Thursday, November 17, 2011

Steeple Envy

I recently completed my first book, Steeple Envy - Losing My Religion and Rediscovering Jesus. Although I hope that people will read it and be encouraged and challenged by the message, this was never intended to be a money making venture. This book was the result of many sleepless nights where I simply felt compelled to write about my thoughts and experiences concerning Jesus and His Church. Being a pastor for more than 18 years, I have seen and experienced a lot from the inside of the American church. To be honest, I wrote the book as much for me as for anyone else who might read it. It was a therapeutic exercise of sorts. :)

The church in America is an interesting thing. It often looks very little like the Church described in the pages of the New Testament, and to a large degree it is consumer driven and corporate run. The Church in the book of Acts seems to be much more organic. It is defined by people, not places and it doesn't seem to have the top down structure that we see in a lot of churches today. As a result we have pastors that achieve rock star status and labor week in and week out to put on a great show in order to keep the crowds coming.

In the book of Acts we read about this group who were on the move. Sure they came together and met in the temple courts but they spent most of their time in each others homes, as well as sharing the love that they had found, with anyone and everyone who would listen. It's actually quite beautiful. The Bible talks about a group where people were even willing to sacrifice for each other, so that there were no needy among them.

James, defines pure religion this way: "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." (James 1:27) Somehow we have gotten to a place where this is a sidebar at best in the life of the "church".

The reality is that the church in America has fallen out of favor with most people and we either don't realize it or we scratch our heads and wonder "why? " Maybe it's because it is time for some much needed change. Maybe it is time for the church to take its eyes of itself and to spend more time looking at a world that is out there dying without Jesus. Our beautiful buildings, best gimmicks, bright lights and great music aren't going to be what draw most of them in. It is going to take us going out, IN LOVE.

The world needs to see a people (the Church) who care. They need to see a group of people (the Church) who are not fake and who love people right where they are. What the world really needs to see is Jesus, and too often the church doesn't look a whole like like Him (see the book UnChristian by Lyons).

Now, I don't claim to have it all figured out and I certainly don't have all the answers. However, there seems to be a huge disconnect between the life of Jesus, his early followers and the current life of the the church in our country today. All I am suggesting is that we become more like Jesus and begin to lift Him up, above our institutions, programs and agendas. In fact, we are to lift Him up, even above our very lives.

I think there are people all around us who are just waiting to see the love Jesus on display in a way that they can relate to. Jesus was good at relating to people and we should be as well (think woman at the well, woman caught in adultery, story of the good samaritan etc.). We are told that when He is lifted up, He will draw people to Himself (John 12:32).

Therefore let us be a people who above all things, lift up Jesus and show His love to those around us. It doesn't appear that we need the latest and greatest "next thing" in the church. What we need is to love God with all our hearts, love our neighbors as ourselves and lift up Jesus, then watch the Spirit work in miraculous ways as He draws people.

Love always and