What is Wrong with the Church?
Over the last 30 years, my life has somehow continuously circled around the question, "What is wrong with the church?" Now, of course, it is not usually presented in question form. It is usually addressed in declarative statements from grizzled clergy and beleaguered churchgoers. The "You know what is wrong with the church today..." argument dentate forcefully appears and is concluded after the airing of sharp grievances about the worst parts of the church.
I am here to settle this debate once and for all. I have the final answer to what is actually wrong with the Church.
There is nothing new about this discussion.
Let's get one thing clear from the jump, there will always be "something" wrong with the church. Since its inception, there have been disagreements about the form and function. Oddly enough this is an egregious circumstance when it comes to religious organizations. We do not have any issues with the tension of disagreement in other avenues of life. We understand that there are differences in business philosophy, political thinking, and marital issues. Google Maps even provides multiple sets of directions to the same destination and we don't put the search engine on blast because there is more than one way to make it to the same place!
But the Church is somehow supposed to be immune to tension and disagreement? This is especially preposterous when you stop to consider that the same broken and in-need-of-Jesus people that run businesses also make up the population of our churches. It makes no sense for you to think that the church should not be reflective of the people that comprise it. There was dissension in every God-ordained unit of people throughout Scripture. It's should be expected.
The church is always reforming.
The church is always in preparation mode. That is, it is being readied for the returning of the Lord Jesus when it will be presented without spot and wrinkle. Well, we got spots and wrinkles and we have the need for constant reformation. Church history is full of examples (some centuries long) where the church ventured way off course. It had to be brought back to its purpose and mission. The mission of the church is contextual and context changes.
There is no denying that life is different now than it was 10 years ago. It was also different 1,000 years ago. As everything around the church changes (culture), the church is called to adapt. Sometimes the adaptation leads the church into sinful patterns and decisions. Thankfully there are those who cry out for the church to repent and reform. Luther, Zwingli,and Calvin are some of the notable ones throughout history. Current day examples may include Bill Hybels and Rick Warren (the debate on the "correctness" of these reformers is up for debate, but their impact in shifting church form and function is clearly evident.) True to form these reformers are still in the cross-hairs of debate even though the former examples have been deceased for centuries.
Reformation is good and clarity of God's calling is precious. That is why I don't get exceptionally bothered by the "what is wrong with the church debate." That is until I finally came to the conclusive answer as to who was really at fault for the downfall of the Church.
You know what's wrong with the Church? Yes, I do.
You have made it this far to discover the real answer to what is wrong with the church. Your reward awaits you. Perhaps you are waiting to see if my theory matches yours. It's the music isn't it? Preachers are too soft, right? Don't you know it' s always about money? Do you have any more reasons why the church sucks? Sorry to say, those reasons don't matter because I have the single answer to the question, "what is wrong with the church?"
It is me.
I am what is wrong with the church. I speak as a member of the clergy and as a layman that sits in the pew. I am what is wrong with the church.
As a pastor, my responsibility is to point people towards Jesus, equip others to point people to Jesus, and to speak the truth of the Scriptures with my words and actions. These are my secondary responsibilities....that I have made primary responsibilities.
As a member of the laity, my responsibility is to listen, learn, serve, teach, and obey what God tells me to do. I am to talk about Jesus and work in the kingdom of God. These are my secondary responsibilities... that I have made primary responsibilities.
When I prioritize my function in the kingdom of God based solely on what I do I tend to forget the reason why I do it in the first place. Sure, I could insert some manufactured mission statement as a justified placeholder for the real reason why I do what I do. "I am here to reach the lost at any cost" and "I will preach the Word and shake the nations " are a few examples of mission statements that have drifted from their first cause. These are secondary responsibilities that have elevated to primary reasons for following Jesus. They are always meant to be secondary. They are meant to be responses of worship not cornerstones of identity.
My primary responsibility is to be a child of God who loves Him more than all else. My joy is to respond to the Spirit and approach Abba with the expectation of His benevolent grace. To do all unto the glory of God necessitates that I first seek the glory of God.
When I choose to focus on the duties that give me some false sense of self-worth, instead of focusing on the Glorious Father who values me even though I was worthless in comparison, I become the problem with the church. When I justify work as "kingdom work" because it is religious in nature, I become the problem with the church. True Kingdom work is responsive in nature. That is, the only reason for me to do anything at all is that it serves as a worshipful response to the God who chose emptiness that I might have life and that to the fullest.
Because I chose working over worship I have become the epitome of what is wrong with the church. I have placed an emphasis on being proactive instead of reactive. And while those are great traits in the business, political, and marital realms it really misses the point of the Church.
My primary responsibility is to respond to the presence of God and I made that I secondary responsibility. That is what is wrong with the church.
An Apology And Request For Help
I'm sorry. I did not even realize what I was doing. I confess to you that I was wrong. I thought I was helping the church worship God when I was really just helping it worship itself. I thought I was helping the church pursue God's mission when I was simply just making up some mission to make the Church feel more relevant and important.
The Church exists to worship God and worship is a response to his presence that takes on many forms in addition to singing some songs. I temporarily forgot that. The Church was not responding to the presence of God. The Church was trying to manufacture the presence of God like Old Testament idol worship. It just looked different.
I am sorry. Will you forgive me?
Will you help me reform? Keep me on track?
I am what is wrong with the church. But I don't want to be.