"Be ready, in season and out of season…” (2 Tim. 4:2) and “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for the reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:15)
What I am trying to say here is that churches ask their congregations to follow them;
all of the followers do just that… but do they know the reasons why?
Do churches foster independent thought, challenging the leadership, questioning the end game?
Many or most do not, and churches expect its congregants to fall in line and follow the course. Why?
"Ogres have layers… onions have layers… you get it. We both have layers.” - Shrek
With this question, we’re peeling back a few layers of the “real person” and diving into what many find to be uncomfortable territory. We’re challenging the “status quo” and are causing people to actually THINK and not just follow (thus, the reference to Lemmings). Most will not read much beyond this sentence, sadly. And it’s to their detriment.
The problem with this question is that I can’t argue with the conclusions, especially since it’s come from someone outside the church, but who has spent years observing and considering faith in Christ. Mahatma Ghandi is attributed as saying this, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians, for your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
With this question, you’re uncovering something that lots of churches try to suppress - that many who claim to be “all in” for Jesus don’t actually have much of a clue as to why they believe what they believe, or what the Bible ACTUALLY says - they simply follow a pastor that is probably funny, somewhat trendy and current, and does a great job of engaging the audience. The thought is that, “the pastor said it, and he had a Bible in his hand (or a Bible verse on the screen), so he MUST be right!!” and they leave their analysis there and move on to the next big thing.
To this pastor, it’s heartbreaking. In fact, this is one of the biggest reasons CommUNITY Church instituted the “Post Script” effort - one that has all the church elders on the stage after each service to answer ANY questions people have about what they saw/heard that morning, or what they’re learning and not quite understanding on their own. While there are a select few that are religious in attending these sessions (pardon the pun), many choose to go on their way and not challenge or ask the question behind the question… and that may be evidence of a larger problem within Western Christianity - many just don’t care enough to dig deeper than what is taught in 45 minutes once per week.
And that’s what’s heart-breaking… because those same people will be challenged by you (the one who asked this question), and they’ll look foolish for not having a well-researched answer, and you will have yet another reason that you’ll use to bolster your view that “church is a waste of my time” because no one takes it seriously.
Too often, many Christians are like lemmings - they’ll mindlessly follow, not asking questions or challenging anything outside of what they were raised to think. Some are even “accidental Christians.” I read a blog that said this…
Their faith is so completely conditioned,
I can’t speak on behalf of most other churches - I can only speak on behalf of CommUNITY Church, and the few other churches I’ve been a part of. At CommUNITY Church, we WANT you to ask the hard questions (thus, the reason for the “Post Script” sessions we have). We want people to hear what the pastor says and then look it up and research it for themselves. We want people to dig deep into the Word to learn how to CORRECTLY handle it and to CORRECTLY apply it, and not misuse it for their own glory or their own profit… it should all be for GOD’S glory and the good of others.
That being said, I’ve wrestled with many teachings of the Bible. I still am wrestling with some. That’s a life-long process that will end one day when King Jesus reveals all the answers… but when I’m with Jesus, I’m not sure I’ll care about some of the other answers any more.
Now lets be clear. St. Augustine said, “in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” There’s a LOT of truth there. At CommUNITY Church, we try to follow that closely because we’ve researched it, discussed it, and found it to be the most helpful for the most people and brings glory to King Jesus and allows for the good for others. We rephrase it to say that we have some closed-handed beliefs (which can be questioned/discussed, but at the end of the day, the foundational/primary/closed-handed beliefs won’t change - those can be found here). There are also open-handed beliefs (which we have, but are clear that they are “secondary” beliefs, or doctrines, that we can discuss, but won’t argue much over if you or another church believe differently). BUT, we want to ensure that we’re discussing the PRIMARIES and the SECONDARIES with a heart of love, honor, and respect for anyone that we’re talking to. Truth without love is brutality.
To wrap this up, let me say this - I know and have seen what you’re referring to. But the leaders (elders, deacons, and ministry leaders) of CommUNITY Church work hard to challenge those sitting under our guidance to learn and grow themselves. We want to teach them to fish, not just give them a fish. Do we do that well all the time? Probably not. But we’re trying to do it better all the time…
If you’re reading this, and want to see what that’s like, I invite you to come hang out with us for a few weeks and see what you see. Hopefully you’ll see a lot about Jesus, a lot about helping others, and a little about us.