Freed to live through the death of another.

A Tale of Two Churches — Part 1

Rielly’s comments to my last outbreak of praise of Christ’s church got me to thinking. Do I love the ‘C’hurch or the ‘c’hurch? Which is it that holds my affections? As I’ve reflected on the reasons why so many people seem so eager to ‘re-invent’ church these days, I’ve discovered that I have much in common with them.

My first exposure to church was through my childhood. Raised in a ‘Sunday school’ generation, I spent years hearing stories of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Samson, Gideon, et al. Typically these stories were truncated, leaving out the real point of the story. To think… it wasn’t until I got to Bible College that I realized that David and Goliath really wasn’t about David and Goliath!

The church I grew up in was ineffective in reaching its surrounding area. It was made up of older people who had known each other a long time. They liked to sing the good old hymns, keep up with whose kids are getting married, and whose arthritis is kicking up this week. The preacher had to make sure the service was done by 12 noon, even if it started late, and there’d be trouble if he wasn’t.

I can remember, the only two times excitement I saw out of anyone there was when they made it legal for stores to open on Sunday (how could a ‘Christian nation’ turn its back on the ‘Sabbath ‘like that?) and when I played with the lights in the hallway one time (this wasted electricity, I quickly learned).

A dear old man I know spent years in the church serving in any number of roles of leadership and in various capacities on countless committees. He’s not even a believer. You think anyone ever took the time to ask him about his soul? Why would anyone expect any spiritual life out of a church that willingly and carelessly puts unregenerate people in roles of leadership?

Well, that same old man now has cancer and is facing death. He’s terribly afraid of it, and he’s in denial that it will ever even happen to him. He outright rejects the faith. But he still goes to that church and week after week people still say hi, ask how the chemo’s going, and what about his grandkids. Like that’s important.

That’s the ‘church’ I grew up with. If I had never left that church, I never would have heard the gospel. Funny how that works. I hold that pastor and that church responsible for the blood of countless souls who have come faithfully, week after week after week, never hearing the gospel, and never having anyone inquire into the state of their soul.

If anyone has reason to ‘go emergent’ and bash the church, it’s me. But I won’t. I love Christ’s church. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that church can be done so as to violently oppose the cause of Christ’s kingdom, or it can work to vigorously advance the cause of Christ’s kingdom. Simply put, ‘church’ has to be redeemed.

But that is for part two.


  1. Son of Man

    You said “He outright rejects the faith. But he still goes to that church and week after week…” Yeah, that reminds me of something I heard on Way of the Master Radio. If an unbeliever is having a jolly time at your Church, there must be something wrong. Because if he was hearing the truth he probably wouldn’t stick around. Anyways, your story is, I fear, probably all too common. Church plant away young man.

  2. JLF

    Son of Man, your insights are always appreciated. I wonder if sometimes in churches we’re more concerned with “not rocking the boat” and “filling the pews” than we are with dealing with people’s souls.

    The sad part about this is that I think our fundamental assumption is wrong: I don’t think people mind half as much as we think they’re going to, when we ask them about the condition of their soul.

    So as a result of our fear that people might leave we render church useless. It’s sad because God will still do his work, but we can just never expect him to use us if we’re too afraid to speak a word for him.

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