Updated: Oct 30
Hello everyone! I know it's been about a month or so since my last blog. I have been prepping for a speaking engagement related to mental, emotional, and spiritual healing as well as mulling over some things in the Church, hence this blog. I have written other critiques of the Church in the past year or so but this one is most disturbing to me because of the fact that I actually have to say these things at all. I am heart-broken on so many levels as I have been before when I write an honest criticism about the Church. I don't hate anyone in the Church, I still consider myself a part of the Church just not in the traditional sense of Western Christianity. I don't hate the Church, I am heart-broken for her in America. I warn you this will be uncomfortable and hard to read but these are glaring issues that I see in the 21st century Church in America. These issues are turning people away from Jesus, the person the Church is supposed to be all about. My hope is that you come away with a vision of how to make the Church a more inviting, warm, and welcoming place for the hurting and broken of all races and walks of life. Afterall, Jesus came to heal the hurting and to seek and save the lost. It is time the Church returned to her first Love. Now to begin with some tough love.
Issue #1: Performative Christianity and the “little gods” of Mega-church Social Media
Social media driven, performative Christianity, and “little god syndrome” are at an all time high. We have pastors who desire to be liked and loved by people they don't know more than they love their community and those in front of them – the more clicks and hearts, the happier and more outrageous they tend to be. This is not true of all, but many in the forefront these days. They desire celebrity and the power and prestige that goes with it above all other things. They actually have stylists – I have found this to be absolutely comical. They dress in clothes they can most likely barely afford. If they can afford such clothing (a whole other subject for another day), they could use the money they've spent on their designer outfits and handbags (no I am not sparing their wives from this observation) to help their local communities or other humanitarian causes in much more tangible ways. They give us cool soundbites and then are ushered off with their private security like “little, prized gods”. Their every need is met as if they were some sort of spiritual royalty without the crowns. I am convinced some enjoy being “little, prized gods” and said spiritual royalty. I am also convinced they no more love their flocks than they do the walls that surround them on any given Sunday. Their lack of accountability has been glaring in the last few years and given this love of self, I expect we will see more issues with accountability to come. Being the “little gods” that they are, they have also arrived at the conclusion that this affords them the right to say or do any thing they want without consequences and then tell everyone else "to get out of their feelings" when they are challenged. I have experienced this myself. The problem with these “little, prized gods” is the God of the universe has no intention of competing with them. There can only be one God in the Church and if our modern American mega-church, social media performative, pastors wish to be those gods, then they may find themselves and their churches completely devoid of the real God, and any real power to help heal their communities in the process – not to mention their debt. Why should God compete with Mr. and Mrs. Flashy? They look great and sound great, so they must have all the answers. Their social media presence certainly looks perfect! In reality, they are ususally miserable, burnt out, and spiritually crumbling. Their relationships behind closed doors are in shambles. All the glitz and glamour is but a smoke screen. All the designer clothing in the world couldn't fix their heart issues or heal their pain. It hurts my heart because I know these shepherds did not start out this way. I take no pleasure in this critique of their performance. When did it become cool for pastors to be like shiny CEOs and for churches to be like Fortune 500 companies? Oh how hard this and they, will fall! My heart is broken.
Issue #2: Arrogance, Entitlement, and White Supremacy
These days the Church (particularly the white, evangelical church) is suffering from arrogance, entitlement, and continued white supremacy. None of this is new, it simply changes decades and centuries and wraps itself in different clothes. It's the same evil. Today it says “just preach the gospel.” In the 20th century, because it could get away with being more overt racism (vs covert) it said, ”black people and white people can't mix. They must stay out of our schools and our churches.” In the 19th century, the white Church watered down the gospel to justify slavery in this nation. Why do you think it didn't work? It was a lie, and the black slaves knew it; as did the abolishionists. Let me let you in a little secret, “just preach the gospel” and ignore the sin and the condition of people's hearts isn't going to work either. It's already backfiring because it is based on a half truth – yes the gospel is powerful but without acknowledging and dealing with sin, it is just a farce and is stripped of love and healing power. As for arrogance and entitlement, these go hand in hand with the white supremacy hiding just under the surface. To be a white supremist is to be the epitomy of arrogance and entitlement – even though they rage against it in the “others.” They don't see it in themselves. They play victim too. The Church is playing the victim now in the political arena. It's “woe is me, we're being persecuted! Woe is me!” Jesus did not promise you a persecution free life or a persecution free Church. I will also say that it's not persecution when other people don't agree with you or want to do government like you want to do government. I would bet money, if I was betting person, that many so called Christians and churches these days would denounce Christ and Christianity if the heat in the perverbial kitchen got hot enough. Unlike the early Christians, they are unwilling to die for their faith; they don't feel they should have to. Their arrogance and entitlement tell them that is not part of the deal. Church, we wonder why no one takes us seriously. We no longer have conviction. We've replaced it with the lust for power and political expediency. This too will fail and fall.
Issue #3: Grieving Christian Men
As much as it pains me to say this, non-Christian men have treated me better than Christian men many times. My Christian late husband did not treat me well for most of our marriage at all. I often wonder how he justified his abuse to himself in the light of the character of Jesus. Men in the Church these days (particularly the conservative Christian Church) are too worried about being "in charge" at home and fighting perceived “socialism” in the nation right now. They claim “servant leadership” and love is their goal, but their consistent focus on female submission says otherwise. I believe it is just clever word smithing, and poor translation. My eyes are open wide. Did Jesus ever say these things? Did Jesus ever do these things? Did he tell them to do this? I state with absolute certainly the answer is no. I have shed tears about this phenomenon. It is just so sad to me! These men don't have themselves figured out, but they want to be the "leaders" in the home. Many of them are afraid I believe, and insecure in places they don't want anybody to see, especially a wife or partner. This issue has broken my heart so much I am tempted to not pursue dating a Christian man – I simply don't want a repeat of the same old, sad ideas. You can't lead when you refuse to follow the true example of Jesus. How do you know what you are doing if you aren't like the most humble, loving, and servant-minded man that ever walked the Earth and still walks in the Heavens? He didn't walk around saying, "I'm in charge! I have to be the boss and you have to submit to me." Church guys, you might not be saying that verbatim but your actions and words say otherwise. It's not really your fault, it's been programmed a long time, for many generations. The question becomes this - when will you choose new programming? Don't you think the time has come? Women and children need you to desperately consider your attitudes in this area. Your non-Christian counterparts are treating their partners and kids much better by far. They don't treat their wives like children. They aren't intimidated by women who are strong or who have leadership ability. They don't feel the need to dampen that in their wives so they can “lead”. They aren't afraid of being led. I have to ask, why are you so insecure and afraid? Why are you afraid of being led by another image bearer? Women don't want to be “in charge”, we want to be allowed to be who God has made us to be and called us to be – even if that means we lead at times. If we are joint heirs, can't we co-lead? Aren't we also called to submit one to another (Ephesians 5:21)? Why has this become so one-sided? Why are we stuck in this area Church? Think on these things.
Issue 4#: Attitudes about Sex and Family that Either Promise “Everything will be good” guarantees or Set Up Abusive Homes
This particular critique is hard to stomach and equally hard to write. We have pastors who seem to think good sex is because they waited for marriage. This is almost comical if it weren't so sad. Waiting or not waiting on marriage is noguarantee of good sex or even a good marriage. Only honest, mutual communication, mutual love, and mutual respect are the only things that guarantee a good sex life and a good marriage. We are not the sum total of our sexual experiences or our lack thereof anyway whether we are married or not. God does not see us this way. I refuse to be put into anymore of the cultural Christian boxes they so easily build to categorize health sexual relationships. What is it that we don't see in all of their bragging? What is it that they aren't telling us? I have found few know how to engage the sexually broken or the abuse victim so their opinions of what they think works or their guarantees don't really hold much meaning. These same pastors will sadly tell you that the man “must lead the house.”. This week, I heard that a man must lead the house regardless of whether he is well versed in the Word or not! I mean, wow! Let's let someone lead who doesn't know what the Word says why don't we? How in the heck will he treat his wife and family well and reflect the character of Jesus if he doesn't know the Word? Heaven forbid his wife know more about the Word and lead him to be better! Church, this is getting ridiculous, and some of you sound silly now!
I have seen pastors set woman up for abuse without another thought and some will even tell women to stay in abusive situations! I have been fortunate enough to have never been told to do that by a pastor, but I know others who aren't so fortunate. These pastors value the institution of marriage above the person. A lopsided and one-sided view point of submission sets many women up for abuse from spouses who do not have their best interest at heart. The evangelical church as a whole has built a grad altar to marriage. They have sacrificed many people on that altar in order to save face. A warning to those who do such things and slander the true gospel! Ravenous wolves are among us. The King will deal with them according to their hearts. I won't repeat what I covered in Issue 3 as it speaks for itself and stands alone. I ask and beg the Church to give up cultural conservatism and embrace the gospel of Jesus and the true heart of the King toward women!
Issue #5: The Incessant “Culture War” (James 4:12)
The Church's incessant, unhelpful, and unloving critique of the culture much less its own is tiring and honestly ludicrous. It's self-righteous nonsense at its root. Many in the church would rather fight a “cultural war” than love their neighbors. I think a re-reading of Romans 13, and James 4:12 are in order. The Church is adding to the problem as it is now, not helping. The Church has been so ugly and tone deaf about many cultural issues that no one wants to hear anything Christians have to say and do you blame them? I don't. I say this as a Christian! We have not only not loved our neighbors Church, we have shown them a God who supposedly does not love them either based on our actions and words. We would rather shout people down instead of have intelligent conversations, yet we complain when the “other side” does that to us. We would let wolves into our ranks who care nothing for people and allow them to influence our hearts and minds to do the devil's handy work. We have been deceived! Yes there is good and evil in this world, The people in our commnities are not evil and it's high time we stopped treating them that way. Our gay, lesbian, queer, transgender, and bisexual neighbors deserve the love of God! Our single mothers and unwed mothers deserve the love of God! Our homeless and the drug addicts and alcoholics deserve the love of God! Those who are abused and broken deserve the love of God! Our whole communities no matter what the issues are deserve the love of God! Who are we to judge them? We are to love our neighbors and let God do the rest! It's time to run the wolves out of the house! Return to the love of God!
Issue #6: Confusion in the Church
I will have to say this makes me very angry. God is not the author of confusion yet we have a lot of it in the Church right now. What better way for the wolves to operate than to bring confusion. At this point in 2023, we've got Protestant influencers entertaining far right Catholic ideology, dangerous ideology disguised as "ethics" about birth control, adoption and IVF. These “ethicists” don't actually know what they are talking about, they are just good at word smithing. They seem to want to put women back in a box but no boxes for themselves. This is the essence of hypocrisy, insecurity, and fear. Why are we looking to far right Catholic ideology after the Reformation? Christian influencers, just because someone has an opinion, does not mean you have to entertain them! Do not be fooled by smooth talk and sweet smiles. Many white washed tombs offer an excellent exterior, but are still full of death.
To add to the confusion about our theology I have described throughout this blog, there seems to be no love or any attempt at understanding for the LGBTQ community except in very small Christian circles. And don't get me started on the prolife issue. We would not know prolife if it snuck up and bit us in our butts at this point. How can we only care about the unborn and not care for the living and the quality of their lives? What confusion we are walking in! We have abandoned the true Gospel for political power and expediency! This is, for lack of a better term, spiritual suicide. Are we this insecure in the Church? Do we really just want control over our culture? Are we afraid? Where there is control, there is no love, just fear and confusion! Wake up Church from your death slumber! The wolves are in the building, not just at the door!
How can the Church of the ancient world redeem the present-day American Church?
The Church of Acts was focused on one thing and one thing alone – Jesus and his love for their culture and their world. They were in love with their First Love. The house church, small groups who lived life together, were the focus of the early Church life. Everything started in the house church. They learned together, ate together, studied Scripture together and most importantly; they served their community together. They regularly fed the poor both inside and outside of their house churches. They took in abandoned babies without the need for payment or recognition. They took care of widows and orphans both inside and outside their communities. They supported and helped each other in their times of crisis and joy. They shared everything and no one lacked. They did not concern themselves with large church buildings, wealthy donors, and being the “coolest kids in town.” Their leaders did not run around in designer outfits with private security details looking important and untouchable.They did not fawn at the feet of noted politicians seeking to increase their power and prestige. In fact, Paul encouraged them to live quiet lives so that their love may be evident (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12), and he encouraged them to obey their civil authorities even if they didn't like them or agree with them (Romans 13:1-7).
Some of you may read this and say, “well the early Church seems more pro-life and maybe even socialist or left of the political center by today's standards.” I'll not argue for or against that today, but I can tell you they knew who they were and what they were about in their communities. They were well respected and even endured persecution with joy that we could not wrap our minds around.
How does the American Church return to her First Love? She will first have to abandon many things. She must abandon her desire for power and wealth. Her shepherds must abandon their love of self. She must abandon her desire for being “trendy” and “cool”, the trenches aren't trendy and cool. The hurting and broken aren't trendy and cool. She must abandon her desire for comfort. The hurting and broken aren't in comfortable places. She must abandon this idea that she has the right to be free of persecution. She must abandon theology that pits men and women against one another and encourages and upholds the values of white supremacy – both demonic doctrines. And most importantly as I said at the beginning of this blog piece, she must return to her First Love, Jesus. In him, and only him is everything she needs for life, sustainment, and real community impact. In him, is her only hope. Return to your First Love Church! He is calling you, will you choose to hear him? Will you return to the King?
I love you,