December 01, 2015

Disillusioned by the Church

Post by Brittany Tedesco

I recently watched a documentary on post-modernism, specifically the idea that there is no absolute truth, only people's interpretations. If you've ever heard someone respond to an assertion you've made with something like "Well, that's just your truth," you know what I'm talking about.

Because the film makers are Christians, the documentary included discussion about the church—the role of it in these post-modern days, as well as conversation about why both nonbelievers and believers seem to be so disillusioned and disappointed by it.

One of the men in the film offered a solution, which, in a nutshell, was to simply walk away from church as we know it. Stop attending. Go out and help your neighbor instead. He postulated that we Christians spend way too much time inside of church buildings when we should be out "in the world" ministering to the lost.

He also suggested that nonbelievers are tired of bumping up against Christians who look no different than the people they're supposedly trying to reach.

Though I disagree with the idea of abandoning church, I clearly see the problem being described.

Why is the Church growing in other areas of the world and atrophying here in the states and other developed nations?

I ask myself this question a lot as I meet ministry leaders from around the world who talk about vibrant, growing house church movements.

The difference, I think, is in the capitalization. A little "c" church implies a place one goes every week, a big "C" Church is not a place but a group of people. You're either in or you're out of big "C" Church—there's no room to be a spectator.

A year or two ago I heard a sermon by Chuck Swindoll that shook me up a bit. He spoke about the danger of sitting in church, agreeing with the sermon, and leaving. Psychologically, a person can actually think they're living out what's being preached simply by mentally agreeing with what's being preached.

"Jesus didn't call us to merely make a decision for him. He doesn't need our vote of approval. He doesn't want deciders. He wants disciples—people who are devoted to becoming more and more like him in everything, everyday," writes Jeff Vanderstelt, author of Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life.

The parable of the talents, depicted in a 1712 woodcut. The lazy servant searches for his buried talent, while the two other servants present their earnings to their master.

Nodding, nodding, nodding my head in church—yes, yes, good, yes. Agreeing. Oh, I agree, pastor.

Back at home? My life was still full of gossip, cynicism, and judgmentalism.

Oh. So. . .I wasn't really living it out? Nope. Just agreeing with the Bible.

Are we allowing church to mask the condition of our spiritual health?

In his book The Root of Righteousness, A. W. Tozer writes, "The snare is to believe we have arrived when we have not. The present neat habit of quoting a text to prove we have arrived may be a dangerous one if in truth we have no actual inward experience of the text. Truth that is not experienced is no better than error and may be fully as dangerous."

When I got alone and held up the mirror of God's Word to my heart, I saw the ugly things that couldn't be banished by nodding my head in agreement at church. Those are things that could only be dealt with by God after I repented of them.

If we all start doing this on a regular basis, I just wonder if we might not start to look like the ministry leaders supported by Christian Aid Mission. You know, the ones with "radical" lives for Jesus.

If we belong to God, we have the same Spirit in us that they have in them. Perhaps the difference is in how we steward our faith.

My home group Bible study was discussing Jesus' parable of the talents, where the master gives five talents to one of his servants, two to another, and one to another. The first two double their worth and get a reward—the last buries his and gets no reward.

We don't know for sure what the talents (a measure of money) represent. Many people have suggested they represent the natural or spiritual gifts and abilities God has given to each person. But what if, like my husband suggested, they represent faith?

We can steward our faith or bury it. . .let it atrophy. And if our faith is stunted, how can we expect to see God's power displayed in our lives?

"Risk is the other word for faith," a ministry leader from India who recently visited Christian Aid Mission told us.

He spoke about how dangerous it's become in India to hand out gospel literature or hold gospel meetings, "but we have to do it, we have to do it," he said.

It's a risky endeavor indeed. One of his gospel coworkers, who was praying at the home of some believers, was descended upon by a mob of over 100 Hindu extremists who beat him with rods and stones. He showed us the photos of the man. I saw his black eye, bruised body, and the red marks on his back from the rods.

That man told the ministry leader that, incredibly, throughout the ordeal, he felt no pain. He saw the rods slamming against his body, but felt nothing. It was as though a shield had surrounded him.

Imagine how his faith grew after that! Just like the servants with the five and two talents, he invested his portion of faith and it yielded an investment.

"I've found one of the main reasons many people do not get involved with the work of God in this world is because they don't believe God wants to or can use them. They don't know That Jesus prefers normal, weak, and broken people," Vanderstelt wrote.

Jim Cymbala, well-known author and pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, posted this message on Twitter: "The Holy Spirit is greater than our shyness and our fear of rejection or failure. His power makes the weakest as bold as a lion (Prov 28:1)."

Boldness comes out of our trust in God, but we'll only trust Him as much as we know Him. We have a role to play in the growth of our own faith. If we all communed with and got to know God personally, in quiet stillness, would people still be disillusioned by the Church?

Emmanuel - posted January 04, 2016
Greetings to you in the matchless Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is true in the present situation we are seeing. Very important things are focused in our spiritual life. Thanks.
Cynthia - posted December 03, 2015
Brittany, your thoughtful oberservations shake me to the core. Thank you for putting it all out there to challenge us in our walk with Christ.