This post joins the discussion being carried on at Bend the Page on Michael Spencer's book, Mere Churchianity. The second chapter, titled the Jesus Disconnect, discusses how the Evangelical church has lost sight of Jesus among all the programs, seeker-sensitive trappings, and relevant topics. Glynn Young offers a perspective of "the worship wars" while Nancy Rosback reflects on how she personally loses sight of Jesus.
I want to approach this from yet another perspective, that of ministering to those thrown under the fast-moving, sold-out, evangelical bus. A quote I especially like from this chapter reads, "Evangelical Christians... believe their ship is listing to one side because it gives them a more interesting look at the iceberg." This is the Jesus-colored glasses I refer to. Michael continues, "Evangelicals believe that people who distance themselves from the church are not disenchanted but 'under conviction of the Holy Spirit.' Christians are convinced that the generally low opinion people have of them... is because people can't deal with the uncomfortable truth about Jesus."
Ministering to addicts, I have learned that not everyone struggles because they aren't committed enough, don't pray enough, or don't have deep enough convictions. Real people face real demons in their past, their character, and their habits that cannot be overcome just by showing up every Sunday with a smile on their face. We too easily forget that Jesus came for the sick, not the well. "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick." (Matthew 9:12)
Sadly, we are quick to abandon the slow-moving for the sake of moving the church "forward" full-steam. Sold-out was our buzzword, but was code for legalism. You didn't have time to deal with your marriage, your addiction, or your purity. If you weren't 100% committed to the "purpose" then you weren't really a disciple of Jesus. This is a battle I continue to fight when our calendar gets filled with evangelistic activities with no room to insert any solid food (Hebrews 5:11-14). As a small-group leader, when I recently questioned the schedule I was challenged to choose between the addiction ministry I help lead and my small group. Well that was a no-brainer (and thank God it didn't have to come to that).
We say we are being Christ-like by "seeking and saving the lost" (Luke 19:10). We justify sacrificing our own health, spiritual and physical, because we "take up our cross daily" (Luke 9:23). And instead of "not putting out the Spirit's fire" (1 Thessalonians 5:19) we instead get burned out. And the bus keeps rolling on while we are left behind.
Now I don't want to be a Debbie Downer. It's not always like this, and it's not everybody who feels this way. But this attitude is contagious. We believe the hype. We are more inspired by a rah-rah pep-rally sermon than the life of Jesus. We are human. And the most important point I've taken from this book so far is that so are my brothers and sisters in Christ. The church is not a machine, but a living, breathing, body of believers. Real people with real struggles.