“That’s why I have no use for the Christian church,” the twenty-something said with a powerful passion. “They beat up on people.” A 29-year-old father of two preschool aged children expressed his disdain for organized religion with a bumper sticker that read “Faith is a Journey Not a Guilt Trip.” A twenty-something IT specialist perhaps summed up the feelings of a generation when he said about church, “I’m just sick of the bullshit!” I have no desire to argue with these children of the eighties and nineties, who like so many of their generation, have no desire or use for the church. Despite my love of Christ’s church, in fact because of my love of the church, I too am sick of the bullshit.
Sadly, there are too many people in too many churches who have a stranglehold on decision making and control. These individuals make and interpret decisions based on the need for institutional survival, at best, or on their own petty interests at worst. This is the bullshit, the millstone around our children’s neck (Mark 9:42), that has chased our children away. It is the great sin of the modern church.
The survival of the institution called “church” is not the concern of Christians. Our only appropriate concern is furthering God’s kingdom, that is of following Jesus faithfully. If the institution of any church body helps us to follow Jesus, its survival matters. If the church does not help us to follow Christ, the institution called “church” should fail.
Following Jesus faithfully means striving for the kingdom (Luke 12: 31) by focusing on the needs of the least of these (Matthew 25: 34-45) rather than seeking after personal power. Followers of Jesus turn power over to the Divine and strive to prayerfully discern God’s will for Christ’s church. They seek the guidance of the One as they make decisions through prayer, quiet time with the Divine, and through regular scripture study. Faithful living manifests as an active faith that permeates our personal and corporate actions. Yes, we will fail at times, we will say the harsh word, or worse, but when we do we will admit our failing to one another, honestly seek reconciliation, and forgive one another. As God’s people, we are not called to prop up an institution, we are called to be the Beloved community.