Thursday, October 2, 2008

College Campus Reflections: Post 1

I spent 45 minutes this week talking to students at an area college campus.  

One of the talking points was:
  • What comes to mind when hearing the word "church".
Responses were wide and varied.  Some expressed that when they heard the word "church" they immediately thought of "pompous" and/or "hypocritical people," who are lousy when it comes to loving others.  Others indicated that they thought of a building or religious meeting place.  Still others indicated that they immediately thought of "good, caring people" or "the place where I was on Sunday."

My questions are: 1) What is the "church"?  How would you define and/or describe "church"?  2) What immediately comes to mind, for you, when you hear the word "church"?

1 comment:

James said...

The Protestant church in America has become so corrupt and morally bankrupt that it no longer resembles any of the teachings of Christ. The conservative Christian fundamentalists and the Religious Right have become a misguided group who traded the Gospel of Jesus for the Gospel of American Empire; who traded Jesus' calls to end poverty and violence for the Empire's call to wage war and to profit from the underprivileged. The allure of power and wealth were too great, and the church has fallen in love with the things of empire, and forgotten the things of God. We desperately need a new Reformation because the evangelical church is America is a despicable, shameful failure.

Politicians are not a solution to Jesus’ calls for social justice, nor the government. Lately the Church hasn’t seemed like the solution, either. Especially when I see a homeless man turned away hungry from three well-to-do downtown churches. Especially when we’ve not doing for “the least of these” when we have 37.3 million people living in poverty in this country while we’ve building hundred thousand dollar basketball gyms for our social club churches. Especially when we’re not “loving our enemy” and “turning the other cheek” when our churches support a government that has killed tens of thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan. The church has become too comfortable and lazy in this country. Christian leaders have gotten drunk off the wine of the Empire; off the taste of political power and the money that comes with it. Now the church is more interested in having its policy implemented into law and legislating a false sense of morality on the nation. Christians are more interested in editing our constitution to be in line with their twisted view of fundamentalist morality instead of follow Jesus’ calls to help the less fortunate. They preach that you must say a prayer to be saved, but then what? We’re then supposed to sit around waiting for heaven, while trying to not sin? I’m not one of those people with a dramatic conversion experience. I wasn’t on the road to Damascus when I was blinded by a light. No, I answered God’s call on my heart just before my teenage years, in s still, quiet moment at home. I’ve seen some Billy Graham and other Christian productions where the climax of the story is when the unbelieving person finally breaks down and accepts God’s grace and mercy. I’ve wondered, "what about the rest of us?" Is the climax of the story of our lives over? I found that I could more relate to a movie like “Saved!” I’m just a Christian trying to make it the best I can, and maybe I’m not right on every issue. Maybe I’m a hypocrite a lot more than I would like. The more I learn and grow as a Christian, the more I realize I don’t know. I’ve decided to stop thinking I know all the answers (though I have a lot of opinions) and start trying to live justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God.

Time and time again growing up in my rural church I heard sermons on sin and how not to sin and what good Christians are not supposed to be doing. Rarely, if ever, I would hear about what we should be doing. We shouldn’t be sitting around waiting for heaven; Jesus called for us to pray that the Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven. By grace though faith alone we are saved, but faith without works is dead. You can’t have one without the other. Preaching that people need to be converted without following Jesus' example of how to live is just needless grandstanding. The church has gotten it so wrong for so long that maybe what we need is a new Reformation. We have to do away with everything we’re learned and do away with all the religion and get back to the basics of the early church. Jesus isn't in your church's 30,000 dollar multimedia projection system. He's with the hundreds of thousands of people in developing countries blinded by cataracts for lack of simple medical treatment. Jesus isn't found in your church's hundred thousand dollar basketball gymnasium. He's with the 1.3 million children who will be homeless in America at some point this year. Jesus is not with your fountain filled with crystal clear water in your church's lobby. He's with the 1.2 billion people globally lack safe water to consume and 2.6 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. I’ve decided to get all the church-stuff religion out of my life, and start over by simply reading what Jesus had to say. I’ve never felt such an amazing renewal as I have by freeing the Bible from the worldly church, but now I come to a point where I ask “now what?” Part of me wants to go back to my old church of 20 years and try to enact change, but I worry I would only run into conflict there.

Is it truly broken beyond repair? Is there hope for the salvation of the Southern Baptist Convention? The early Protestant leaders initially set out to change the church before leaving it. What’s a “New-Protestant” to do?