Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I'm willing to bet you've had this conversation, or something like it:
"Hi, I'd like to invite you out to my church..."

"No thank you, I'm not very religious."

"That's ok, neither am I. I'm spiritual."
That was a cute and clever response when I was in campus ministry, but now that I'm older my response leaves me scratching my head. "Spiritual"? What does that even mean? And that is the point of Michael Spencer's fifth chapter of Mere Churchianity. Glynn Young does a good job summarizing the "flavors" of spirituality offered by the Evangelical Church, and Michael correctly points out that Jesus is often absent. Glynn (and many others in the comments) don't like the use of the word because it is too vague and can be applied to everything from Christianity to Wicca. But I think that's the point Michael is trying to make. Spiritual can mean anything. But Jesus-shaped spirituality is specific. I'm hoping he goes into more detail defining what this is, rather than what it is not.

I'm coming to this discussion late and I don't have much to add specific to this chapter than what I wrote above. I could've blown off posting and just left this as a comment over at Glynn's or Nancy's blog. But I couldn't stop thinking about who this discussion relates to as I was reading this chapter.
  • I know of a woman who stopped going to church because she couldn't accept that a man, still reeking of alcohol and obviously hung over, could pass out the little communion cups, but she, being a woman, could not.
  • I know of a woman who suffered all kinds of abuse from her husband. Her church blamed her for the abuse, that she brought it on herself by not being a "good wife". And they explained away his addiction by saying her faith wasn't strong enough and she wasn't praying hard enough.
  • I know a couple of women who left their church because their choices for the men they wanted to marry weren't accepted. And when one of the future husbands left one of these girls, she was then shunned for being a single mom.
  • I know a whole family who left their church because they were blamed for being the problem when their church wasn't growing fast enough.
  • I know someone who looks at his church and sees nothing but a corporation, built and operated like a business. And is constantly searching for a way out.
  • I know someone who stopped going to church, as many do, upon becoming a young adult. And won't return because she is turned off by the political agenda she sees in most churches.
  • I know a family who left their church once they saw for real exactly how much their minister was being paid.
  • I know someone who is bipolar but won't tell anyone at his church that he takes medication because he's been told it's a "spiritual" problem. I also know a young girl who died because she stopped taking her medicine for the same condition.
  • I know countless others who have left, or who are frequently tempted to, because of abuse from leadership, legalism, and just an overall lack of sympathy or concern for their spiritual growth.
I could go on and on. And I'm sure you could add to this list. Like I said, I could have blown off this post, but these people's stories need to be told. They personally need to be heard. And someday, somewhere that values Jesus-shaped spirituality above all the other fluff, they need to be accepted and embraced.


Michael Perkins said...

How about the guy who said that people only act holy on Sunday. I've had that one more than once.

Glynn said...

At the other end of the spectrum, I know a couple who left the church because they didn't know what singing "Na-na-na-na" on the slide projector meant in worship. And the woman who was not allowed to continue her CD lending library ministry to the teens because the staff didn't have time to oversee it. Or the group who met as team to pray for the church who were told they had to disband because they were no longer needed and it gave newcomers the wrong impression. Or the use of a maypole in the worship service.

It strikes me that both ends of the spectrum are variants of legalism -- when man's rules supercede Jesus and the working of the Spirit. And I think this is what Spencer is getting at.

Good post, Fatha Frank.

JC Dude said...

I used to travel in a Christian rock band many years ago...man, did I ever see "spiritual stuff". There is room for acceptance and Godly wisdom to help people see the truth and walk in it. Good thoughts bro', thanks for sharing!

Fatha Frank said...

Jay, I would've liked to have seen that!

I think we're all fighting the same battle. But I wonder, how much responsibility should be on us, Joe six-pack Christians and our failure to recognize that little-c church is made up of people who make mistakes and is different from the big-c Church? I'm not sure we'll ever get to 'Jesus-shaped' churches like Michael describes until Jesus himself comes back.

Tony said...

This kind of stuff breaks my heart. I can only try to love on people who have experienced this. You can't sugar coat it or try to justify it. Or for that matter, try to condemn the people who are in the wrong. They are broken too.

I know I can't change others, but I can start with myself and pray that God can use me to show that His love is bigger than their hurt.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering when this topic would come up for discussion.

I actually think that Michael, as a pastor, was truly concerned for the people that have left chruch, and wanted to reach out to them.

I also think that Michael was wanting to get a message to chruch groups, that they must not lose sight of Jesus as the reason for being.

The thing is, if one really looks at any church from the beginning, we can see that human groups have not been able to keep there eyes on the source.

Yet, i think that God continues to renew His Chruch (capital C).

And that is why we see the changes in the small c chruch over the centuries. There are always people that start new groups, thinking they have the answer to make it right. But, even if they are on the right path at first, many people lose sight of the reason for being.
and on it goes.

renewal happening in hearts, but, not all hearts, we are all growing in the same field until the harvest.

it IS a battle, a spiritual battle. the Word says this.

and i truly believe that God is going to continue to renew His Chruch, big C, no matter what anyone does.

As believers, we must allow ourself to be renewed, so that we do not become blind.

Now how this plays out in each individual life is up to God and that individual.

I do not BELONG to a little c- chruch, even though i may gather with people that do. I choose to go with my eyes open to Jesus, or to not go with my eyes open to Jesus, and pray that i always will have my eyes open to Jesus.

We need to seek out others to encourage in Jesus... and in this we will be encouraged in Jesus.

How this is done, is in the Love of God. That is the ONLY way.

Where this is done, is anywhere that God leads each person to do it.

It can be done anywhere.

Here are some basics that i don't ever want to leave, ever:

God is in charge of His Chruch,

Love God with my heart,

Love others,

and keep my mind on the fact that my Lord, Jesus Christ, is actually with me every second. (in many ways)

thanks for not blowing off posting.
it is good to read your thoughts.


Fatha Frank said...

Tony, welcome and thank you for the follow! I appreciate your approach: love and prayer. So long as we keep our focus on Jesus 'the author and perfector of our faith' then we'll see God work in whatever shape the church is in.

Fatha Frank said...

Nancy, wow what a comment! Thank you so much for your thoughts, you're dead on that Jesus seeking to renew his Church is why we see the different 'movements' today. But I think they have a finite life. Look at the Church in Ephesus- Paul starts it in Acts, writes one of his letters to it, appoints Timothy to lead it, and within a generation Jesus is condemning it via John for 'forsaking their first love' and forgetting what they 'did at first'.

The problem occurs when we forget our first love and worship the church instead of Jesus. I think that's what Michael is getting to here.

Duane Scott said...

I appreciated this post. And I also think that Nancy's comment needs to be a repost. It needs to be heard.

Anonymous said...

i find it hard to define or see what is the Spiritual Body of God. as what we see is the physical world. there was a time that i thought it was a chruch that i was looking for, or a fellowship, when actually what i needed was to be paying attention to Jesus and talking to Jesus.

if i am seeking Jesus, then i can walk into a gathering without expecting the group of people to be anything but broken, just like me.

i had walked away for years, married an unbeliever, divorced, married another unbeliever, and have two children. i am married to someone who i can't talk to about my faith, or relate to.
some people go to chruch every sunday and live with others who believe. i made my choices, and live with them. i depend on Jesus.
and i depend on others in the body that Jesus uses. and i depend on God's mercy and grace to see me through.

i think that no matter what choices we have made, or what troubles we have, that we can look to Jesus, and in Love, and only in Love, we can encourage others to do the same.

Walk in Love that is God.

i am learning from all of the comments on the book, and i am grateful for all those that are taking part.