in fact, no shortage of disappointed people when it comes to "The Church." It is no use listing off the bad things that can happen when human beings attempt to uphold what is Good and Holy. Let's face it; sometimes we screw up.
If you are reading this right now, maybe you are one of those people who have been disappointed by the church. Maybe you trusted an elder or pastor or priest, and you were let down and hurt. There are some offenses that are worse than others. Many people have left the church for very good reasons, some of which include: false teaching, abuse, misuse of trust, judgementalism, and the like. Kimball cites 6 reasons that our emerging culture tends to shy away from organized religion. Here is the list below:
1.) The church is an organized religion with a political agenda
2.) The church is judgemental and negative
3.) The church is dominated by males and oppresses females
4.) The church is homophobic
5.) The church arrogantly claims all other religions are wrong
6.) The church is full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally
Quite a list isn't it? The list above of course does not exist in all churches equally, and in fact Kimball even admits that the items in this list can (and often are) more misconceptions about Christianity. After all, when the media gets a hold of half-baked pastors who threaten to have a Q'ruan burning, or who stage rallies with vulgar signs that say "Turn or Burn" - it's easy to paint all Christians with a bad brush.
Now lets look at what the church is SUPPOSED to do. I think the church today is supposed to uphold the Bible as God's Word. The church is supposed to be faithful and reverent. The church is supposed to help the poor and needy. The church is supposed to be welcoming and loving. And above all, the church is supposed to point people to Jesus. We are charged with the task of bringing Christ to the world - nothing more, nothing less. This is a large job. We are - as Dr. Francis Collins says - dirty vessels which contain a pure truth. We are bound to make mistakes at times. But the truth is that the Christian church is also the Hope of the world. Without it, man left to himself will act in his own accordance, losing track of the meaning of the Bible, and will end up ultimately (I think) farther and farther away from God's Kingdom. We were not made to stay at home, read the Bible, and never meet to fellowship and worship together. God meant it when he told us to "not forsake the assembly."
Don't get me wrong, I think it is better to stay home than to be in a hurtful church. Bad teaching can do more harm than no teaching. But I also think that for a good majority of Christian churches, this list of 6 misconceptions above is the exception, not the rule. We cannot give up entirely. Ask God to bring you to a solid Biblical church, and don't be afraid to test the doctrine when you get there. It's okay to be upset when you are hurt by Christians, but it's not okay to give up on Christ.