#013 Blog: Excerpt 05 Static Beliefs are stuck like a goiter on the neck of the bride of Christ—the Church
In another category, there are millions, perhaps tens of millions, who fall within the classification of former Christian. These are people who currently no longer attend a church of any kind. There are any number of reasons for this but I would venture to say that the majority of people in that boat would proclaim feeling as though they no longer have leverage with God by virtue of them not attending church. They feel, in a way, illegitimate in God’s eyes. They carry this burden of incongruity because once they left church they felt they had no more common ground with their friends who were still attending, who were still in God’s graces. The most commonly held perspective is that the one who left the church is at fault; they have fallen from grace in that they have turned their back on God. Even though this is a commonly held position doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a valid position, but that matters little when ties have been severed. The tendency in this very common scenario is it’s extremely seldom that anyone from the church will reach out to the person in an official capacity, or otherwise, in order to ascertain reasons why they left.
So the problem persists; churches, particularly small congregations, continue to hemorrhage members. The traditional Christian narrative (which promotes personal salvation) will doubtlessly ascribe a scriptural reference or two to the situation then feel justified in stacking the full weight of culpability on the shoulders of the dissenter. It is up to that person to “get themselves right with God” and until that happens, nothing else can be done! The truth of the matter is that the culpability lies more with the church, not necessarily the congregation, itself, but the church as a whole. Perhaps Christianity in general is somehow flawed and is the bigger problem. And when you get into a discussion of such an immense size and scope, it becomes more and more difficult to blame any one person.
Affixing blame isn’t what we’re after anyway. Perhaps, the actual reasons they are no longer going to church has more to do with the church’s belief imperatives which are irrevocably attached to that church—than they have to do with Jesus Himself! These belief imperatives are standard fare, and come with any particular denomination. The pastor has very little wiggle room and is quite restricted as to what is and isn’t allowed in this area. But many times these belief imperatives are stuck like a goiter on the neck of the otherwise beautiful bride of Christ—the church! This dilemma isn’t just attached to the ones no longer attending the church (in the ever-growing numbers of them), it’s also the church’s dilemma. And with Donald Trump in the White House the potential for many, many more church-going folks walking away from their religion becomes extremely high indeed!
The ones who remain with the church, who don’t or refuse to walk away, will most likely find themselves in one of two camps: one which is pro-Trump (in varying degrees) and the other camp is against Trump (but keeps that reality to themselves). Which brings us to a second, subordinate question to the main question on the table and it will serve as the very catalyst for the workshop. This question requires research, debate and discussion by the participants of the group: “Based upon what we’ve read in the New Testament (in the four gospels), was/is Jesus a conservative or a liberal, according to today’s definitions of those terms?!” If we can’t get to a sufficient level of honesty to ask this basic question (as uncomfortable as it may seem) we will never be able to get the bat off our shoulder, let alone get ourselves to first base in accomplishing our goal.
But in the event we CAN man up (or woman up) and put our cards on the table, talk about real issues, go back and reinvestigate the gospels that talk about the life and times of Jesus Christ, then we WILL be able to get somewhere and it will be a place we’ve never been before. One of the exercises the participants will engage in is an activity designed to equalize the playing field within the workshop dynamic. This is important in that the goal is to knock down, or at least set aside for the time of the workshop, the concept of rank and echelon. In the world of religious norms ministers, priests, upper crust parishioners and other leaders in the congregation tend to pull rank either intentionally or unintentionally within the workshop. In order for the goals of the workshop to be met this sense of “hierarchy” must be overcome so that ALL participants feel comfortable enough to speak their honest opinions and to express any insights that come to them (in real time) during the sessions which are meant to enlighten the whole group. This same principle applies for shy and retiring persons within the group; the goal is to create an atmosphere of team spirit, peace and good will. To help participants reach this level of fellowship, laughter and lighthearted fun are employed and encouraged. If this lighthearted, fun atmosphere can be attained, in many ways the workshop will have already been a success. Once people are feeling good about themselves and about others in the group and they feel that the people in the group are their friends, the difficult task of tackling the hard questions becomes a cakewalk. It is in this mode—wherein potential animosity is turned into comradery—that the Holy Ghost will be able to impart some really powerful truths to the whole group!