Here’s my 2nd attempt at a constructively directed (eloquent, i know. It’s almost post-modern…) critique of the “church critiquers”. My last attempt was entertaining to read but probably burned the skin off of a few people (as some of my writing tends to do from time to time). If you don’t want a read a strong critique that will probably indict you in the process and leave you begging for mercy, then I advise you to close this webpage and go read some twitter updates – they’re bound to leave you in a much more indifferent state than the following will.
First of all, the amount of books coming out on critiques of the church is endless. I am baffled by how many books have come out in the last 10 years that break down the inferiority of the church (in America, primarily) and reconstruct their own, heaven-sent conceptions of how to build the infallible church against which even the gates of hell will not prevail against. My guess is that this “church-critique” phase really got kicked off with Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Church, (who I will affectionately refer to as Ricky Dub, cause it’s cooler that way). I have no idea how many copies this book sold, and I really don’t care, but the point is that Ricky Dub effectively launched a snowball effect with his publication.
Second, you don’t have to read one book to know that critiquing “church” is probably one of American Christianity’s favorite pastimes. You just have to sit with another Christian who has been involved in church for the last 15 years (or less). It’s almost like you are not cool unless you have some bias against church, some critique of how it’s too “big” or not “organic” or doesn’t have “true community”, or the big one most recently, “it’s not AUTHENTIC” (I’m vomiting in the background). Basically, what it boils down to, is most people are really upset that the church is not their bimbo-girlfriend who panders to their stupid demands, who waits on them hand-and-foot, serving up nice, neat pre-packaged spiritual experiences for them, with hip little sparrows, candle lights, and groovy indie-pop music playing in the background.
Not that I’m against sparrows (except for when they build nests over your car and poop on it all day – not cool), or candle lights (you know, when the power goes out or your trying to get romantic with your significant other) or groovy indie-pop music (when I want to listen to Death Cab, I’ll turn on my iPod, thank you – they do it better anyway). But these items don’t seem to quantify a legitimate “spiritual experience”, or, in fact, even enhance a “spiritual experience”.
“Man, I’m really glad they turned the lights down low today because I hate when people see me singing, it’s so… awkward…”
There certainly seems to be a trend amongst these sorts of people, finding it introspectively-cool to sit and offer their latest pontifications on how they can offer the latest idea of how to generate “authentic community”.
But it’s not even limited to these kinds – Ricky Dub seemed to spur it all on with his suggestions in Purpose Driven Church. There were the business model guys who apparently saw that church sucked and so thought it best to import business ethics into church growth (whatever “church growth” is anyway). There are the Old-Guards (as I affectionately call them): the Reformed crowd who are biased against everybody else except themselves (which might very well be their lasting appeal), arguing for a return to the institution, old-school preaching, and stand-up scripture reading coupled with pianos and old hymns mixed with the new additions. There’s the Emergent and Emerging groups, who think we just need to sit around in our kumbaya groups and share our inclinations about how the Force is at work in us. There are the home-church propagandists (who have a very long road ahead if they wish to succeed in America). There are regular-joes who have been burned (and burned others) by the church, that just want something different – it doesn’t matter so much what it is, so long as it is not what they just had.
The list is seemingly endless.
Whoever it is and wherever you are, no matter if you live under a rock in the Yukon in Alaska or are smack-dab in the middle of hyperdrive spiritual-overload suburban America, there are critiques, and they are endless. And then on top of that, not only are their critiques of the churches, there are critiques of the critiquers. It’s like, “well, the church is outdated, that’s well established, but your idea for church is pathetic, and here’s a hundred reasons why you’re wrong”. I must say that this is not all bad and there are some extremely helpful and important discussions and arguments occurring that we would be wise to enter into. But the point still stands – there are ad infinitum of critiques of the church, and I’m sure you’ve got a thousand of your own too.
But I’m not going to tell you what’s “wrong” with church. In fact, 99.99% of (what is that, like 1 out every 10,000) people couldn’t even articulate clearly what they see is wrong with the church, let alone correctly identify what are the real problems at their church are. The fact of the matter is, most of us, myself included, are too caught up in our own agenda to helpfully identify the fundamental errors of the church. This isn’t to say that we should just “leave it up to the big dogs” to take care of. But I certainly do think that if what you mainly have to offer is what’s wrong – you don’t have anything to offer. Most people just base their notions off of other people’s hearsay and rumor, and then build a edifice of angst against a church who never actually wronged them. They simply build their case off of what they “don’t like”. Quite honestly, God doesn’t care what you don’t like about church.
When Jesus said, “I will build my church“, he didn’t ask your opinion. He said, “I’m gonna build it” and so your primary responsibility as a follower of Jesus Christ is not to moan and complain about “all the problems” that are occurring in your local church, but to either come alongside Jesus and join him in his efforts, or get out. It’s no coincidence that Jesus’ most stern rebuke to his disciples occurs directly after Jesus says that he will build his church. Peter offers his opinion on Jesus’ method and Jesus calls Peter Satan. How’s that for God’s opinion of your opinion? Let’s just hope that Jesus isn’t saying that to any of us at this very moment because we’re being a hinderance to the Lord’s efforts to build his church.
This is the whole point: If Jesus is going to build his church, your job is to be a part of that in any way possible, and by the grace of God to work as hard as you possibly can at building Christ’s church – not tearing it down. This is the number one thing that the church in America needs right now and it is its greatest deficiency. What the church needs is people who are committed to the church no matter what. The only way they are going to leave the church is if the elder-board asks them to leave because they were too zealous about sharing the gospel with 12-year-olds.
So what’s the remedy? Go get involved. And work your butt off. I’m not going to tell you how church must be done. There are much smarter people than me that can educate you on that (heck, you could read some of those church critique books I mocked a minute ago). But if all you bring with you is the gospel, your bible and your time and your effort, I guarantee that you will find church a much more pleasant place to be than you currently give it credit for.