I'm reading the book, UnChristian - What a new generation really thinks about Christianity...and why it matters by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. This book has brought me to my knees. The title describes perfectly what this book is all about.
For the past ten years I've been speaking the truths that are spelled out in this timely book. However, I've been poo-pooed by naysayers. "Oh Liz, don't look to people. Just look to God." "Your personal experience is rare. The Church doesn't usually treat people the way you were treated."
Those naysayers are WRONG. My family's ordeal as it pertains to the church is NOT unusual, it is NOT rare, and it is NOT okay.
The Barna Group is a well respected evangelical Christian polling firm located in Ventura, California. UnChristian gives all the data it has collected from non-believers and Christ followers alike to explain why Christianity has an image problem. Oh boy, does it have an image problem.
People under the age of 29 have been particularly turned off by The Church. We think we can bring them back if we play a certain kind of music, or use cool graphics in our video presentations. Well, it's just not that simple. They're sick of hypocrisy and they crave (as I think we all do) authenticity.
In Luke 15 we read the story of The Prodigal Son. We Christians use that parable as the perfect picture of God's grace. I think that's true. However, we gloss over the older brother in the story. He is the picture of The Church. Don't miss this - he is THE CHURCH.
The older brother does not want the prodigal to receive grace. The older brother folds his arms, stomps his feet (my interpretation), and whines to his dad, Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him! Luke 15:29-30
We call one another, "brother" and "sister". But when someone messes up (or is accused of messing up), we refuse to call him "brother", but rather we say, "this son of yours". And by the way, that nasty older brother hadn't even spoken to his younger sibling, yet he assumed the prodigal "squandered your property with prostitutes".
I shouldn't have been surprised when I was accused of saying, doing, and thinking things I didn't say, do, or think. Jesus himself tells us in this parable that The Church WILL make assumptions about its very own brothers and sisters. Ugh. Shameful.
Again, I LOVE The Church. Grieve is a love word. You don't truly grieve the loss of something or someone unless you loved them. You might feel sympathy or sadness, but not grief. I grieve for The Church. My heart breaks for all the people out there who've been disenfranchised, kicked out, or damaged by the Pharisaical hypocrisy of The Church.
We're all broken. No one is better than anyone else. Love is such a simple word. Love is a powerful healer.