It is all too common that I when I mention the subject of church to the average person I would get the response that would imply that it would be a deviation from their typical Sunday activities and practices. There is an underlying emphasis that attending church on Sundays has become all but irrelevant for them and also much of the average working person in Sydney. So why talk about this if it is becoming irrelevant? Why bother?
Those who aren’t of the Christian faith would give the obvious reasons. But what do you think those who profess to be Christians say about all this on why it is becoming irrelevant for the average person?
Well let’s just say that you are a Christian (I refer to those from a Reformed Evangelical denomination) and that you feel that you want to be part of serve in God’s community. When Christians start going to church they make new friends and try to feel comfortable within their Christian circle. You feel extremely delighted that your fellow church goers are very warm and welcoming and will try to include you in many social activities within their group. So you are at the stage where you see the group every week at church, possible others at Bible Study during the week and also the mentioned ‘extra curricular’ social activities.
It seems like all is good here and that you are making a lot of friends with nice and decent people. There couldn’t possibly be anything wrong with that? Well I tend to think that the more appropriate question would be:
Where are all the people that are UNLIKE us both in our social activities and at church? Where all the homeless, the depressed, the uncool, the gay, the gambler, the drug addict or simply the person that just behaves differently to the rest of us? Where are all these people if the Christian life is to walk amongst the disposed, the poor, the weak and the powerless just as Christ did?
It becomes evident that the more entrenched you become with your fellow Sydney evangelical church goers the more you are influenced to be like them. More like you are coerced to be like them and also share their same school of thought for fear of being treated differently or with suspicion.
In the Father David Smith’s (an Sydney Anglican priest from Dulwich Hill) book ‘Sex, the Ring and the Eucharist’ he describes that Christians have developed a culture where no one smokes, drinks, swears and speak the language of the educated middle class. There is such a culture of middle class moralism that pervades the entire institution that this leads back to my previous statement about how everyone is indirectly pressured to be like one another. The problem with this is we become too concerned about how to be like one another that we begin to lose touch with who we are as broken human beings with a sinful nature. We also lose touch of what Jesus was on about too. We are quick to defend our beliefs but slow to show forgiveness.
So what does this become? A large social club full of decent middle class people who try to be like one another whereby indirectly leaving no room for others that behave and think differently. We simply don’t speak the same language. Is this what church is all about? I think not. The sad part is that this actually a reality and more and more churches are becoming like this.
As Tim Keller says in his book ‘The Reason for God’ that church should be a ‘hospital of sinners not a museum of saints’
Church is a community of people who gather together and worship God, support and influence each other in a Christ like manner. It is the communal side of living out the Gospels. Some people feel right at home in their church whilst others have had bad experiences with leadership or fellow members. I guess there is no perfect church out there – after it should be a ‘hospital of sinners’ right? The best we can do is ‘enter with caution’ …