I am fed up! I am fed up with being told that I am defined by the church I attend. I am fed up by being told that my religion isn’t worthy of grace. I am fed up with bitter articles being portrayed as Gospel truth, as though Christ can be honored by “corrupt communication” that does NOT edify others. I am fed up with being told, “If only you knew what we know. . .” Really? What do you know, and why aren’t you willing to tell the rest of us before you change religions or churches?
I believe the Bible speaks on this very issue in Romans 16:17 – “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.”
My Facebook page has been taken over by posts and blogs that pretty much mock me or at least pity me for attending a particular church, for being part of a particular religion. I have tried to ignore it, but it seems to smack me in the face every time I go on social media.
I am not an idiot, and I am fed up with being treated like one! Maybe I don’t know Greek, but I am pretty sure that the same Holy Spirit that is opening God’s Word for you is capable of showing me the same truths. What makes you any better or more worthy than I to receive the Gospel?
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” – Jesus (Matt. 18:3).
I have seen articles across the Internet, not just on my personal Facebook page, where the author is rejoicing in their freedom from religion. And trust me, I definitely think that there are abuses happening within the church that need to be brought into the light and punished. The problem is that the people who know about these issues are generally not trying to bring them to light but rather simply leaving the church, subjecting their supposed friends and fellow believers to the same abuses they themselves have endured.
The problem isn’t religion itself. The problem is with the men and women who continue to allow the church to pull away from the Gospel. The Catholic church was the original Christian church, yet it has strayed from what it once was. And I think we have probably lost count with the number of sexual abuse cases that have been brought to light within the Catholic church. Methodist churches differ from one area to another on whether to allow homosexuals to serve as religious leaders. Presbyterians have realized that they don’t agree on everything, and now we have different sects of Presbyterians. Southern Baptists and other similar Baptist denominations have formed mega churches, where people can easily get lost in the crowd and not have to be committed to their local church. And there are some churches within that denomination that are straying from the Gospel and teaching a Gospel of prosperity, which contradicts what Christ taught. And fundamentalism, well, there are many things coming to light about fundamentalism and their immersion into legalism and the way they have handled abuse. It seems that there are problems in every religion! But does that make one religion more worthy of grace than another?
Jesus even said in John 10:16, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one Shepherd.”
Is it possible that there are true believers in differing religions? Is it possible that we can actually all be of one body in Christ and not attend the same type of church?
I am not attacking any one religion. What I am saying is that within each and every Christian religion, there are problems. Why? Because we live in a sin-soaked world, where our leaders are fallen, sinful men and women. The problem isn’t that we need to be looking for one religion or another. The problem is that we have stopped looking for GRACE.
While I know that a lot of people have been abused within their church, I believe that there are just as many who are leaving the church simply because their feelings were hurt. They weren’t asked to head up a committee. They weren’t allowed to lead a Sunday school class. They don’t want to serve in the areas that are needed. They want to do what they believe is best for them – even if there is no need in that area. And so they leave with hurt feelings, refusing to humble themselves and let God make a way.
Jesus was supposed to be King. Instead, we find Him with no place to lay His head and a bunch of needy people following Him around all the time. So what does He do? He takes on the role of a servant and washes His disciples’ feet! Would He have abandoned the church if He was given a servant’s role instead of one of leadership? It doesn’t seem so.
We are constantly comparing ourselves to each other, even within our churches, instead of joining hands as the body of Christ and realizing, humbly, that we all need God’s grace and mercy. What we need to do is return to the Gospel. We need to remember WHY we even assemble together every week. It’s not for gaining points to get to heaven; it’s not to feel that we did something good to make up for all of the bad we have done. It’s not even to receive or give ministry. It is to glorify God – TOGETHER AS ONE BODY.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:24-25).
Believe me, I have been under enough corrupt leadership, as one of my friends put it, to know that this is something we will always have to fight. Even good, godly leaders who have been in their position for a long time can stumble and fall. When we place our trust in them and base our decision to stay or leave our church because of them, we have chosen to participate in idolatry.
My church doesn’t belong to any one person. And because I believe that, I am going to be the obnoxious voice who is asking hard questions of everyone in leadership. The moment we follow the idea that we just need to trust our leadership without question is the moment that we are defeated. It is the moment that we have willingly submitted our leaders to sin. And it is that moment that we may as well close the church doors and move on to find another place to worship – perhaps even just in our own homes. Our leaders need to be held accountable, and it is our job as the church body to do so.
Please don’t misunderstand me to be condoning or sweeping under the rug any abuses by leadership. I firmly believe those leaders need to be kicked out the door, unless they are willing to humbly repent and be placed under biblical counsel. (Biblical counseling is NOT someone who takes the Word of God and twists it to conform to their own beliefs. Biblical counseling IS pointing someone to the Gospel and to the beautiful healing that can ONLY be found in Christ Jesus!)
The truth is that the body of believers is just a broken mess of sinners, who are in need of Someone to save them from themselves. You can not point me to any church in any town and tell me that is not so!
So then what is church? “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:19-22).
So am I defined by the church I attend? No, I’m not! Am I defined by my religion? No, I am not! My identity is in Christ, and I don’t need anyone telling me that I am less worthy than they are to receive His grace. I can worship freely where the Gospel is preached no matter what the religion.
I can say with the Psalmist, “Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation” (Ps. 111:1) because “where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them” (Matt. 18:20).