Is it faith to understand nothing, and merely submit your convictions implicitly to the church? John Calvin
After Jesus rode into Jerusalem as the “king of the Jews” I wonder if he ever regretted it. Did he ever think, “I don’t want to die yet?” I’m betting that was part of it as he prayed in the garden. “Not my will but yours.” What about Luther after he nailed his 95 thesis to the church bulletin board. Did he ever think “oops, what have I done?”
Each year as a minister I have to fill out an “Annual Service Report”, to let my denomination and district know that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing and that I still believe everything that they want us to teach. For most years I just check the boxes and go about doing what I believe to be right and true. This year was different. Maybe because I’m fed up with things or maybe because I feel a little freer, I decided to let them know what I felt about several things.
I let them know that the church wastes the money that is given. According to many statistics in an average church only 3-5% of all the tithes and offerings goes for outreach. If that was a charity would you give? Yet that is one of the biggest things a church should do. I think we should tell our pastors to get jobs, sell our churches and rent, but I know that won’t happen. We are stuck in the mindset of having beautiful churches and full time pastors. I know that is extreme but to change the church to where it needs to be needs to be extreme.
I also told them tithing was not important. It was a rule with many others that the church has that holds people back. We make people believe that if you do this that and the other things that you’ll be OK. But that isn’t what Jesus taught. His rules were love God and love others. You give out of that love, not out of duty. If people don’t follow the rules then we make them feel guilty so that we can control them. Get them to act like the rest of us, because we don’t want anyone to shake the boat. I mean Jesus never shook the boat. Oh wait, yes he did. Every time he met a religious leader. I could go on about how we make them feel about church attendance and being”involved in the ministries”. It’s constant “if you are not doing this and that, you’re not really a Christian” attitude. Instead we should be teaching them to love God and love others. If people see true love they will get involved.
John Cleese once said, “So real religion is about reducing our egos, whereas all the churches are interested in is egotistical activities, like getting as many members and raising as much money and becoming as important and high-profile and influential as possible. All of which are egotistical attitudes.”
Most of my board meetings have been about how we can get more people here instead of how we can meet more people’s needs. Church has become more about how the church looks (we look) than about those who are in need. In one church I belonged to the only out reach that went on was from me and my wife reaching out to kids and their families. One of those kids once told me that the only people who loved the kids were my wife and I and one 80 year old woman at the church. I told the board members that and they responded “Oh they are just kids.” It broke my heart to hear both of those statements.
Then I discussed the whole human rights issues of today and how the church has treated gay people wrongly with no scriptural backing. Once again the church is using the Bible to hate people instead of love them. The church needs to embrace and love all people, not just those that act a certain way. That is Pharisitical thinking. (Is Pharisitical a word?)
I’m sure that will get their attention, but if not I hit on the Inerrancy of the Bible and the idea that God gave the words to the writers. There are way too many contradictions in the Bible for a God to have put it together as one book with everything agreeing. God does not forget things, but as in my Bible quiz of last week there are so many variations to the stories in the Bible that there is no way God wanted us to try to make them all fit into one story. Reading each book separately is the only way to make sense out of what each individual writer was trying to say. We have to learn who wrote it, when they wrote it, to whom they wrote and why they wrote it before we can ever try to understand what it means to us. However the church teaches just pick it up and God will tell you what you need to hear.
So here I sit, waiting for the call. Like Jesus waited to be arrested and many reformers waited to be called to Rome, I will be called to stand for what I have done and said, because it is against the ideas of the church. They will have to convict me of some heresy, and no one will stand with me. They won’t because they’d be afraid that they would be next. But maybe, just maybe I can open some hearts to what Christianity is really about.
I leave you with these words from Martin Luther. “You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you don’t say.” And “Peace if possible, truth at all costs.”