***Disclaimer…I don’t think I’ve agonized over a blog entry quite as much as I have this one. There is one aspect of it that I am really struggling with. Theologically, I think it is sound, or obviously I wouldn’t even think of posting it. And because I was and am struggling with it, I checked with two theological minds I trust implicitly…also doesn’t hurt that I think the world of them both as people. I tend to think the three of us, while sharing differences, are pretty closely aligned in our beliefs and approach. One raised an issue because of how it could potentially be construed. The other had no reservations. Gee, thanks guys for making the decision easier :) So, I in turn opened it to other friends whose opinions I trust and value. The response was unanimous, “Post it!” So, majority wins. I haven’t quite decided if I like this post or not, and it could disappear should I decide that I don’t.***
I know I said in the update that this was essentially going to be the beginning of a “pet-peeve” series…well, I’ve had a change of heart. This is going to be a “plea” series and a call to “arms”…feet, and heart series. And as such, I’ve been trying to figure out a semi-coherent order for these posts, simply so I can spread the thoughts out over a handful of posts rather than trying to cram it into one gigantic post that no one is ever going to read anyhow…so here we go, I think this one is a good jumping off point.
Excuses. I absolutely, positively detest them. We all make them to varying degrees, for varying reasons…especially including me. It seems they are an integral part of life, as are lengths we will go to justify them to ourselves and to God. Most of the time, we tolerate our own, and grudgingly tolerate those of others. However there is one that I find myself increasingly intolerant of. Matter of fact, quite frankly, this is one of those that truly angers me, and breaks my heart at once. What excuse is that?
“I know, but that’s every church.”
There is no fire here. “I know, but that’s every church.”
We’re losing people. “I know, but that’s every church.”
We’re not teaching the Word here. “I know, but that’s every church.”
This place is stagnant. “I know, but that’s every church.”
Apostasy is running rampant here. “I know, but that’s every church.”
Have you heard some of the theology floating around this place? “I know, but that’s every church.”
This just doesn’t feel like church anymore. “I know, but that’s every church.”
I don’t feel God here. “I know, but that’s every church.”
Hey, did you hear about program x, y, or z at the church down the road? “I know, but that’s….What!?!? Really!?!? Form a committee!!!” (sorry, I couldn’t resist that little jab)
“I know, but that’s every church.” I hear that and my heart just screams out, “I don’t care about every other church! I care about this one! Let’s fix this one and then worry about the next!” (It is amazing how that seems to cut right to the heart when people offer up that excuse and leaves them slack jawed)
It has become the excuse to every shortcoming, failure, and problem in the church today. And the thing is, it isn’t a point that is an opening to dialogue, it is the chosen weapon for ending a conversation. It is usually offered with the shrug of the shoulders, a half-hearted smile, and an immediate about-face as they fade back into the distance.
Think about that. When faced with a problem, the response all too often heard is, “I know, but that’s every church.” And people think that is a valid excuse. Oh well, everybody else has this problem as well. This is such a microcosm of what is wrong with today’s church and Christians alike. Marriage to the status quo, this defeatist attitude. Talk about surrendering to everything, but God…talk about apostasy, apathy, and indifference all rolled into one big stinky package. Is this what God and Christ expect of us?
Imagine if you will, coming to church one bright Sunday morning and the parking lot is empty. You find this odd, you wonder if you missed some memo, some announcement in the blizzard of such things in church. You park your car, as you consider these things, nothing is making sense. You look around the parking lot again just to insure you hadn’t missed someone or something, when you notice from the corner of your eye, a figure standing inside the front door. You immediately exit your vehicle, intent on finding out what is going on.
You approach the church, your eyes on the person standing in the doorway. You suddenly feel uncomfortable, as you realize this person is not dressed like you, and you do not recognize him. Your instinct is to turn and run, but you can’t. Something in you tells you that you were expected, that you must talk to this person.
You feel his eyes upon you and you find yourself wondering if you can take it and why you can’t run away. You enter the doorway and stand before this figure. His face is kind, yet stern. There is immense love in his eyes, yet there is immense pain as well. You feel his eyes digging into you, seeing beyond. You think you recognize him, but you cannot quite bring yourself to believe it, until He speaks.
“What have you done to my bride?” His voice is authority personified, yet there is hurt in it, maybe even desperation…and you bear every ounce. You have no choice. “I no longer recognize her, nor does she recognize me. Her ways are no longer mine, she has grown to love the sound of her own voice. She has grown deaf towards me, incapable of hearing me.
“What have you done to my bride? She no longer cherishes the words of my Father and myself. You have taught her rituals, ways, and doctrines for which I have no value. She has grown gluttonous and lazy, focusing inward, rather than outward.
“What have you done to my bride? Her natural beauty, perfect and true, is no longer visible. You have heaped layers upon layers of makeup and adornments upon her, I no longer recognize her face. I did not ask for these things! She was already beautiful in my sight! When our hearts used to beat as one; when my ways, were her ways.
“What have you done to my bride? You have turned her eyes and heart from me. You have focused her attention upon dead things, upon idols…upon the desires of this world. She has become boastful with her mouth, but cowardly of heart.
“What have you done to my bride?” The question is no longer rhetorical, He expects an answer.
The first thought, the first retort that comes to mind is, “I know, but that’s every church.” But you immediately think better of it, your mind races, your heart feels as if it is going to pound right out of your chest, when an answer is presented to you, one that will surely get you off the hook, and it spills from your mouth.
“But, I didn’t do any of those things!” You cry.
His eyes narrow ever so slightly, “You recognized these things. You heard Me speaking to your heart, you felt the Spirit moving you. You sensed My words forming in your throat. You felt your heart breaking with mine. You did not hesitate to complain to friends, family, loved ones, and even Me. Yet, what did you do? How did you respond? You watched. You did nothing and therefore, you did everything.”
You are crushed, figuratively, literally, you‘ve never felt such a weight. Just t when you think you can take no more, His countenance softens. His eyes are no longer narrow, they are soft, hopeful. You feel in that instance a love that is indescribable and you want to weep. You know you are not worthy, He knows you are not worthy. Yet, He loves you as much as He did the day He died for you and He calls you by name, as He asks:
“Will you help me? Will you quit standing idly by? Will you quit talking and actually start doing? What are you afraid of? I am with you, always. You once vowed to be my hands and feet. Will you now? Will you follow me?”