Sadly, this is one of the most insightful ledes I’ve ever read in a story:
LOS ANGELES (AP) — It looked like a typical Sunday morning at any mega-church. Several hundred people, including families with small children, packed in for more than an hour of rousing music, an inspirational talk and some quiet reflection. The only thing missing was God.
What would be the point of that, you might ask.
Jones got the first inkling for the idea while leaving a Christmas carol concert six years ago.
“There was so much about it that I loved, but it’s a shame because at the heart of it, it’s something I don’t believe in,” Jones said. “If you think about church, there’s very little that’s bad. It’s singing awesome songs, hearing interesting talks, thinking about improving yourself and helping other people — and doing that in a community with wonderful relationships. What part of that is not to like?” (emphasis added)
OK, so like many people dissatisfied with something, these folks have set out to retain what they like, while removing the offensive features. That’s fine if you’re improving a product.
It’s ludicrous if you are searching for Truth.
This really culminates a long trend by which nominally ‘christian’ congregations have frequently become little more than social clubs, meeting the need of ‘community’ without getting into all that icky stuff about sin and repentance and salvation. What might be the “bad” parts about church these people think they’re eliminating? If it’s the standard charges of hypocrisy, infighting, and what not, I’ve got news for them: that comes with any organization of human beings, regardless how well-intentioned they might be individually. This would be easier to recognize if they were trying to build a fellowship based on observable truths, rather than utopian aspirations. Instead, they are deliberately (provocatively, even) building a community that explicitly denies these foundations:
For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23)
At the bottom of it, for most committed unbelievers the ‘bad’ part about church is accountability to something larger than themselves–larger, even, than any human-derived organization. We desire the paradise of Eden, but not the obligation to listen to Eden’s creator about how it was supposed to function.
When I was a young boy spending a couple weeks with my grandfather, he gave me my first chance to fire a shotgun. Naturally excited by this new privilege, I couldn’t wait to try it, and was sure I knew what I was doing… I watched TV, after all. Granddaddy tried to give me a quick tutorial on how to hold the stock against my shoulder, but I was ready to go and not ready to listen.
I still remember how he quickly backed off. “Awright…” You know where this is going, don’t you? Picking my bruised self up off the floor of the clay pit, I wanted nothing to do with that gadget for some time. I hadn’t respected the instructions–or their giver–and I paid the price for it.*
I’ve come to a realization that all of humanity’s tragic history represents God doing the same thing: saying “awright…” to mankind’s determination to do things our own way. He hopes for us to come to our bruised senses, so He can show us the error of our ways and offer us a second chance through His son–who took the worst of the beating for us!
Humanity was wired to desire fellowship–with each other, and with our Creator. Like an old TV set, we have a “vertical hold” and a “horizontal hold” that have to be tuned in appropriately. For any group of human beings missing that ‘vertical hold,’ the frequent tragic outcome is control by a strong human leader–a cult, in other words. The Enemy’s biggest desire is to provide humanity any rally point that does not include God.
We are seeing more open rebellion and hostility toward God than perhaps at any time in the Church Age. If there was any doubt how humanity could be so mislead as to finally unite, but only in hostility toward God, it should be diminishing by the day.
May the Spirit open our eyes and keep them open.
* I recently had the joy of watching the older two Musketeers fire the very same shotgun, which I finally earned from Granddaddy and will one day bequeath to one of them. If there is any consolation in that story, it’s that by having heard it from me, they were more than a little inclined to listen to me as I showed them the ropes. As a result, their first experience was no less memorable, but considerably more pleasant!