Monthly Archives: February 2022

A Eulogy for the American Church

Dearly Beloved, we are gathered today to celebrate what once was. 

Don’t look at today as an ending, think of it as a beginning.
Life is not over for our dearly departed, it has just begun.

Oh, things will be different now. They certainly will be.
You won’t see her as you once did.
She won’t hold the sway over you like she once did. 

Let’s be honest in this moment of bereavement and remember that there were fights. Every family has them. Somebody got mad at somebody else and stormed off. It happens. Excuses were made for bad behavior. Guilt and shame were part of the modus operandi. Those with the biggest smiles too often had the longest fangs and the sharpest daggers. It was “us” vs. “them.” She didn’t always know how to love those that doubted or questioned or walked way. She disappointed us (sometimes more times than not) and tried to sweep things under the rug. She was so frustrating at times. 

Nevertheless, we have happy memories of times gone by: Potluck dinners and Sunday School drives. Singing songs. Revival moments. Making friends. Being there in good times and bad. She wasn’t always horrible. She was good. Mostly.

Things are different now. They always will be. 

Indifference, busyness, neglect, money, factions, misplaced allegiances, politics (both in Washington and in the family), disillusionment, faithlessness all were part of her demise. The pandemic will be blamed. But it wasn’t the pandemic. Covid didn’t destroy her. We did. When we took our eyes off the Prize, we killed her. Little by little she died.

We will miss the church we once knew. 

What’s the cliché?  “Good things come in small packages.” Could this be true?
Just maybe.
If we who remain start doing what we weren’t doing. John’s advice is still relevant:  
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:18). 

Not words. The world has heard too many words. 
We need actions (plural). Truth (Singular).
Love constantly with actions. 
Hope continually in the Truth. 

Life is not “us” vs. “them.” It’s “us” and “us” journeying down the same road. We aren’t all in the same spot. Look ahead and you’ll see some of “us.” Look behind you’ll see the rest of “us.” It’s recognizing it’s just “us” on the road and all of “us” need more Jesus. 

It’s different now. Will it be better? Only Jesus knows.

Good bye old friend. 

When Historians write on the demise of the church in 100 years, who will they blame?

Should Jesus tarry (and I see no reason why he won’t tarry. If Jesus didn’t return when Hitler, Stalin, Mao or the Rwandan massacres were happening, why come back now? He could, but maybe not…), then what will historians say about the demise of the evangelical church in the 2020s and 30s? Will they blame Christian nationalism? Progressive liberalism? Trump? Disunity? Prosperity Gospel preachers? Deconstructionists? Millennials? Gen-Z? Boomers? What will they conclude the problem was?

Living through the troubling days one could argue that I am too close to the issues to make an unbiased opinion. With that in mind here it goes:

We’ve forgotten who we are. We have made boogie men out of those with whom we disagree rather than like Jesus sit down, listen and laugh with even those considered far from God.

We look as much like Jesus as a pot hole looks like the Grand Canyon. We are more like the villains in the Bible than the heroes.

We are more like the Pharisees with rule based “holiness” rather than love based holiness.

We are more like Cain viciously attacking our brothers (and sisters).

We are more like Saul building monuments to ourselves rather than altars to God.

We are more like Demas who deserted Paul because “he loved this world.”

We are more like Jonah in the fish’s belly or under the once-big-leafy plant, disobeying God or disgruntled with God.

We are more like Judas selling out Jesus for a few pieces of silver.

We are more like the serpent convinced that we can go against God for we “won’t certainly die.”

What will historians say about the demise of North American Christianity? They will say we no longer looked like Jesus.

They will be right.

Who is Influencing Your Church??

Was Marx right? Does money drive people to do what they do?

Was Freud right? Does sex make people to do what they do?

Was Nietzsche right? Does power influence people to do that they do?

Was Jesus right? Does loving God and loving neighbor inspire people to do what they do?

The answer to each of the questions above is: “Yes.”  Moreover, the church world is not exempt from the dominant philosophies and teachings of the world.

When denominational leaders refuse to speak into current issues (even when the church desperately needs to be a voice of justice and righteousness) for fear that their opinion might upset major givers, then money not morality is piloting the ship. If Amos took a similar stance, he would have continued quietly growing figs; his bank account would have been bigger; and the book that bears his name would have never been written. If the bottom line is more important than the mission of God and righteousness, then maybe Marx was right.

When pornography is just as rampant in the church as it is in the world, then maybe Freud was right. When a pastor defrocked over sexual misdeeds (same with singers and musicians) continues to be offered speaking engagements at churches across the country, even though there has been little repentance or consequences over his/her misdeeds, then there is a Freudian problem. 

There are many little ones aspiring to be a big fish in our little denominational pond. Power trips are everywhere– from credential boards, to district offices, to the GMC, to factious partnerships. Social media has given a platform and promise to the little fishies. “Shout louder, Little Fish and you’ll be a Big Fish soon!” Maybe Nietzsche was right.

Why are so many deconstructing their faith? See the above examples. Those deconstructionists see the influence of Marx, Freud and Nietzsche more than the evidence of Jesus. I get it. If money, sex or power are the driving factors in a church, then it needs to be deconstructed. It’s not the church of Jesus Christ. 

Thankfully, I’ve seen pastors and laypeople serve Jesus and love their neighbors too. It’s not for money, sex or power. They’ve been driven by a deep desire to be a faithful witness in trying times. The true Jesus followers press on. Maybe their bottom line is not as impressive as those driven by money. Maybe they are not as flashy as those in the Freudian world. Maybe they remain a small fish for their entire lives with no apologies to Nietzsche. But they are the ones who will hear: “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

Let us strive to love God and love our neighbors. Let us be driven by righteousness and justice. The world’s pursuit of money, sex and power leads to an emptiness. Could it be that’s why are pews are likewise empty? The pursuit of Jesus leads to the abundant life. Could it be if we displayed more of the compelling love of Jesus, our pews would be full?