5 Things the Church Wishes the Culture Understood


So… this post has been a long time in the making. For the past decade, every time I read a post by some avant-garde religious/church-planting/emergent/post-modern blogger, I think, “Hmmmmm. I should respond to that.” Then kids need diaper changes, sermons need to be written, and shut-ins need to be visited. Right now, however, I have some time to write a response. I have, once again, stumbled across a blog post that takes its aim at the church. If you care to take a glance at what has precipitated this post, take a gander at the article here.

Time and time again, I have read blog posts about how the church is doing church wrong. The church is a victim of its ambivalence toward its own perpetual exclusivity of the present generation who has needs that are not being met. And each time I read the same list of an interchangeable 5-7 attributes (unloving, culturally irrelevant, superficial worship, and unintelligible jargon are ones that top the list most often), I realize that the ire and frustration comes from a misunderstanding of what church is. So here in this post, I am breaking the silence on behalf of the church… The Church… The historical Christian Church. I am tired of being misrepresented. I am tired of being judged (sound familiar?). I am tired of disenfranchised people making more people disenfranchised with an improper understanding of church.

So… Without further ado…

 5 Things The Church Wishes  the Culture Understood

1. We want you here. No. Really. We do. However, the reason might surprise you. It is not to boost the average age of the worshiping community to give us more “street cred”. It is not so that we can have your money. It is not so that we can legitimize our existence. As a matter of fact, the reason that we want you here has nothing to do with us. It has everything to do with you. We firmly believe that God distributes HIs good gifts of grace and forgiveness in the worship service. We learn together. We grow together. Christ is present for us, and we want you to have those good gifts of God. We want to pray with you. We want to praise God with you. We want to be at the font and the altar with you. We want to hear from the pulpit with you. And we want all of this for your good. We’re already getting the goods. We want you to have them also.

2. We are not better than you. However, we have the same struggles as you do. Namely, we struggle with sin. We have the same inclinations toward pride, jealousy, selfish ambition, and self-aggrandizement that you do. We like things a certain way. We like our carpets certain colors. We like people to dress certain ways because those ways make us feel comfortable. We can be hypocritical, judgmental, and prejudiced without cause. We are all of these things because we are sinners. No, dear culture, we are not better than you. But that is why we are here every Sunday. We do not seek to be confirmed in those things that divide us. We seek to be forgiven for the times when we do not act like Christ. And we are. We are forgiven and renewed by Christ, and that makes all the difference. You do not want us to judge you by your checkered-past of sins? Why would you judge us by ours?

3. The church is for sinners of whom we are the worst. Much like #2, but nuanced. The church is the place where God has ordained the forgiveness of sins to take place. The church exists to proclaim the Gospel. It exists to proclaim that you are a sinner, but you are a forgiven sinner when repentant. Why would you exclude yourself from that because you are surrounded by other sinners? Are you differentiating sins and making one sin worse than another? Judging, by chance? Hmmm. Interesting. Please forgive the snark, but this is the point that is made time and time again by the historical Christian church. We are sinners AND we are saints! Forgiven only by the blood of Christ. The blood of Christ is for us. The blood of Christ is for you. So we beg you, come. For your sake, not ours.

4. The church is bigger than you. This is the part that you might not like to hear, but it is the truth. The church is not about you, your preferences, or your tastes. The church is about Jesus. It is about the Son of God who came down to earth in humility as part of His creation. It is about this same God-man who dies willing on the cross bearing the sins of the whole world… bearing your sins. It is about Jesus who left your sins in the tomb, dead on Easter, and rose victorious to reign for you. It is about the victorious Christ who will come again… who will create a new heaven and a new earth… who will restore these lowly bodies to be like His glorious body by the power that allows Him to subdue all things to Himself. This is the church in which uncounted saints have had their uncounted sins forgiven. Uncounted souls have been saved through the waters of Holy Baptism, taught through countless hours of instruction, bowed and numerous altars and received the infinite body and blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and strength for their lives in Him. This church is the voice of ages of martyrs who have not recounted the faith that we make to appear so malleable. This church has a language, an order, a life that is bigger than you. It is a life that includes 90-year-old Uncle Bud and 9-day-old Stryker. It is a life that is big enough to include you also. So if you want to be part of this church, show some initiative. Learn the language. Learn the story of the church that spans all time and space in the promises and words of Jesus. Which brings us to point number 5.

5. We will always be here…and so will Christ. For you. Thank you for your concern about our demise. However, throughout the entirety of the Scriptures, the Lord has promised that the pure preaching and teaching of His Word will not vanish from the earth. There will always be a remnant who live in and proclaim the forgiveness of Christ. It might not always look the same or be the same size. But it will always exist. So when you realize that the forgiveness of Christ is more than the trifles of interpersonal relationships, we will be here… and so will Christ. When you want to stop poking holes in the very institution (yeah, I said it… institution) that was created to give you comfort of sins forgiven and the certainty of salvation, we will be here… and so will Christ. He will always be here for you with all you need and more.

Please understand that we do want you, because Christ wants you. My snarkiness and righteous indignation is not really aimed at those who are legitimately searching. They are aimed at those who wish to co-op the church for their own agendas. Their agendas and straw-man portrayals of the church are not what the church is. If you are legitimately searching, I pray you find a biblical, confessional, Lutheran congregation in which to abide. For in this place you find the true and pure preaching and teaching of the Word of God. You also find Christ who gives Himself for you… every time you come. So please, come. Once again, for your sake.

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4 comments

  1. I agree with your point. The focus of our faith is Jesus, and He has followers in many denominational and independent churches, but when we speak of “church” in general terms, we must explore the word more closely. There are indeed faithful churches, but there are also many liberal ones which preach a social, not Biblical Gospel. There are churches which are cultish and centered around figurehead preachers who use religion for monetary gain and power over weak and spiritually superficial people, taking advantage of psychological needs for belonging and identifying with an organization or insular group. There are churches which tell people that salvation is just a matter of a decision, in effect denying the grace of God in calling or prompting us to seek Him as in election. There are legalistic works oriented churches which teach a wrong understanding of the scriptures. In my view, going to the wrong church is worse than not going, and we need to ensure that the church we attend is faithful to God’s word. And those who think they can just avoid “organized church” and live without fellowship with other believers, and mutual worship of Him are wrong. We are commanded to worship with the brethren…..and in doing so…in a faithful church…we will find it very uplifting and God glorifying.

  2. Why don’t Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Pastors demonize Fornicators, Adulterers, and Drunks?

    Or do you not know that the unrighteous[b] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[c] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
    —I Corinthians 6:9-10

    If you are an LCMS Lutheran, how often have you heard an LCMS pastor’s sermon, or read an LCMS pastor’s blog article, on the sin of Divorce (divorce other than for infidelity), the sin of Adultery, the sin of Fornication, or the sin of being a Drunkard?

    Now compare the number of times that you have heard or read an LCMS pastor preach from his pulpit or from his blog on the damning sins of Divorce, Adultery, Fornication, and Drunkenness with the number of times you have heard the same LCMS pastor preach about the sin of Homosexuality from his pulpit and blog. I will bet that the number of sermons condemning Homosexuality will exceed the total of all the other sins combined.

    But, not only is the sin of Homosexuality preached against (attacked) more frequently from the pulpits and blogs of LCMS pastors, but the name calling against the perpetrators of this particular sin far exceeds the name calling against divorcees, adulterers, fornicators, and drunkards. “Sodomites”, “Perverts” “Boy Sodomizers”, “Degenerates” are perfectly acceptable terms for the perpetrators of the sin of Homosexuality, but the cute, little cashier at the corner market who has shacked-up with her boyfriend for the last two years is not referred to as “that Fornicator”, nor is the drunkard standing in front of the LCMS altar, pronouncing the Words of Institution, referred to as a “vile and evil Drunk”. No. The good pastors of the LCMS have decided that just one of the sins in the above Bible verse, and the perpetrators of that one sin in the above Bible verse, deserve their greatest attention, condemnation, and vilification.

    The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod…officially…will tell you that LCMS Lutheran Christians hate Homosexuality but love the people “afflicted” by the sin of Homosexuality. In other words, the official position of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is: “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.”

    But the reality is, that a very significant percentage of pastors in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod hate homosexuals. They really, really hate homosexuals! Homosexuals make their skin crawl and their stomachs squeemish. Yes, you read that previous sentence correctly. A significant percentage of LCMS pastors hate gays and lesbians.

    Don’t believe me? Look at the evidence for yourself.

    I challenge you to go onto the blogs of some of the most popular LCMS pastors’ blogs and do a topic search on “homosexuality”. Read the articles, but more importantly, read the comments below the articles. In the comment section, you will find some of the most vile, vicious, anti-gay hate speech, most often written by the pastor’s gay-bashing, gay-hating, God-fearing conservative Christian readers—such as the infamous “Carl Vehse”, otherwise known (without his white robe and hood) as Richard Strickert of Austin, Texas—all written without any censoring or rebuke from the LCMS pastor/blog owner/moderator…and… sometimes you will even catch one of these Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod “men of God” spewing this vitriolic hate speech himself.

    Don’t take my word for it, friends. Go onto the blogs of the pastors of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and peruse the articles on homosexuality and you can see it for yourself.

    1. Gary,

      I almost deleted your post. However, I figured that I would let it stand. I will let it stand because it shows forth your intent and vindictiveness. You coopted the comment section with a lengthy post that addresses nothing about which the article speaks. You also make vile and ludicrous assertions about myself and my other brothers in the ministry. Do you know why pastor’s write about homosexuality on their blogs? It is the front on which we are at most odds with culture. It is also the place where the culture most attacks us. Don’t believe me? Re-read your comment. It makes sense to rail against attacks by making over-generalized, ultra-polemic attacks. Yep, sure does.

      I pray that those that read your comment see through your vain attempt to prove whatever you spewed forth. I also pray that they see the true intent of my original post.

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