Andy and I are reading a book called The Present Future with a group of 40+ others at our church who are exploring new ways of showing and sharing God’s love with others. We’ve only read the first two chapters but, WOW!
The author says that churches have been asking the wrong question: How do we do church better? (How do we get people to join our church?) The right question, he says, is: How do we deconvert from Churchianity to Christianity? (How do we connect people to Jesus?) Check out these two excerpts.
The church culture in North America is a vestige of the original movement, an institutional expression of religion that is in part a civil religion and in part a club where religious people can hang out with other people whose politics, worldview, and lifestyle match theirs. As he hung on the cross Jesus probably never thought the impact of his sacrifice would be reduced to an invitation for people to join and to support an institution.
People may be turned off to the church, but they are not turned off to Jesus. Jesus is popular. He still makes the cover of Time and Newsweek every year (generally around Easter). Church people sometimes get excited by this but fail to understand that people in the nonchurch culture don’t associate Jesus with the church. In their mind, the church is a club for religious people where club members can celebrate their traditions and hang out with others who share common thinking and lifestyles. They do not automatically think of the church as championing the cause of poor people or healing the sick or serving people. These are things they associate with Jesus. They believe the church is out for itself, looking out more for the institution than for people.
For any of my friends outside the church culture who are reading this, I want to offer a personal apology for the church’s gross misrepresentation of the person we claim to follow. I have been part of this institutional blindness and negligence and am guilty of putting my focus and energy on things that Jesus did not center his attention on. Please forgive me and the church.
May God also forgive us. May God give us the humility to admit that we’ve been more of a self-serving club than the hands and feet of Jesus. May God help us make the radical, downwardly mobile shift from lives of preoccupation with the institution into lives of service to people.