Don’t get me started! There are so many things wrong with the church I hardly know where to begin: worship, program, preaching, the way the church deals with social issues (especially national church institutions), the glacial progress of church government, apathy, you name it.
Far be it from me to say what the church should be doing. That’s a job for theologians, and I am, at best, an amateur. But I can certainly identify some things that the church shouldn’t be doing. One thing, for sure, is that the church service should not be all about the minister. When the minister completely runs the show, there’s no room for anything spontaneous. The truth imparted in the teaching, the praise lifted up during the singing, and the prayers raised up during the service all center on him and depend on him for their effectiveness. We ought to be able to talk back to him.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad for ministers and for the teaching and preaching that they do, by and large. But I caught my minister in an error, big as life, recently. I have the proof-text in my notes for that Sunday. And I’m going to tell him so, when I get the right opportunity.
Of course, an error can be forgiven, if not completely forgotten. But there is a general flabbiness in the preaching and teaching. Clearer doctrine and more of it, that’s my call. The congregation needs it. Why do we always get an inane anecdote in the sermon, sometimes more than one? I don’t need that. It raises the mood just when we need to be bearing down in the Word.
Flabby doctrine makes for a flabby church. I don’t care how many “experiences” someone has had—if they can’t agree with my church’s core doctrines, they don’t belong here. Thank heavens, everyone in my church has had to pledge their agreement with our doctrine. So why don’t they live up to it?
That preacher who was disgraced—in the newspaper, last week, on the front page!—is a perfect example. Caught red-handed—what an embarrassment to the faith! There’s a couple in the church who are living together, and you know what that means. Don’t they know better? Then there are some of the men who drink, and I do mean, drink. There’s a young man in the congregation who is gay—he thinks no one knows, but everyone has been talking about it for months. That older couple has a son who has been in and out of jail—whose fault is that? Church people pretend to be very spiritual and everything, but it’s mostly for show. It’s all part of the hypocrisy of church respectability.
I thank my God that I’m not like those parishioners. Believe me, I’m making sure that no one ever
finds out about my secret sins (I only have a couple of them). You’ll never catch me bringing shame on my Lord.
But the behavior of other parishioners is only part of the problem. I should get a medal for putting up with the music in church. What we so desperately need is music that uplifts, that reflects the glory within our hearts. Instead, we get the same dreary music every week—it just does not reach me. But I suffer through it, saving up the hurt and injury in my heart. I can laugh it off during the week, commiserating with my wife, with barely a touch of scorn in my voice.
And the fellowship groups—what a wonderful place to discuss doctrine, to debate, even to argue about it. What do we get instead? People’s social concerns, their kids, the upcoming programs in the church—or worse, how life is going in their homes and jobs. Nothing substantive—no Truth.
These people are so easily satisfied with second-rate church, satisfied with less than the best faith. I can’t stand being around people like that. I don’t understand them, and I don’t understand the attitude of the leadership. I am just going to have to look for another church (again!). I’m simply not getting what I want out of my present church.
“Lord,” I pray, “why don’t they love You the way I love You?” But the answer comes from the One Who knows all things, with a clarity that I don’t want to hear: “Why don’t you love them the way I love them?”
What’s wrong with the church?
(With apologies to Todd Wetzel and G. K. Chesterton.