Monday, August 02, 2010

My two cents...

So, I would like to be the 1,000th person to blog/comment about author Anne Rice's recent departure from Christianity - you can read more about it here. If you're interested in comments from others that I appreciated you can check them out here and here.

In truth I don't want to talk about her decision specifically because, I'll be honest, I've never read any of her books and I didn't know anything about her other than her name before the recent news. So it's hardly in my place to comment on her life, her history and her motives. However, her departure and the attention it has received brings up an interesting point: It's in to bash Christianity, especially among people who call themselves followers of Christ. I've done it, I've supported those who've done it and I understand it completely.

As Christians, we've too often settled for being cultural Christians who take Jesus as a vaccine in order to avoid infection as people whose entire lives are changed and impassioned in a way that makes no logical, earthly sense. We've settled for wearing the t-shirts and putting fish on our cars instead of radically selling out in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ. Brennan Manning said it well when he said, "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world finds unbelievable."

As a result of our sinful, selfish, judgmental living, we've given Christianity a bad name. And so, we have two options: ditch the name and separate ourselves from its failures; or fight hard to redeem it with faithful living.

The first option is obviously easier and I don't want to readily dismiss it. I was at a conference a few years ago where Andy Stanley, one of my pastor heroes, was speaking and he was asked a question about how to go about taking a traditional church stuck in some old ways and mindsets to a place of renewal and relevance. He said, "I don't know, I wouldn't be the one to do it." He went on to explain that while he didn't dismiss the work as necessary he would rather spend his time starting something new that has the opportunity to do so much more in a shorter time than spending years fighting for inches forward. I resonated with his response that day - might explain some of why I'm a church planter today.

The word Christian is not used in Scripture. So, it's tempting and maybe even useful to ditch the ill-fated, misperceived, confused, beaten-up moniker and move on.

On the other hand, if we just change names and don't fight the cultural Christianity that got us here, what have we really done? In other words, you can change the name, but it doesn't change the behavior. We could unanimously ditch the word "Christian" today and probably by tomorrow "Christ-follower" would be a bad word because all the former "Christians" would have adopted it.

For better or worse, when Jesus ascended to heaven, he asked us - the Church - to be His hands and feet in this world. Crazy, right? He asked us - a bunch of imperfect, sinful people to be His living, breathing letter of recommendation. We've messed it up - again and again and again - and yet God still calls us. It's a high calling and an almost impossible task, but who are we to question the living God? We have a lot of work to do to redeem a name we have dragged through the mud more times than we can count with judgmental and hypocritical living.

Good news - Jesus said He would help us. He said He would even send a helper, His Spirit to live in us and work through us. Maybe we should start leaning on that, throw away our safety nets and get dirty reclaiming the Church, whatever you want to call the people composing it. After all, Jesus called the Church His bride and died for it - it's worth our every effort.

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