Those that have any knowledge of the Good Book know that every time the word “church” is used, it is in reference to the group of people that have decided to gather for the purpose of following God together, and never to buildings or customs used by said people. It never used to imply a set of rules or expectations. Condemnation wasn’t an original side effect.
I was one of those people that used to think that if you didn’t go to a certain church, or if you didn’t go to church every Sunday, your salvation was called into question. I used to be one of those that would have told you to go to the Pentecostal church in order to be a “real Christian”. I used to think that it was more important for me to be in church twice on Sundays than to ask God if there was anything specific he’d like me to do that day.
I’ve heard that my church used to have a Rule Book which listed guidelines for good Pentecostal behaviour. No, I haven’t been fortunate enough to actually see one… I’ve only heard about it, as I said, from someone who has. Movie-going was frowned upon, as was walking on the same side of the street as the movie theatre (sinner! You know you’ve broken that rule!). Apparently church-goers were discouraged from eating in the church on Sundays, because it was the House of the Lord and should be respected for its holy significance. We all know eating is a fleshly indulgence and disgraces the creator of both food and our digestive systems! If women wore pants, their salvation was in question.
We’ve come a long way since then. Yet we still don’t know how to relate to addicts of any sort, the divorced woman, the handicapped person, homosexuals, liberals, pro-choicers, etc. Porn, lust, and masturbation scare us so much that members of our own “church family” suffer in forsaken condemnation.
All too often, there is a wide barrier between us and the people we’re trying to “reach”. We’re not willing to jump over to the other side or get our hands dirty in the process of shining a light of love and truth onto the life of another. We imply “come to us and all will be better”, “inside the church you’ll be fine”, then once they’re “in”, if indeed they fall for it, often their true needs are neglected because they “accepted Christ”.
Jesus-loving people, I don’t believe it’s about how many hands are raised to repeat a prayer at the end of a sermon. It’s not about how many people are in the sanctuary on Sunday morning and evening. It’s not about our stellar programs or how much offering we’re sending back to the denomination’s head office! Whether or not the board members have been divorced or wear ties to church does not reflect on our church’s holiness. A ring in soemone’s eyebrow does not negate the earnestness of their heart’s faith.
I realize that structure is of great importance to some, and there are certain ways that you learned a God-life should be lived. My challenge to you is to dare to reconsider them in light of God’s continual creativity–his approach to this age and generation are different than others. I dare you to ask God what he actually thinks about things instead of just accepting someone else’s opinion, even if it is informed (yes, mine included 🙂 ).
God forgive us for propagating and believing rumours of him which have stifled our identities, our freedom, our creativity, and even our ability to think.