By George Elerick
You slowly make your way through the ex-warehouse to find a place in the movie-style seating area while the band is playing the number one praise song of the week. A week before, you handed over a couple of tickets and you casually strolled through the masses, into the standing room only gig and the band came out and everybody screamed.
One is a church, the other is rock show, is there a difference? Should there be?
Churches today look more like a Fortune 500 company and less like communities who look outward. One Sunday might highlight the newest book by the biggest flavor of the week, then the next we’ll talk about how tithing is more important than forgiveness, but we’ll throw in a few verses for posterities sake. (Just a side note, tithing was under the old religious system that pervaded the life of an everyday Jew before Jesus arrived on the scene. In fact, there are no verses in the time of Jesus that talk about a compulsory rule for tithing.) Interestingly enough, Jesus challenged everyone to look outward with what they had. But the Church as-is is more like the rich man in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. You see, the rich man wasn’t just rich, he might have been influential if he was just rich. His affluence got him whatever he needed when he needed it. With wealth came reputation, with reputation came preservation and with preservation comes oppression at any cost to protect what is mine! You see, Jesus was using the rich man as analogy of the religious system of his day. It would be like Him saying to us now, “You have lost the plot. You now use all your resources to make yourself look good. You are more worried about yourself and not the person in need outside your door.”
What’s even more tragic is that the rich guy (remember, he represents us) ends up in “Hell”. He is having his wounds licked his all the while being separated from God. Lazarus ends up being the nearest he could be to His Creator. Jesus is doing a reversal here, he is saying all this religious mumbo-jumbo will get you nowhere fast. Ah, but he is also saying that it is the outsider who gets to have the cake and to eat it, too.
The Church should look less like the world and more like a community that lives out heaven on earth. The Church should divorce itself from embracing old pagan models of doing church and embrace the original organic movement of counter-cultural prophets who lived by the rule of love and grace. I believe Jesus would have been labeled a hippy if He was around in the 60’s, I believe He would have been hanging out with Ghandi in the desert and sipping a coke with Billy Graham. But, I also believe He would have held hands with AIDS victims, hung out in the not-so-safe parts of town, he may have even spent time with drug-dealers.
It seems the Church is more concerned about making a name for itself rather than embracing the outsider. I think its because if we did, we might have to come to the realization that we were once not that far from where they are. Maybe for some, it is too uncomfortable to accept grace and so the easier thing to do is point the finger and look on those who are easy to judge. One of the biggest phrases that shows up throughout the ancient scriptures is “Remember when…” Why? Because, we forget. When we forget, others tend to pay for our convenient amnesia. We need to remember that God is the one who got us out of our mess and that His rescue doesn’t stop with our rescue alone, but that he empowers us to keep moving. We must be a community of people who embrace forward motion.
The question is, are you?
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George loves the outdoors, singing in the shower and doing underwater, synchronized Pilates. He is currently working on a book entitled “Jesus Bootlegged: Recapturing the Stolen Message of Jesus for The World”. You can read more about him at his blog.