Dante and I recently had a discussion in which he asked me why I haven't been posting on Legacy Dad in a while. After a lengthy conversation of me sharing my frustrations and discussing the season of life I find myself in, he encouraged me to craft this post to talk about these issues openly with readers.
I often voice my frustration with the Church in America and how we are going about reaching people. I often ponder if the American Church today is really following the example of Jesus Christ and Scripture or are we really just using business models and empty gimmicks?
I'm not angry with the Church or our congregations but I would say that I'm frustrated with the practices and direction I often see church leaders taking. Rather than wanting to reach the lost, impact local communities, and be the light of the world - too often I see churches and church leaders wanting to build organizations, followings, or put on a Sunday performance to entice the masses.
We often see lay leaders and elders in our churches chosen not because of the spiritual fruit in their lives or the spiritual gifts God has given them but instead for reasons like popularity, profession, and generosity; then our pastors scratch their heads and wonder what went wrong when people are not connecting, groups aren't growing spiritually, and families leave the church in dismay.
Understand, I don't bring up these issues to simply complain on some blog, but to challenge all of us to examine our walks and hold each other to a higher standard.
To be honest, I believe a lot of these issues start with simple discipleship, mentorship, and multiplication. These are key disciplines that the Early Christian Church did very well but is far too often rare in the walls of American churches today.
It's sad when I look across church congregations and I don't see a lot of other men that I could emulate or strive to be like when it comes to areas such as spiritual maturity, spiritual disciplines, treatment of people, or how they lead their families.
Too often I see men's gatherings or small groups that get together to discuss God's word or to go through some program but rarely do you see people actually change their lives, repent of their sin, and grow in their faith and trust in God.
Too often my friends outside of the Church don't see the spiritual fruit either or examples inside the church which would make them want to be a part of God's Kingdom or a local Ekklesia. They see more fruit in secular nonprofit organization's and charities then they do in their local churches. They would rather put their faith in an elected official than Christ in order to see real change in their lives.
Too often we see the Church serving itself rather than engaging their local community and the lost around us as we are called upon in the Great Commission. Sure, we need to tend to the flock, but an outflow of that shepherding should be apparent outside of our church walls.
Church leaders wrongly assume if they build the right building, with the right people and the right style of music while preaching the Gospel using modern illustrations...that one day the lost are going to walk in and find God within the walls of their church. But the reality is the people who need Christ the most will never ever walk into our churches.
In Asia and Africa, Christianity has been exploding at alarming rates through small house churches, community, and the excitement and passion of the Gospel message. They don't have million dollar buildings, full-time staff's with fancy degrees, and Hollywood quality services. In fact, the Chinese Governments strategy to contain the explosion of Christianity in Communist China, was to give the underground Christians buildings, property, and possessions in order to control their populations and leaders. The Chinese Government knew that once they gave the Church buildings and belongings, they would fight hard to keep those material possessions and Church leaders would spend more of their time administering than evangelizing and growing.
I often see American church leaders who have a Gospel vision but they are fearful to empower others to execute that vision, as the leader may lose some of their control or others may execute the vision in a way that is different than what the leader expects. They would rather micromanage their organizations and vision, then empower and multiply leaders with different gifts, callings, and attributes to advance the Gospel.
It's not that I'm angry with the American Church, it's that I expect more from those who claim to follow Christ as their Lord and Savior and I expect more from the leaders who have committed their life to that calling.
Each year, more and more pastors call it quits or are removed due to personal indiscretions that have caused them to no longer be fit to lead the flock. Nobody (even me) expects these leaders to be perfect but we should expect them to be honest and transparent, especially if they're struggling with sin, but far too often these leaders choose to deceive rather than seek accountability and transparency. They are more concerned with their image and perception management than with authentic faith. I guess the best of men are still men at best?
In reality, what most of us hunger for is authentic and transparent leadership. We live in a world full of fake politicians, airbrushing, and people not accepting responsibility for their own actions. If you would be honest, we would extend you all the grace in the world. But when you deceive, we see hypocrisy and each year, more and more people are walking away from the American Church because of this.
The question I struggle with is - what do you do when you love God but the American Church constantly frustrates you?
When you see more fruit from secular organizations then you do from your local church?
When you look behind the curtain of your local church and you see that the leadership acts no different than the secular business world?
It makes one question are we (The Church) missing the mark? Somewhere along the line, did we get way off track from the Gospel message and teachings of Jesus?
It's not that I'm angry or even frustrated, I just long in my heart to find Christian leaders and other men who actually live their lives both in public and in private - congruent with the faith they profess.
Deep in my heart, I often feel we need to strip away all the material possessions of the American Church. All the fancy buildings, the professional worship, the smoke and lights, the Disneyland style children's ministries and we just need to get back to the beautiful message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to walk with each other, mentor and disciple each other, hold each other accountable, and help each other grow out of love, truth, and grace. We need to teach ourselves to be obedient and faithful to the Message, to be the light in our neighborhoods, and to live our lives according to the example of Jesus Christ.
When I look inside the American Church, I long to see these things...but far too often I'm just disappointed.