Sunday, June 14, 2015

Church, Ativan, and Gospel Misfits

I know they mean well and I certainly don't question their hearts or motives, but I think the help they're offering misses the point a little. We've not had a church (in the institutional sense of the word) to call home since the one we were members of merged with a mega-church, or folded, or ceased to exist, or morphed, or whatever that was that happened.

Since that time, we've darkened the doors of many a church building only to hear moralistic, duty-laden law preaching that majors big-time on the Christian's failure to do the Christian life in the Christian way. We've been scolded from several pulpits and in one instance, even told God is mad at us and wants us to "shut up." We've been chastened for not being brave like David was brave and to prove his point, that particular pastor dimmed the lights to show a clip on bravery from the movie Titanic. My wife got up and left before the clip ever started or the lights dimmed, but I had the decency to wait until the lights dimmed before I ducked down and made a beeline for the door. I attribute my wait to my fear of man. Yet another of my plethora of sins Jesus died for.

I've lost count of the number of churches we've visited since the one we were a part of ceased to be. My wife and I sometimes joke that we've walked out of so many churches that we've stopped walking in. We've surfed the web for countless hours looking at church web sites and listening to sermons. We've come across some that boast the gospel on their web site but when you get inside the building, it becomes clear they don't really know what gospel-centered means. When I mentioned to one pastor that what drew us there that Sunday was the gospel references on their web site, he immediately glazed-over and didn't know what I was referring to. His message that morning was all about accountability groups, submitting to the pastor, and the importance of keeping each other in line because we're such screw-ups (we are, by the way) and God is angry with our sloppy selves. There was no mention of Jesus. No hope. No good news. None. When visiting a church results in running to the medicine cabinet afterward to pop an Ativan or two, something's terribly wrong. I could go on and on, but I'll spare you the agony. You get the idea.

I take comfort in knowing we're not alone in our struggle. We're finding that there are pockets of people, both across the country and locally, who are in the same crazy predicament. They haven't left Jesus but they feel the church (again, church in the institutional, traditional sense) has, so they don't go there very often. Some of them don't go at all. One blogger called those pockets of people "The Dones" because they're just done with it all. They haven't left Jesus; they feel the church has left Jesus. Rod Rosenbladt's message,