Think I’ll follow Jesus of the Street Party over the Jesus of the Political Party any day!
Think I’ll follow Jesus of the Street Party over the Jesus of the Political Party any day!
I’m referring to Juliet’s sadness of heart when she said, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” I know it’s a romantic tragedy play, but today I would engage those famous words in another context. I would write it this way: “What’s in a name of a church? Doesn’t it’s true nature always reveal itself?”
I have a habit of reading church signs–both the name and those cute little messages. One of my favorite “cutesy” is “Honk if you love Jesus. Text while driving if you want to see Him.” And names–it seems every community has a “Calvary”, “Bethlehem”, “Grace”, “Faith”, and “First”. I’ve also seen several “Corinth” named churches. Really? Do you know what was actually going on there? Why not just name it “Charles Manson”?
I’ve also seen “The Church of The Divine Metaphysical Reality” (what happens there???), and one of the more interesting ones, “First ******** (I’m leaving out the name of the Tribe to protect the innocent) Church, Number 2”. And I noticed one that read: “Little Hope Church”. Please, understand I’m not belittling or making fun of that church. The road is named “Little Hope Road”. Perhaps this explains the name of that church; I certainly hope so. But what kind of person would name a road “Little Hope”? The Body of Christ is a place for Mega Hope, not Little Hope. Perhaps I am the only one who notices this bit of incongruence. But it got me to thinking: What if those truth in advertising laws applied to church names? Here are a few I’ve come up with, along with their appropriate Mission Statement:
The Church Of We’re Better Than You
Where the Mission is to develop our sense of moral superiority
The Church Of The Sanctimonious
It’s all about the show and not about the action
The Church Of The Judges
Faithfully fulfilling our task of telling others where and why they are wrong, wrong, wrong!
The Church Of The Preacher
Providing The Best Preacher Out There For Your Entertainment
The Church Of The Comfortable
From seating to your conscience, our name says it all: Making you comfortable
The Church Of Wearing The Sunday Best
Because everyone knows you can’t worship God in jeans and flip-flops
The Church Of The Culture
Studying our culture with intensity so that we can better change the Bible to fit the Culture
The Guilt-Free Church
That’s right, if you think it’s right for you, then it’s right for you
The Church Of The Circle
Where a small and elite group runs everything so you don’t have to worry about anything
The Cookie Cutter Church
Working with all our energy to make you just like us
The Church Of The 50’s
Faithfully Doing What The Church Used To Do
The Church Of The Professionals
Providing staff to do the work so you don’t have to
The Church Of Apathy
Who cares about mission and mission statements
The Church Of YOU
That’s right, it’s all about you and never about others!
The Church Of God Wants You Wealthy!
Providing live feed from Joel Osteen every week
I could just go on and on. What about you? If you have a “Truth In Advertising” church name, feel free to share it in the comments section.
Welcome back class. We’re looking at How Do You Get To Heaven? I’ve come up with a subtitle to this class: Spiritual Navigation Course. Yesterday we look at the Santa Claus Plan and its obvious failure. By the way, you can’t drop this course. Even those who skip class or refuse to sign up for it, they, too, will have the Final Exam by the Head Master. So I say again, take good notes and refer back to them daily. Now, on to the next plan:
God is the Cosmic Prison Warden who lays down the rules for us inmates. Know the rules, obey the rules and you get into heaven. That sounds simple enough. Here’s the Rules you need to remember:
Now if you can do this, you’ve got it made. It’s the religion of the Pharisees with a Protestant twist. It’s what I call “Legalism Light”. The biggest rule to remember is #4. Got it? It focuses on the external parts of our lives. Work on Rules Keeping. Everything you need to get into heaven is in the rules. Now, there is a beauty to this plan, in Rule #3. Every local church has its own set of rituals and traditions. If you don’t like the rituals and traditions at one church, shop around until you find one you like.
Well, there’s a problem. God is more than just rules, and so is His Kingdom. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:20—For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power. It is a Kingdom, HIS Kingdom which means HE alone determines what it looks like to live in that Kingdom. God invites us to experience His power, the power that raise Jesus from the dead. And that power can never be found in rituals and traditions. Rituals and tradition can point us in the direction of that power, but they are NOT the power.
And then there’s this: Believing we are right, we can be wrong. In the end it doesn’t matter what we think God wants. It’s about what God really wants. Talk is just that–Talk. Power is what we need–words, rituals and traditions have none–unless they lead us to the throne of Grace.
That’s it for today. You know what I am about to say: Keep good notes. Review them every day because The Final Exam will happen. And remember…Love God with ALL your heart. Love others the WAY He loves you. And make sure ALL the glory goes to HIM.
Tomorrow we will look at the last plan, and then the last class will hopefully open your mind and heart to the only plan.
Welcome back class. We’re already half-way through this subject. Yesterday we talked about The Sponge Plan where God is The Cosmic Observer who hopes that we are in the right place at the right time. In case I didn’t mention it, The Cosmic Observer doesn’t seek us for transformation, but hopes we find the right information.
God is the Cosmic Santa. The nitty-gritty of the Santa Claus Plan is that there is a naughty and a nice list. We just need to be sure we get in on the nice list. But here’s the thing about the Santa Plan—everyone still gets Christmas presents. The naughty list is just something to try to get us to behave a little better when we get sick or get old. It’s what they call at cemeteries, excuse me, seminaries, Universal Salvation. Universal Salvation says that there is no hell and that In The End, We All Get In.
Don’t sweat it or worry about it. Dying is Christmas Day—we’re going to get a present after all. No, we don’t! In James 1:15 you can read—These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. Maybe James is overreacting here, but I don’t think so. Sin will consume and destroy us and keep us out of heaven. Even Jesus said that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” gets in. In this plan, the death of Jesus is applied to us whether we want the Gift or not.
Our purpose in life is to hopefully make this world a little better place until God brings the Final Kingdom. This plan says we are just waiting around. Whatever “mistakes” we make, really don’t matter. Even if you believe that In The End We All Get In, the thing about sin is that it is overpowering and thus destroys the Image of our Creator. This plan is a lie from the pits of hell designed to keep you from the loving relationship God longs to have with you.
That’s it for today. Review your notes for THE Final Exam. And remember…love God with all your heart. Love others the way HE loves you. And make sure ALL the glory goes to Him. See you tomorrow and maybe the next plan will help.
Welcome back class. I hope you have reviewed your notes from yesterday. I cannot stress it enough that there is only ONE test–the Final Exam that will be administered by the Head Master at some time in your future. It may be years, even decades away; but He will administer the Test. Keep those notes handy for your personal study. Now, let’s continue.
Yesterday we looked at the Cosmic Accountant Plan–that God keeps a record of your virtuous deeds and your bad deeds. So long as you have more virtuous deeds than bad deeds, you get in. I hope you can see and understand how this plan doesn’t work to get us into heaven, nor have a relationship with God, a relationship HE designed for us to experience.
While the Cosmic Accountant Plan seems to make a lot of sense to us, it really doesn’t work because our “bad” deeds are more than bad–they are in reality, SIN. I may not have mentioned this yesterday, but there are not enough virtuous deeds to cover the cost of just one single sin. God demands that our righteousness, our account of “virtuous deeds” must exceed that of the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees. Remember that these 2 groups had a wealthy balance of “virtuous deeds”, but they were still outside the Relationship God wants.
Now, today let’s look at another plan. This plan we can see in Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters. Let’s look at another of what some consider to be one of many ways to experience relationship with God, and thus get into heaven.
God Is The Cosmic Observer. He’s there just to watch how we respond to life, and to Him. He hopes we will be in the right place at the right time to soak it all in. Here is how The Sponge Plan works:
That’s pretty much it. All you must do is be like a sponge in water—soak it all in and voilà, you get into heaven. Well, here’s the problem with this plan—it never addresses our real problem—sin. Paul wrote in Romans 8:7— For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.
Our default setting is to be hostile to God’s ways. It seems like I am always going back to that “sin” thing, and for good reason. All of us, bar none, are INFECTED with this DNA from Adam and Eve. It lies deep within us and resists everything about God. Oh, it doesn’t always show itself, but it’s still there. Soaking up like a sponge will not deal with the root of sin in all of us. The Sponge Plan is like treating a tumor in our colon with Hydrocortisone on the skin. My personal favorite response is this: “Sitting in a church sanctuary doesn’t turn you into a Christian any more than sitting in a garage will turn you into a car.”
Well, that’s it for today class. Tomorrow we will look at another plan. Take good notes and review those notes BEFORE the Final Exam. And remember…love God with all your heart. Love others the way HE loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him! Hopefully I will see you tomorrow….unless the Head Master gives you or me the Final Exam….yup, I have to take the Final Exam, too!
Good Morning Class, or whatever time of the day it is you are reading this. I’m so glad you decided to return. Remember there will be a Final Exam on this class of How Do You Get To Heaven? I cannot tell you when it will be because, well I don’t know. This test will be administered at some point, not by me, but by the Head Master. So pay close attention to this lesson.
As you remember from our last session this question about getting into heaven is really about this question: How Do I Have A Relationship With God? Remember from our text book, John 3 that it is this guy named Nicodemus who posed this question to Jesus. So let’s proceed with today’s lesson with one of the ways some people think they can get into heaven. Each of these “ways” has a name, that I cleverly came up with; well, truthfully, it was the Holy Spirit that gave me these names. Here is the first plan:
This one is really easy to understand. Raise your hands if you have a checking account or savings account. OK, you’ve got this plan. God keeps a set of books with debits and credits—good things we do and bad things we do. God is the Cosmic Accountant keeping tabs on us. At the end of each business day, The Cosmic Account runs a tally of your life. And if we do more good things than bad things, we get into heaven. The good things we do help cover the costs of the bad things we do.
Now this is very appealing to many folks. It’s relatively simple. Some days you make a lot of deposits because you are kind and helpful. That’s good because some days, well some days you are not so good. So the Cosmic Accountant subtracts from your good things. You just have to make sure you have more “good things” deposited to your account that “bad things” that are taken away from your account.
But Sin is more than just a “bad” thing—Sin is rebellion against God, against our Creator, against His design and purposes. And then there’s what Jesus said God demands from us. Matthew 5:20—But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven! Now these teachers of the law and Pharisees, man they had a lot of deposits. Don’t misunderstand me–they had their “withdrawals” as well. But they certainly had more virtuous deeds than bad deeds. But–you don’t get into Heaven because you think you have more virtuous deeds than bad deeds.
God is MORE than the Cosmic Accountant. He IS the Righteous God who expects nothing less from us that Righteousness. He IS the Holy God who demands nothings less from us that holiness. Were this so, then it was a waste of time for Jesus to become our flesh. If it were so, then the death of Jesus on that Cross was a tragedy. But His life AND death were neither a waste of time, nor was it a tragedy.
Well, that’s it for today class. I hope you took good notes because there will be a test at the time determined for you by the Head Master. Until tomorrow…..remember to love God with all your heart. Love others the way HE loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
This, and the following posts, are not about Heaven, what it’s like or what you will see. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about what Heaven is like and what you will see. I don’t have enough time right now to straighten out bad theology. But I do have a question for you. The most important question you will ever be asked is this: How Do You Get To Heaven? Your answer has consequences beyond what you could ever imagine.
Talk about a lot of misinformation and confusion, just listen to how people will answer that question. I will give this warning—I may make you mad with the answer that the Bible gives us. OK, with the disclaimer out of the way, look at this picture.
Do you see anything wrong with this picture or is it OK? Raise your hand if you think something isn’t quite right with these signs. It’s obvious. If you want to get to I-4 or Florida Highway 482 East or West, you must turn left. HOWEVER, that other sign, “Right Turn Only” says that you can’t get there from here.
When looking for direction signs on how to get to heaven, it can be as confusing as these road signs. So today my only goal is to help you lift the fog of confusion and see the only answer to that question. Look at John 3:1-12 (NLT)
1 There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. 2 After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.” 3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” 4 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
5 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. 7 So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” 9 “How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.
10 Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? 11 I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. 12 But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things?
Have you ever been taught by the Holy Spirit? You really should try it sometimes if you haven’t. The Holy Spirit has been teaching me so much these past 4 years, especially when it comes to the art of preaching and teaching. Normally when I’m preaching, at this point I would say, “And if you can remember only 1 thing from the message, this is it.” But the Holy Spirit wants me to save that 1 thing until the end of these thoughts; so, I will.
Another way of asking the question of how to get to heaven, is to ask: How Do We Find God? Now here’s where it gets confusing. Some say there are many ways to find God. They insist that it’s like taking a trip to New York City. We could take different routes, different modes of transportation; but we all still end up in New York City. But what works with maps doesn’t work with the human heart and spirituality.
There’s a wide diversity of thoughts and feelings on this subject. It’s this thing of pluralism—that there can be a multitude of ways to God. And this isn’t about Christianity versus Islam versus Hindu versus Buddhism versus New Age versus Judaism. It’s not about Christianity versus Baptists versus Methodists versus Church of Christ versus Presbyterians versus Church of God versus Whatever Name is out there. The longing of the heart for heaven is really the longing of the human heart for a connection with God.
So, let’s look at some ways people think they can be saved and get into heaven, and why they can’t get there from here. I’ve even managed to come up with some names for some of these different ways people are trying to get to heaven. Check in tomorrow for some of the ways people think you get to heaven, and why you can’t get there from here.
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way HE loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
(Here is the rest of the conversation going on in my head about cultural bias and the church…Due to the nature of this mind, viewer discretion is advised. The Spiritually immature, not to be confused with “new believers”, may not be able to comprehend these thoughts. Please read the first part before reading this one: Cultural Bias And “The Church”)
Mr. Churchian: First you’re talking about Greek and now Latin? All of that is irrelevant.
Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter: Besides, we speak English, American English. I agree with Mr. Churchian, Greek/Latin–that doesn’t mean a thing!
Me: (Fighting hard to keep my gift of sarcasm in check) Yes, we speak American English (I’m wondering why Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter insists on the KJV) but yet there are different meanings to words now than when these wonderful letters and books were written. I know that we cannot all be Greek and Hebrew Scholars and this is why there are so many resources that can help us to understand in a deeper way the intent of the writers by looking at the original meanings of those words.
Mr. Churchian: Well, I know what I know!
Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter: And I know all I need to know!
Me: (Now I’m smiling again!) And that, my dear brother and sister in Christ, is the problem. What you know is what you have been taught by well-meaning people who have been enveloped in that fog of misinformation called “Church Cultural Bias”. We have accepted, BLINDLY accepted what we have been told about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. And at the root of this, I’m calling it what it is, this DECEPTION are these 2 diametrical words: the original word Ekklēsia and that substitute word Circulous.
Circulous is a “circle”. A circle is a closed system. What ever is outside that circle must be allowed in to be a part of the circle. The circle then supports itself. Whatever is allowed to be a part of the circle must have 2 key attributes:
And all of this must happen within the confines of a specific geographic location, otherwise known as The Church Building. Am I correct in this, Mr. Churchian and Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter?
Mr. Churchian and Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter: (In unison) ABSOLUTELY! Thanks for finally coming over to our side!
Me: ‘Hold `em thar’ horses!’ What I just described is the Body of Christ as Circulous, a “circle”. The circle exists to serve those already in the circle. Anything that doesn’t support the circle is deemed both unnecessary and unimportant. The focus is entirely on human activities; what WE do. It creates that sense of entitlement, and I know how both of you feel about “the entitlement generation”. The circle produces consumers. As long as the pastor, staff and leadership puts out “consumables” for you, everything is great. When they no longer put out consumables, it’s time to replace them. This, my Sister and Brother, is the Body of Christ as a circle. I see you nodding your heads in agreement. But remember that Circulous is a substitute word for the original word.
The Body of Christ as the Ekklēsia focuses on the One who does the calling. By focusing on the One who does the calling, the focus is on the life that God offers us and the foundation of that life that God offers us is about dying daily to self in order to live in unselfish ways in order to care about and for others. Putting it another way, here are 3 things the Ekklēsia is not:
Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter: Well, that’s not what I was taught!
Mr. Churchian: Well, I earned my way to be here and everyone else should earn their way, JUST LIKE I DID!
Me: Well, it wasn’t what I was taught either. And I admit, I haven’t earned my way into the circle. But I have been called out by God’s grace. Called back to my Creator, my Father. I have been called out to follow Jesus wherever He wants me to go in order to do whatever He wants me to do. Now, if you two will excuse me, Jesus has left the building, so I must also leave the building….
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!
(Maybe Elvis had it right)
In this my personal journey (which I am sharing through this series of blogs) about the influences of what I am calling “cultural bias”, I have already discovered many things that have caused me to question much of what I have been taught, and what I have taught over the decades. I am already questioning the term “christian” as the dominant term to describe people who believe Jesus is the Savior of all (see: Which Is A More Accurate Term: Christian Or Disciple?). Where else has cultural bias, even “Christian Cultural Bias” influenced us, and maybe even changed our true identity and real purpose? So now I address another issue where I see an over-abundance of cultural biases. (Here is the conversation going on in my head…Due to the nature of this mind, viewer discretion is advised. The Spiritually immature, not be be confused with “new believers” may not be able to comprehend these thoughts.)
Me: What does the Bible really say and teach about “the church”? Well, let’s look at what the One whom we are supposed to reveal said about “the church”. Jesus only mentions the word “church” twice. Well, truthfully He never said the word “church”.
Mr. Churchian: “You idiot! You need to be tarred and feathered and run of town! Blasphemer!” (He’s looking for either a torch or a pitchfork….not sure)
Me: Well, as I am fond of saying, “The truth will stand even when the world is on fire.”
Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter: “Now you know the word ‘church’ IS in the Bible. So, Mr. Smartypants, what word did Jesus use if it wasn’t church?”
Me: Oh my, did you ever ask the wrong question. In the Greek…
Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter: “Wait a minute, we’re not talking about the Greek. We’re talking about English, you know, the language Jesus used.”
Me: As I was saying before I was rudely interrupted, the Greek manuscripts use the word ekklēsia. Ekklēsia has been translated as “church” in the Gospels.
Mr. Churchian: “Aha! Proves my point!”
Me: Not so fast, bucko! According to James Strong, in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, ekklēsia means “a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place; an assembly”. Joseph Henry Thayer, primary editor of Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says it means an “assembly, company, congregation, multitude”. It is used to describe secular, Jewish and Christian settings. In other words, it can accurately be translated “synagogue” as well, public arena, stadium, or town square would all work in place of the word CHURCH. More than likely, the preferred language of Jesus was Hebrew, the common language, and the Hebrew equivalent is the word qahal, which means assembly or congregation. This is the most likely word Jesus would have used. Remember that the audience of Jesus isn’t 21st Century Americans. His audience is 1st Century Jews.
Mr. Churchian & Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter: (Sitting silently. Their faces are still angry red, but there’s a look of confusion now, finally they break the silence, in unison, of course) Huh?
Me: The Bible was originally translated from Hebrew and Greek into Latin, the “official” language of the Roman CHURCH. A few had attempted to translate some of the Bible from Latin into English…
Mr. Churchian: Look, I showed up to argue with you and prove you wrong, not to hear a history lesson.
Me: I’m getting there, be patient. Now, as I was about to say before I was rudely interrupted, the Bible was not translated into English until John Wycliffe led a group of scholars who rendered the Latin texts into English…
Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter: (frustrated) Get to your point! Enough of this nonsense!
Me: I’m trying but y’all keep interrupting me. As I was about to say, the Bible appeared in the English language, much to the consternation of the Roman CHURCH, around 1382. In fact, after his death, Roman CHURCH authorities exhumed his body and burned it to ashes. That will definitely teach Rev. Wycliffe a lesson, won’t it! Patience please, Mr. Churchian and Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter, stop rolling your eyes at me. I’m getting to my point.
Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter: Well it’s about time!
Me: As I was saying before I was rudely interrupted, again, it was the Wycliffe Bible translation that first used the word “church”. Wycliffe wanted fellow Catholics to be able to hear and read the Bible in their own language. His concern was not necessarily about rendering the best meaning of those original words; just getting them into the language of ordinary women and men was the goal.
Mr. Churchian: Now are you ready to repent, you blasphemous sinner? The word is CHURCH! Hey, anybody seen my torch? Get my pitchfork while you’re at it!
Me: (Sigh…….) Well, overlooking that last interruption, Wycliffe and his crew chose the English word “church” when translating the original word ekklēsia. However this is a translation from Latin to English, not from Greek into English. John Hus promoted this idea of the “common” language to the point, and he was burned at the stake by the Roman CHURCH. An interesting side-note: they used a copy of the Wycliffe Bible to start that fire. Surely by now Wycliffe has learned his lesson. But in 1526, William Tyndale and his team published the first New Testament that was taken entirely from the Greek texts. And…
Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter: (Angrily) Get to the point! I need to be dusting the covers on all my King James Version Bibles!
Me: (Now I’m rolling my eyes AND sighing) And for the Greek word…
Mr. Churchian: I still don’t know what the Greek has to do with it (while shaking his head in disgust)! It’s all Greek to me!
Me: And for the Greek word ekklēsia, Tyndale and his crew translated it congregation. Truthfully, the word they used was congregacion, which was the way they spelled “congregation” back then. The word “congregation” fits both the Greek word AND the Hebrew word. When the Roman CHURCH set out to put the Bible together, they selected Latin as their OFFICIAL language. No problem there–but…there isn’t a Latin word for ekklēsia so they opted for the word circulous which is translated either “circle” or “circus”. It was chosen because in their culture, gatherings or congregating, happened in, you guessed it–CIRCLES! Circle or circus (which the latter is a better fit for many congregations today in the U.S.) became the English word CHURCH.
Me: (Amazed I haven’t been interrupted again) NOW my first major point: The Latin word circulous and the Greek word ekklēsia, have 2 diametrical meanings. Excuse me and forgive me Mr. Churchian and Ms. Tenured Pew Sitter, I was so caught up in this moment I may have used a word that you may not understand–diametrical. It means one thing is completely different from another thing.
Me (continuing without interruption, PTL!): Circulous refers to the actions and activities of people. Ekklēsia refers to the action and activities of the One who does the calling out. Circulous/Circus/Church focuses on the people–they are the “star” attraction (sorry, I couldn’t let that one slip by me–the circus reference about the church). The Ekklēsia focuses on God who calls us out from the world to be visible assembly of–you guessed it–Jesus Christ.
(This conversation will continue in the next edition. And remember–Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!)
We urgently need more martyrs today! Can you imagine the revival that would happen in the U.S. if “Comfortable Christians”, Tenured Pew Sitters, Churchians and others who are more focused on their little piece of the church than the Kingdom of God would embrace J.D.’s challenge?
I owe this blog to a challenge from Dawn at Inspiration with an Attitude. It’s one of many blogs that I follow and if you’re not following her, you might want to. I say this because if I offend someone with this blog, blame Dawn. She responded to an earlier blog, Seeds Live Truthfully with the challenge to do a follow-up with the symptoms of The Tenured Pew Sitter. Even at 61, the competitor in me still likes a good challenge.
I don’t know exactly how I formed this phrase, I think it was inspired from reading another blogger, See, there’s this thing called biology (you might want to check insanitybytes out, too. Some more good stuff!). She coined a word “Churchians” and from that, I would like to think I was inspired by the Holy Spirit. So, I started using the phrase “Tenured Pew Sitters”. So to answer the challenge from Dawn, here goes from Number 10 to Number 1:
10. A Love For The Bible That Does Not Include The Application
For the Tenured Pew Sitters the goal is information. The more information one has, the better person they become. The problem is that the Bible is not given to us for information, rather transformation.
9. Trapped In The Past
They see the height of the church being in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. If church leaders would just do what they did back then, the result would be church growth. If we were living in the same “Christian” culture as back then it would work. But we aren’t and it won’t. There is a reason why this era is called the “Post Christian” culture. The values of Jesus are no longer the primary values of society. They insist that we must go back and do what we used to do, and be. If you always do what you’ve always done, then you will always be what you’ve always been.
8. Religion Replaces Relationship
Tenured Pew Sitters focus on the external rather than the internal. It is all about “the show”. The rich traditions and liturgy that once inspired a previous generation to know and love God more deeply, are now sacred cows to be protected at all costs; even at the cost of a local church dying. It is the desire for form over substance. John Wesley wrote near the end of his life that he never doubted that there would ever cease to be a people known as Methodists. But his greatest fear was that they have the form of godliness but without the power of the Holy Spirit.
7. They Are The Ultimate Image Of A Christian.
Therefore, everyone else must conform to their image. If anyone is to be a part of “their” church, then they must agree with them. They see themselves on the “path” and everyone else is either a trouble-maker or a “well bless their little hearts”. You have to be a Southerner to know what “well bless their little hearts” means.
6. Power Over Purpose
It’s not the “power” you are thinking about. It’s not about the power of the local church, but about holding power OVER the local church. They do this in a variety of ways: being on the right committees; being vocally abusive even in a nice kind of way. More important for them is the power of the Offering Plate. They see it as the ballot box–of approving or disapproving of the mission of the church. They care more about the weight of their power than the true purpose for the Body of Christ.
5. Heightened Sense Of Self Importance
The Tenured Pew Sitter sees themselves as the source of all wisdom. Some will actually say that the church cannot survive without them and their support. This is another way of saying they have a serious ego problem, not that different from the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ day.
4. It’s All About What Happens In Here
There is no sense of mission, except to send money somewhere far, far away. Supporting foreign mission projects becomes a way to ease the conscience of the Tenured Pew Sitter. The bulk of the budget must be spent on what happens INSIDE the church building.
3. A Deep Seated Desire To Judge
The Tenured Pew Sitter thinks of themselves as a “fruit” inspector. What they really are is a bulldozer; quick to run anyone down they see as a threat to their power and/or their comfort. They think that the Lord helps those who can help themselves; and only the worthy deserve any help.
2. An Obvious Absence Of Deep Joy
The Tenured Pew Sitter has “that” expression, on their face and in their words. “That” expression is what I call “The Painfully Pious” look. Imagine this: Chewing on a lemon rind on one side of your mouth and a green persimmon on the other. Try it if you would like and look at yourself in the mirror. I wouldn’t recommend it; just trust me on this one.
1. The Local Church Exists For Them.
They see the local church as a producer of goods and services for them, the consumer. For the Tenured Pew Sitter, for “church” to be “church” then it must offer things that appeal to them first and foremost.
Well Dawn, I hope this gives you my insights. Anyone else out there have other insights into The Tenured Pew Sitter? Feel free to add them below in the comments section.