DUMP THE CHURCH—IT HURT ME!
George Santayana, the Spanish-born American author of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is famous for his quip, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Such is the case with the recurring cry of every new generation: “I’ll take Jesus, but let’s dump the Church!” Each new era of anti-church protesters fancy themselves as courageous, avant-garde warriors taking on a corrupt institution, but history (and the Bible) are soundly against them. They need to read their Bibles and their history books.
In our own day (in western culture), the cry to “Dump the Church” is coming from a particular strain within evangelicalism, specifically, disillusioned former evangelicals—folks like Rob Bell, Pete Rollins, Carson Nyquist, Kent Dobson, William Young and others who are sympathetic to their lament. William Young is the author of the best seller, The Shack. Young says that he doesn’t go to church anymore and views the church as generally harmful. What’s so ironic about Bell and Dobson is that both of them have been Pastors—of the same church—successively! Both have been the Teaching Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Since their departures, both have given up on the local church and have become armchair critics. Dobson’s latest book is entitled Bitten by a Camel: Leaving Church, Finding God. In it he describes his disillusionment with the Church since his younger days growing up in Jerry Falwell’s mega-Baptist church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Like Bell (and many other emergent writers), Dobson is a dissatisfied former evangelical.
What such nay-sayers are missing is the robust ecclesiology of Matthew 16, among other passages in the New Testament. In Matthew 16, Jesus tells us that the Church (capital “C”) was His idea. Jesus tells us that the Church belongs to Him, is being built by Him, and is protected by Him. This is high-powered, high-octane language! Jesus never claims the Church is perfect or painless. But He does say that He stands behind it. Jesus is also clear that loving the Church and being involved is not an option for His followers.
So… have you been hurt by the Church? Have you been disappointed in a church leader or betrayed by another Christian? Most of us have. Both Becky and I have been deeply wounded—sometimes intentionally—by people within the Church. I also know that I’ve hurt others. The bottom line is: what’s new? People are sinners. I sure am. Jesus is not. The Church belongs to Jesus, not the people. The Church is worth investing in because it belongs to Jesus. It’s worth giving ourselves to because it is the most beautiful, truth-bearing, light-giving, hell-defeating, communal institution God ever created on earth. We desperately need it. It is an institution that if we abandon, we abandon to our own peril, both now and eternally. Let’s be grateful for God’s institution, the Church!
by Jay Childs, Senior Pastor