Welcome to Center Church! Meet Pastor Control Freak, Elder Guilt Trip and Deacon Without Grace. It may sound cynical (and it is), but lots of people have been to that church. It makes we want to sing these lyrics to the tune of Home on the Range: Oh, give me a home where the sinners all roam; where the queer and the religious nuts play; where seldom is heard an encouraging word; and the guys are proud-y all day. Thinking about it kind of turns you off, doesn't it?
I find is amazing that folks that are desperate for answers in life go to the one place that should have them, and get some nutty version of the Gospel. I don't know how it happens... actually I think I do, but I am not entirely sure.
I feel horrible when I think of the clergy sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Boston Catholic church, the fall of a real leader like Ted Haggerty, who can't seem to tell anyone that he is in trouble until it blows up. Wow! There are folks going to church looking for something to believe in, and they get people. People are good, they are God's beloved creation whom He sent Jesus to die for. What happens is people promote themselves when they should be promoting Jesus. The new folks, and some old ones seem to believe in people, programs and preachers... who will always fail at some point.
While I am ranting, let me share some experiences that I have had. As always, these religious noodle-heads will remain nameless. I once was riding with a evangelical leader that got pulled over for speeding... like 85 in a 55. He hands the cop a business card along with his registration and says, "You know I am a pastor." What is this, an indulgence or a bribe! I fully expected it to be followed up by, "you know if you let this one go, I could put in a word with the Big-Guy for ya." The cop returned from the cruiser and gave him a rather large and probably well deserved speeding citation.
I was at another church and the pastor shared at a prayer meeting that the Lord said, "this church (of about 100) is going to have 300 members in three years. Can you imagine what the tithe is going to be on that!" Now before you think I am just picking on this guy, I do believe that God does share these kinds of things with us. The sheep should know His voice. However; it all sounded very greedy to me. And now it has been 5 years and they are still about 100.
I once heard a guy preaching about"My sheep pen!" Yikes, where is the dunk tank?
I belonged to one church and they thought AA was of the devil. Now I am not convinced that AA will get you saved like it did for me, but their purpose is the get drinking drunks to stop drinking. Period! That is why they exist. Now in a world with lots of New Age influences, one god fits all religions and persecution wrapped in the word "tolerance," I can understand why true believers would get a little "widgy" about it. My question is this: If the church is so ding-dang good at getting people sober, then why does AA exist at all? And Bozo the clown said, "Because it's a tool of the devil."
I once heard a preacher say, "if you look for imperfection, you'll find it in the church." I heard another speaker say, "We could conquer the world if we could just get past the brethren." Or my favorite, "Christians are the only army on earth that shoots their wounded." If you think I am being cynical, look at the world's perspective of evangelical Christianity. The Bible says, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." This verse is not talking about just believers. It says they, the onlookers of Christianity will praise God because of the love, character, and signs and wonders that follow us that believe.
It seems like power, prestige, notoriety and numbers are the measuring sticks of success. John Wimber once said, "if our job is to get people saved, how is business?" Are we going to blame our lack of success on someone else? If we are successful will it be "the man's" hard work, or God? If the pastor is preaching in such a way that people will give him good reports, or that important issues of character are side-stepped, then what?
Well, when will stop measuring success in "nickels and noses" and start bearing fruit?