Why do I seem so negative about church? After all this is my third blog about not wanting to go to church; what is my beef with it all? The truth is I have no end of positive things to say about church life; I am excited about what is happening in the church communities I am involved in but I do believe that I need to ‘sell’ what I see as major problems before offering any solutions. More simply put, if we didn’t know we smelled bad we wouldn’t buy soap would we?
Here’s something I have noticed and have been guilty of over the years. Have you ever seen how many people dress up for church? Or have you heard the phrase ‘church suit’? This describes the clothes people keep for church; their best dress, smart suit etc. In fact there are retailers who specialise in church outfits; these are clothes that are especially designed for going to church in; let’s face it some of the hats I have seen wouldn’t be legal anywhere else but in church. At the risk of sounding petty, dressing up for church is a symptom that tells us something has gone very wrong. I would say it suggests that we are pursuing religious aspirations rather than being satisfied with simply following Jesus. What I mean by religious is either an attempt to appease God through our efforts (special behaviour demanding special clothes) or a moral based spirituality that I rely on to prove to myself and others that I am better than them (being this morally superior I need to be wearing better clothes).
The thing is our religion becomes irrelevant once we realise that God has forever appeased His anger and displeasure with our sin by the blood of Jesus. What’s more we are to consider people as better than ourselves, and again once this becomes a reality an awful lot of what passes for church becomes completely irrelevant. The irony here being that when we understand this we are looked down on by both the legalists and the moralists who are convinced that we have lost our way, backslidden, fallen from grace etc.
There is another issue here; special church clothes, or a special church voice (when we can’t say God but have to say Godd-ah) or special church music or even a church face reveal something rather unpleasant about our beliefs. The problem with this is that we have more than one face. I have my normal everyday face and my church face – have you done the maths? You got it, it makes us two faced! This means that when I go to church I behave in a way that is different from my normal daily living, I say and do things that I don’t apply to my life outside of church. If this is true then the church really is full of hypocrites 😉
The big question is which face does God prefer and is He impressed by our churchiness? We all know God looks at the heart and He is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. Because of this I would suggest that God ignores our church face, voice and suit and waits for us to call on Him honestly from our hearts. When we realise that we receive all that God has for us by faith in Jesus and not our moral performance we will have the courage to face God just as we are. Any church activity or ritual that promises to improve our standing with God is a lie; church attendance, communion and even bible reading have no power to change our relationship with our heavenly Father. The truth is that if you believe on the Lord Jesus you are part of the family of God, you are made righteous and nothing will ever set you apart from His love.
As a final word of encouragement let me leave you with this thought: when we turn to God and present ourselves as we really are, when we admit to Him the extent of our brokenness, we are not giving God an education, we are not showing Him anything He doesn’t already know. In fact He knows even more of our mess than we do and yet loves us completely; after all God doesn’t love us because we are lovely but because He is love. Therefore we can relax as we learn to live out our new lives in the power of the Holy Spirit, free from all fear and religious bondage.
Go well my friends 🙂