Do We Really Have to Choose: Church OR Jesus?

There’s been a whole bunch of talk in recent years about Jesus and the modern-day mainstream churches. The hypothesis goes something like this: To meet, or even learn about the “real” Jesus, the Jesus of the Gospels, one had to seek him out somewhere other then “the Christian Church.”

Don Follis is a former minster from this area who now counsels other pastors and writes a column for the weekend edition of the News-Gazette. The column is called: “On Religion.” He is a very insightful and reflective writer and there is an angel in our congregation who makes sure I get a copy of his best work. Last week, my angel and several other angels, made sure I got a copy of Don’s latest column.

The title of the column: “Young people are leaving the church, staying with Jesus.” Yes, that got my attention! The headline seems to be saying that if “young people” are looking for Jesus, then they better look somewherre besides “the church.” I think if someone said that about Vine Street Christian Church, I would be heartbroken. And that’s because I think of our church, our commuity of beleivers, our family of faith, as enthusiastically centered around Jesus.

Isn’t it?

Don Follis quotes writer Scott McKnight in listing 9 reasons that the church is perceived as missing the one person that the whole church was created by and for – Jesus. Let’s see if you agree. Do you think these perceptions are accurate? Do you think the mainstream church has lost it’s focus on Jesus? And, if you’re willing, I’d love to see how you would rank VSCC on each of these perceptions. Are we peddling a false message and missing the point, or are we committed to learn about, meet, and follow Jesus?

Scott McKinght’s 9 areas of concern for young people about today’s church:

  • “The God of the Bible” that is primarily taught and lifted up in the church is the “Old Testament God.” That God is perceived as a wrathful and judgmental god who is willing to wipe out entire towns and villages, women and children included.
  • The church’s unwillingness to accept in any form the notion that science can help explain how our world works, and thus, how God has been working throughout history. Many of these “Creationists” believe that science is “patently wrong” and not compatible with the truth as articulated in the Bible.
  • Hell! It’s really that simple. The church has continuously and fervently used their notion of “hell” as a way to scare people into church. The church positioned itself as the gateway to heaven, so it really is very simple: “Church People” go to heaven, and EVERYONE else is wrong and burns in hell.
  • As more young people study and come to know about the Christian Church’s history of severe, indiscriminate and deadly violence through the ages; the oppression and condemnation of millions of people who weren’t “us”; and even today, the way that the modern church has failed to embrace, protect, and minister to those who are most marginalized in our society.
  • Promises of the church. Regrettably, scores of people throughout the centuries have been led into a dark valley by the church because the church’s promises do not stand up to daily life in this world. For example, rather than telling folks that they lost a loved one because of their lack of faith, the church should (always) be there to provide comfort and peace to those left behind.
  • The Christian Church claims to be the one and only interpreter of what the Bible means and how God (Jesus) calls us to live. For instance, when Jesus proclaims to his disciples that he is “the way, the truth, and the life,”, the church interprets that fiercly literal and thus concludes that they, the all-knowing all-powerful Christian church, (not Jesus) is the one and only way to God, and thus to heaven. So sorry for the billions who aren’t Christian. Unfortunatly, you were born in the wrong part of the world and practiced another form of religion, or no religion at all!
  • Christian churches often fail the “meek and humble” test. Ironically, that test refers to Jesus – the most powerful leader and force that the world has ever known. Jesus was meek. Jesus was humble. Jesus loved everyone. Jesus was a force for peace. Jesus comforted and healed. More often than not, the Christian Church is a power-hungry institution that that has “little tolerance” for differences and easily becomes coercive and manipulative.
  • Many young people want to completely enjoy their liberties and freedom, and live only according to how they themselves prefer to live. And after all, why would anyone give up their liberties and freedom to a bunch of power hungry people who have rarely said the words, “I (We) could be wrong.”
  • And finally, none of us like to be told how to live or how to love. But the church steps way over the line when it tells it’s congregants how to think. It’s one thing to tell people what to know, but it’s anopther when the church tells people what and how to think about religious and spiritual matters. Again, the church is guilty of putting itself between the individual and God.

I wonder … do you think Vine Street looks more like a Jesus church than what is described above? Is being a Jesus church what we should be striving for? If not, what should be the “main thing”? If so, how are we doing – what are some examples of “Jesus in our church”? in worship? In ministries? In our church life together? In our own life? And finally, do you consider VSCC a “Jesus Church?”

Hope to see you in church this Sunday. I’m hoping, and planning, that Jesus will be there too!

Pastor Bob <><