I am currently sitting at a Starbucks listening to the group of people beside me having a conversation about church. One girl is doing most of the talking. She looks to be college age. Maybe 19 or 20 years old? She is discussing her small group. She says they call them connect groups, which is apparently better. They have a foundations class, then you go on to learn about books of the Bible once you graduate from that class. She is also talking about how she wished this one guy she likes would come with her to church so he could “get saved” and be filled with the Holy Spirit, like she so evidently is. She also talked about in her “connect group” last night that they were gathered together and “the Holy Spirit just fell on the room and we were on our faces and I asked if we could have communion, so we all took communion and it was..like..so cool. And all we had was lemonade and cheese-its but ya know we just sat in that floor and had communion with what we had and it was just so spirit-filled and amazing and I just..I just…it was just so good!”
There’s no denying that Christianity in America has lost it’s way in a sense. We, as a whole, are missing the point all together.
I feel like we are lost when it comes to trying to navigate American Christianity in this day and age. So much lingo. So many weird traditions. So many hand movements and special languages. It’s hard to keep up or know what is happening. It is for this reason that I have decided to create this short guide to help you navigate the foreign terrain. So let’s get on with it.
If you’re not a church goer, but have been to church at least once, you know it has it’s own ecosystem. A group of people that barely function within their group, but definitely are not inviting to outsiders. Outsiders threaten their very delicate balance. The least little bit of dirt tracked in on the feet of sinners could make it all come crashing down. Couple this with the ongoing pressure they put on themselves to be perfect and you have a perfect recipe for disaster, which is basically 99% of all churches. Maybe not EVERYONE there, but every church has at least two people who are like this. And where there are two, there are more… This brings me to..
A New Level Of Guilt-Tripping
Christians are almost synonymous with guilt in America. Maybe it’s this whole “if we make you feel terrible about your life, we won’t feel so bad about ours” mentality. Or maybe it’s just easier to point fingers elsewhere and not in the mirror. Whatever the case, Christians are master guilt-trippers. What it really comes down to is a power-play. Christian leaders guilt people into things because they have made people believe they have it all together and have achieved a certain level of holiness and connection to God that they don’t have, and have therefore achieved a level of authority on the matter. So they guilt people because guilt is the cheapest form of manipulation. It’s actually not that hard to be a master guilt-tripper when guilt is the easiest way to manipulate someone. Because it continues to work is why it won’t be going away any time soon. But I think people are finally starting to wise up.
The “Everything Secular Is Evil” Mentality
I bet you know someone like this. I bet you know many people like this. They teach their kids that things like Harry Potter is bad because there are wizards and magic. Its odd to me that Harry Potter was so negatively shunned by church-goers for a while there when stories like Lord Of The Rings are so praised and celebrated. I wonder if Harry Potter would have been OK if J.K. Rowling was best friends with C.S. Lewis the way that J.R.R. Tolkien was. But I digress.
I almost wonder if the last point is where the people from THIS point end up? I imagine its pretty easy to go from “everything outside of church is bad” to guilting everyone into being like you, and then maybe taking it even further and saying we shouldn’t let “outsiders” in because they will track in secular dirt on their heels and get it all over our self-righteous carpet. But it happens, right? We see this all the time! Maybe we are these people!? Imagine what we could do if we all woke up to the glory of the Gospel in our lives and were devastated by Jesus. Our lives would look different. The way we love one another AND those who are lost would look different. Everything about the way we see the world would be different.
It’s at this point we would see that we shouldn’t be separating ourselves from the “secular”, we would be redeeming it through acts of love, the sharing of the Gospel with our words and our lives, and changing culture from within. Separation from the secular is what the Pharisees did. It’s not what we do. We welcome people into our family and clothe them, feed them, and give them a place to call home.
When you work for a church, you get to know the lingo of staff members in churches. A word that gets thrown around a lot is “seeker”. Seekers are people who aren’t followers of Christ, and may be visiting the church on any given Sunday. You usually hear the word thrown around in conversations about whether the church needs to be more “seeker-friendly”, or maybe they are becoming too seeker-friendly.
The way I look at it, we are all seekers to some degree. We are all looking for Jesus, and we all need Him equally. I consider myself a seeker, and I hope I continue to seek God in all things. It’s sometimes very difficult to find Jesus in the people and practices of the Church. So we should be making it as clear as possible for each other!
I hope that as we move ahead into further generations of Church-goers, we will see a revival of people who are very passionate about Jesus, the Gospel, and seeing lives transformed in the love and power of the Holy Spirit. Maybe we will even see ourselves transformed more and more each day in light of what Christ has done for us! We have an opportunity to change the way American Christianity is heading and direct the the culture of the American Church back toward its Savior. I want to be a part of THAT group. But we still have a lot to learn, and a long way to go.
Next week, we’ll look at how American Christianity is killing creativity among its members.
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Until next week,