TOUGH QUESTIONS ABOUT CHURCH

When he stopped me in the store he said he needed to talk. In his words, he needed help, “Big time.” He had been struggling with alcohol. He couldn’t pay his bills. He was about to lose his job, get kicked out of his house, and to top it all off, his wife was threatening to leave him.

I listened to him talk about needing God to help him and getting his life straightened out. It was when I asked him, “Have you ever thought about going to a church to look for more help,” that his words cut me deep. He said, “A church? Why would I ever want to go to a church? They’d only make me feel worse.”

Here was a man wanting to run towards God for help but run away from God’s church. He saw God as a life-preserver who could help him, but he saw God’s church as causing more problems in his life. Have we, as a church, moved so far away from mercy and grace that people don’t see the church as a place to find help or God? Wasn’t it the “down and out” that flocked to Jesus during his time, but now people run from his followers when they’re in need of help. What have we lost?

It’s been said, “Churches ought to be competing to “out-grace” their rivals, and grace should be Christianity’s best gift to the world.” Amen to that. Here are a few questions I’m trying to figure out…

  1. Have we presented ourselves to the world as Pharisees who are so perfect that we’re not in need of God’s grace too?
  2. Why does the world see a shortage of grace, mercy and forgiveness in the church?
  3. Why does the world see church as a place to go after you have cleaned up your act?

We represent God (or should), so why doesn’t the world see this? Just a few things I’m thinking about today.

Any thoughts you’d like to add?

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Article by Trey Morgan

I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast. Read 1182 articles by
21 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Mommysmart says:

    It’s like you reached into my brain and pulled out one of my most frustrating questions about church. We need to be asking your three questions a lot more. I can’t wait to read the comments on this subject. GREAT POST!!!

  2. DJG says:

    I think those of us who are no longer content to think of ourselves as “us” and the unchurched “them” struggle with this concept….however when I look around in my own church I see that there are still many of those who are very happy with the country club exclusivity of church…and they do expect people to conform to join…maybe not consciencely, but it is an impression that is being conveyed to a hurting world.

    It hurts my heart.

  3. Greg says:

    Once “the church” became a religion, we lost all focus and what the world sees as a place that would “only make them feel worse” is religion. I spent most of my last decade in ministry trying to move us from religion back to relationship. It’s a slow, uphill move. Religion is far more comfortable than being the body of Christ.

  4. roadtripray says:

    Someone from our church approached me a week or two ago and said they needed to talk about something. There is a new family who recently started attending, and this person was upset because the children from this family were a little rowdy, and the parents were whispering to each other during one of the services one Sunday.

    This person admitted she felt guilty for feeling this way, but she said it just ticked her off that the newbies didn’t respect our worship service and our facilities more than they did. I explained that people from different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences may have different ideas of what it means to be respectful in church. I added that there are some people who don’t even have an idea HOW to go to church, because they haven’t been (or maybe haven’t been often enough). I told this person in a loving way that this is a situation where we need to exhibit grace, just as Christ would. Because if we want to truly honor the Great Commission and go into our community and introduce people to Christ, rather than simply swapping members with other churches and/or other denominations, we’re going to encounter lots of people who don’t know how to “do” church. And I sincerely prayed that we experience just that.

    This person thanked me for our conversation and said that it helped her to think of it that way — with a spirit of thanksgiving that these people are in our midst. One down, 74 to go.

  5. dawnjenkins.blogspot.com says:

    This is exactly the issue I have been struggling with in our church in Levelland. The differences between our church home and the “body of Christ” I am surrounded by when we attend the Emmaus Community services in Seminole are astounding. The Emmaus community isn’t about legalism, denomination, or social standing in the community. The focus is on the power of the Word, God’s grace upon grace upon grace, and being His hands and feet. I am in constant prayer for the revival of our church body…for us to BE the church!!! Enjoyed your post!

  6. TREY MORGAN says:

    I think we’re on the right track here…

    I often wonder if one of the problems we (the church) have in relating to “sinners” is we worry to much about what the religious will think if we start hanging out with the sinners. Is it not the sinners we need to befriend?

    It amazes me that Jesus often the religious people & hung out with sinners. The only people who Jesus looked down on were the “religious” people who looked down on others. Jesus didn’t give a rip what the religious people thought of him. Jesus called them snakes, vipers and white washed tombs (Matthew 23:25-36). Instead, Jesus hung out with sinners. The people Jesus reached out to were the “sinners”, the prostitutes, the fishermen, the adulterer, the divorcee and the tax collectors (Luke 19:10, Matthew 9:12). Jesus hung out with the wrong type of people. He hung out with them so much that he was even accused of being a drunkard and a glutton.

  7. Tim Archer says:

    One expression of our misplaced priorities is when someone says, “Oh Bob would be such an asset to this church.” Somehow we think we are supposed to be finding the people that the church needs rather than those that need the church.

    The Pharisees in Jesus’ day seemed to say, “Get worthy and come to God.” Jesus said, “Come to God and be made worthy.”

    Now comes true confession time: I want the drug addicts, prostitutes, gang bangers, etc. to come to church. I just don’t want them sitting next to my kids!

    —Tim

  8. Confessing Lunatic says:

    Tim makes a good point. Too often we are looking for people to fill our pews who are like us – in all facets of demographics – social standing, race, background, etc. AND can provide some benefit to the body. But rarely do we seek out those who are different from us.

    I can just hear the conversation, “Those people need to be reached but surely God has someone else in mind to do it.”

    Ouch. Was someone talking to me?

  9. Louie Mercer, Frank Mercer and Mike Ellis: The Church for Men Dudes says:

    I think it is something that we look at our brothers and sisters whether it be across sitting across from each other and judging them for what they have during the week or for not being in class or for not being there on Wed. night. We sit and spend the entire service judging others, making ourselves more righteous, more holy than the other people to whom we judge.

    From the blog PreacherMan

  10. TREY MORGAN says:

    Toes, we’re killing some toes here. Hopefully it’s touching our hearts too.

    I know that people with different looks, different opinions and different backgrounds often make us uncomfortable. And we MUST begin to understand that God loves the people we consider “different” and “sinners” just as much as He loves us? Should it surprise us that God loves the “sinner”, the pierced, the tattooed, the black, the white, the unemployed, the prisoner, the homeless, the family on welfare, the three-time divorcee and the foreign.

    As the church we need to be as interested in reaching and loving the people who are different from us as we are in reaching the middle class white family that’s just moved to town. Where would Jesus be spending his time if he were here today?

    And I think we must understand, it’s not our job is not to try to make people look like us. Our job is to share the Good News with them and let Jesus fix them on the inside.

    The church is simply in the people business, and when the church becomes just a business and quits being about people and reaching out to people and helping people, that’s when the church ceases to be a church.

  11. Matt says:

    3 – First it is impossible to really clean up your act without Christ because you may fix the symptoms but not the core problem.

    The reason people feel they have to “get it together” first is because they know how some churches have treated people who have not “had it together” in the past. People are afraid to be vulnerable because they don’t want to open up and be honest because they think they will get blasted by those “holier than thou” Christians (who they see as just as sinful as themselves and therefore hypocrites for smashing them for the same sins).

    The solution? Stop doing #1 and start doing more of #2.

  12. Odgie says:

    1. Yes, at least until this or that leader gets caught up in another scandal; then it’s all about God’s grace. I think that our biggest mistake is making grace look cheap.

    2. See above.

    3. Because people are afraid of being rejected.

  13. Matthew says:

    Great post Trey, grace is what we want when we need it, and grace is what we will not give when others need it.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Trey,
    Tony Campolo said ” Jesus never says to the poor, come find the church, but he says to those of us in the church, go into the world and find the poor,hungry, homeless, imprisoned”. This church takes us out of our comfort zone, but God has a way of comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable.

    Claiborne writes the gospel is good news for sick people and is disturbing for those who think they’ve got it all together. Some of us have been told our whole lives we are wretched, but the gospel reminds us that we are beautiful. That is the way Jesus sees us.

    I think we all long to be the generation that stops complaining about the church it sees and becomes the church it dreams of.

    Great thoughts Bro,

    Mr. Mythical

  15. Anonymous says:

    Funny thing how we never want to see what and how Jesus lived. If it doesn’t conform to how we think preachers, elders, deacons, servants, christians……(the church!) is supposed to be living or as we see it today “operating”. It could be said we have programmed ourselves out of business. In a recent article in the Christian Chronicle one survey revealed the #1 reason people searched for God was because of the church(AMEN!), unfortunately it was also the #1 reason people didn’t search for God. We must be about our Fathers business and His business is the business of loving others more than ourselves. Keep on keeping on church, to His glory!
    E.E.S.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Trey,
    This is an amazing post and comes at a much needed time. Thank you for posting.
    I was reading through all the comments and so many people have so many great things to say about this topic. There are many valid points that were brought up, but one statement really stuck out to me.
    I apologize because I don’t know you Tim, but your confession about how you want these people to come to your church and hear the word of God so it can impact them but you don’t want them to sit next to your children real struck a tender chord with me.
    The reason this blog is so important is that I myself am struggling with staying back in the church. I am so far from being perfect that I often times feel I am not worthy to go and sit in the presence of God with my fellow Christians because I am afraid of what they will think and say about me.
    I am not a parent yet, and I pray my kids won’t make the same mistakes I did. But more importantly than that, I am a someone’s child. I am a child of my dad and my mom, two of the greatest people I know. And they love me regardless of what I’ve done. But more importantly, I am a child of GOD. He lent me to my parents in this earth. He let me be “adopted” by them, you could say.
    So my biggest question is, if your child were to have mistakes in their lives that would cause them to question if God could ever love them as they are, how would you feel if someone in a church didn’t want their children sitting next to your child? How can we as Christians ever portray God’s love and grace if we can never give it to the people most needing it?
    I apologize if I have insulted or crossed the line. These are just my feelings and struggles. Thanks Trey for opening this “can of worms”. And thanks for being you.

    M of the S

  17. JoAnn says:

    The bottom line for me is can I live up to the love commandment? Can I actually DO the work of loving people, ALL people, ANY people as Christ loves the church? We, in our fallen sinful selves, place both conscious and unconscious conditions on the people God brings to us. In our head we want people to come, be saved, come in your flipflops and shorts, come in your drunkeness, bring your sexual addictions, show us who you are and let us love you into the Love of Christ and HIS Church. Thats what our heads and mouths say, and then our hearts say, Please don’t come to church, you’re an addict, you have only flipflops and shorts, you smell from the drunkeness, you might sit by my kids, you might stumble into my mother. Folks, we’re double minded. I’ve left 3 churches because the elders and leadership couldn’t love me and my ex husband like Christ LOVES the church. Was I angry, yes, at the time, because the very place I should be able to come to for gentleness, love and grace is the very place that condemned me. So I’ve worked really hard in accepting where a person is, in his addiction, in his drunkenness, in his sin, and to love him inspite of those things, and yet, teaching him there is a better way. The most painful sin I’ve committed is the sin of judgement. God’s love and patience has, I think, moved me out of that. We in the church become so pompus and arrogant that we loose the very ones God wants us to help. I used to be one of those condemning people. I’ve been humbled by God to change my judgemental attitude. So these days I look for the guy in flipflops, I yearn for the drunk and addict to walk in the door of the church, I grab my kids and we ask permission to sit with the very people God is calling us to love into HIS church. The challenge is do we walk the walk, or do we keep God’s commandment to love all men as our HEAD religion or do we move it into HEART faith?
    Trey, another outstanding topic!
    Jo Ann

  18. Sparrow says:

    I think it is important to realize that being the church is it’s own mission. We reach people by our lives. If we try to “fix” people, instead of trying to understand them, that is when we run into problems. I heard a song once called “Fin” sung by Anberlin. These few lines from the song are very “stinging” but it really touches on what you are saying. Here they are:

    “What if you gained the whole world?
    You’ve already lost four little souls from your life.
    Widows and orphans aren’t hard to find.
    They’re home missing daddy who’s saving the abandoned tonight.

    You made his faith disappear.
    More like a magician and less like a man of the cloth.
    We’re not questioning God.
    Just those he chose to carry on His cross.”

    Maybe this isn’t exactly what you are talking about, but those are my thoughts.

    -Brittany

  19. preacherman says:

    I think the Church has had in the past a judgemental condemning attitude.
    I have more of this on my blog.

    I believe we need to be more “grace oriented”. The church need to be a place where people find God. It need to be a place where people feel love, accepted, welcomed. Instead of condemned.

    We neeed to make church a place where people find forgivness, healing, help, support, encouragement, love, acceptance, instead of condemnation, hell, fire, and brimestome sermons. Our services need to be “grace oriented”. Upbeat. Positive. Encouraging. Edifying. More sermons on God’s grace, love, kindness, goodness, and Christian living. People want sermon that apply to everyday life instead of hearing about repentance, baptism, hell, God’s judgement, every week.
    I think Churches of Christ should stay out of other Churches of Christ businesses. We are autonomous from each other. When a church leadership makes a choice for a church whether your church likes it or not. It isn’t your business to interfer with their business; because the are autonomous. (One example would be let Richland Hills do what they want to do and leave them alone). (Richland Hills is Sperate and apart from lets say Childress or Rocksprings, etc.). I believe Churches of Christ need to be more benevolent without asking questions. It would change the way people look at us. But, again, the major thing is less, judgementalism. I would love it if you any of you would join in on my blog for discussion.
    Great post Trey.
    Your post always make me think and challenge my faith.
    I appreciate that about your blog.

  20. Robert Lukenbill says:

    Man this was a great blog. I am actually writing a sermon called “Except your rightousness exceed that of the church of Christ…”. the sermon is not meant to demain the church that our Lord shed his blood for, but rather to help us reflect on why we come to church. Are we being too much like the Pharisees in the first century? YES!!! I am not talking about the buildings and all that stuff. Rather, we are like them in our attitude. We try to expand the borders of our garments…we don’t seek to find those who we can help financially…we dont want the poor in church with us because they might actually make us feel like we are too proud to help someone else. Here is another thought from the book of James…pure religion is helping those in need (orphans and widows). James didn’t say pure religion was going to church three times a week and paying a preacher to do evangelism and benevolence so you don’t have to do it. Pure religion is taking care of God’s creatures that NEED our help. Not those who don’t need our help. What good is it for you to love someone who loves you back…isn’t it better to love that guy who smells like alcohol, beats his dog and yells profanity at you? Develop a relationship with him and teach him the gospel and you will learn what pure religion is all about.

  21. TREY MORGAN says:

    Robert – Love the sermon topic. Wish I could hear it! :)

About Me

Trey Morgan Here are my thoughts about marriage, family, raising children, humor, faith and the life God intended for us all. I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast.

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