One of the aspects of the organized church that has bothered me over the years is the idea that the organized church doesn’t want to grow up spiritually. I have several reasons for thinking this way. i can give example after example from my own experience to back this statement up but I think you can draw from your own experiences the examples you need to see that example applies probably to a majority of church congregations.
Of course, I am speaking very generally here and my words will not apply to every congregation. My reasoning is as follows:
First, I do not get this idea just from the different Christian magazine publishers that have rejected academic articles because they want only stories. Although, the lack of desiring to learn from quality, biblical academics is troublesome. I do have lots of stories I could tell. Fourteen years worth but my focus and calling was not to be a storyteller nor do I have the desire to just tell stories about my life. I am a very private person and take great care in whom I share the events of my life. My stories may even encourage believers but stories are not enough for the Christian life.
In fact, hearing wonderful stories from others can lead to feelings of envy or jealousy in believers and I would not want to lead any one to sin, or have them get upset and ask themselves the question, ‘Why is God doing that for them and not me?’ Stories are entertaining but I am not an entertainer plus stories leave out so many details that you run the risk of misleading people in learning how to accomplish what you have done.
Then focusing on stories gives the impression that the leadership does not care about their people and will leave them vulnerable to the attacks of evil via unbelievers because they will not provide proper academic instruction and help the church members grow to spiritual adulthood. It looks from the outside that the organized church is trying to keep some people out of the ministry while they search for their accepted few to fill the different pulpit slots. (I have seen this done).
Sometimes it seems like the organized church is like a rich, white man’s country club where membership is for the elite and accepted only.
Second, another reason comes from seeing so many people, like the Benham Brothers
whom I have nicknamed Captains Obvious not because I am being insulting but rather I am drawing this nickname from their constantly stating the obvious, their lack of understanding, and their superficial approach to serious issues. That link is just one example and you may not agree with me on this but sorry, their claim to Christian fame comes from being fired from their television show, not because they are true men of God who have taught wisely over the years.
I do not think that stating one’s opposition to same-sex marriage and then being fired wrongly provides them the qualifications needed to be Christian spokesmen. I am not saying they need to be scholars but I do not see the spiritual knowledge,education and maturity they need to be actual spokesmen for the true church. Their lives are just another story the church craves.
Many unbelievers are turned off of listening to the organized church as too many of its members are just not equipped to perform in the position the organized church has thrust them. They are turned off because these famous type of believers cannot spiritually correctly address an issue. They end up spouting the party line and stick to well-worn phrases and comments.
I do not know how many unbelievers have told me that they find the believer to be biblically and issue illiterate. This type of illiteracy is a grave and great problem. In Korea, a Western English teacher will have problems with their students, if their students realize that they know more English than the western instructor. I wouldn’t be surprised if the unbeliever held the same attitude towards the believer and the church.
We need to be able to think seriously about an issue and provide a spiritually correct opinion and solution instead of just saying some trite Christian fad expression and then show one’s ignorance about others and their problems. Christians and unbelievers want real answers from spiritual leaders not just some glib remark or evangelical expression.
Third, the need of the church to entertain and be entertained has led me to conclude that the organized church is just too spiritually immature to meet the needs of the world and make an impact for Christ. This attitude explains the demand for stories and not academic teaching. I know and know of too many youth pastors (and other pastoral positions) who when the time comes for serious bible teaching opt for the entertainment option instead of helping their charges to grow in knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.
The troubling aspect of this reason is the fact that too many pastors, from the youth position on up, are just lacking real answers and real education to enable them to keep their people spiritually healthy. years ago I went to a friend of mine’s youth service, he was the youth pastor at the local church not too far from my home at that time. i was appalled by the number of times he said ‘I don’t know’ to the many questions posed to him by his young charges.
Another example comes from my conversation with a professor at my undergrad alma mater. I was telling him about what I had read in Wm. Shirer’s book the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, where he records that Hitler used small groups to control the German people. I was trying to have a serious discussion about this fact yet all he could do was turn my query into a joke by making a joke and saying, ‘it works, doesn’t it.’ Then laughed.
If we are going to treat serious subjects for other people as jokes then we need to rethink who we put into the classroom and the pulpit. It is this kind of attitude that demonstrates the immaturity of the organized church. To say the least, I was frustrated by that college professor and my old friend’s chorus of ‘I don’t knows’. These are but 2 examples of the multitudes of experiences that have shown me that the extent of real spiritual education in the ministry is lacking and that our church leaders are almost, for the most part, as immature as the rest of the organized church.
Then if I get frustrated, imagine how other believers and unbelievers feel when they encounter the same type of responses from those who claim to follow God. If the Christian cannot get the answers they need from their spiritual leaders then can we really complain when they go to the secular world for their source of information?
Fourth, another reason I see the organized church as immature is that many of them, if not all, teach their people to interpret instead of seeking the truth or clarifying first before drawing conclusions about what another person has said. The act of interpreting is probably the source of more problems in the church than sin itself. Interpretation is as bad as using observation alone, then leaping to an assumption about others.
Interpretation doe snot lead one to the truth but to one’s own ideas about a topic sans any real evidence to support those ideas. Interpretation needs clarification just like observation needs confession to be accurate. part of the immaturity of the organized church can be traced to the fact that it does not seek nor accept the truth. It ignores key biblical teachings that would guide them to the correct information or action and which would lead the organized church to grow up spiritually. Sadly, many churches and church members think they can go their own way.
If this were not so, the Bible would not have included the verse, ‘Why do ye call me lord when you do not do the things I say.’ We see this immaturity expressed throughout the faulty handling of serious problems that arise in congregations. You can hear former believers raise their concerns almost daily on other websites, blogs, media articles and so on.
If the organized church allowed itself to grow up spiritually and become mature, then many of the former believers would not be former believers but still vibrant Christians headed for heaven.
Fifth, the last reason I am going to mention here today to illustrate this immaturity is the out of whack priorities the organized church holds to. Instead of making god’s word the center of their faith, holding to his words correctly, the church has made certain activities more important than others and by doing so, the church members and the local community suffer for it.
Despite the advertised ideal by some denominations that they want healthy local congregations, the reality is the local church is off-balance and the ideal is some pipe dream not even close to happening. People in the church need more than the same message every week. they need real food, a real balance to the Christian life and biblical teaching. They need to be led to grow correctly so that God can use them for mighty works. It is unfair to those people who are dedicated Christians and who show up basically every week to be treated in such a bad manner.
The Bible tells us that the church is full of tares who will be separated at the final judgment from the wheat, but their presence does not provide any excuse to any church person on leadership to be spiritually immature and keep their share of the flock spiritual children. The people deserve better and so does Christ.