Illusion of inclusion, choose me...

How exactly does that illusive doctrine of "Free Will" play out in your life these days.

For months we have talked, and talked about why people in contemporary modern US culture actually choose to come to church. So many times we come to church in order to be fed and because we want children to have a good spiritual foundation(more feeding). We come to listen to the preacher, maybe sing in the choir, maybe even just to have coffee and donuts with our friends in that new contemporary/casual service or in the hall before Sunday School. We want to learn more, to "understand" the world around us. We attend with the core intention of receiving, maybe even shopping for services, friends, facilities, and yes, the dreaded word: activities.

As I awoke this morning, these thoughts were racing through my mind. Does my church remember that I have free will and should it even matter? The last 10 days have included 4 pretty serious books. The Shack, Life Together, and New Kind of Christian along with 1 John from The Message. I tell you that so you can understand how my brain is spinning around the idea of choosing God or instead choosing "me".

My church screams "choose me" from its big beautiful sanctuary, to its services, to its gym and through its activities. We regularly program and quite honestly "compete" for the attention of the neighborhood through banners and signs. We do all the good things and people do come. We have talented, called ministers who facilitate all of these things. They are part of our "church of choice" model since most of the work gets done by them anyway. They are of course paid, so they must be in charge of all that goes on. That little fact alone creates a control hierarchy typically built on passive aggressive manipulative behaviors. These leaders have to continually create and support activities for their very existence, so that the budgets are met, and the committees feel the church is growing. Somehow, all of this is supposed to somehow be done "in God's will", when in actuality, to even the most naive viewer, it is built on the political, supposed democratic rules of the congregation. By putting a bunch of Christians together, we have perpetuated the idea that God's will be done through them, from Cooperative program giving, to missions projects. Instead, we get a lot of people controlling things and more often than not, simply pretending to like everyone, but not really.

Here is where I go a little crazy. All of the things which make up the "church" as I've laid it out above have very little to do with God. We have built an institution which ends up as a giant Christian country club where people can come on in as long as they are willing to pay the price. They have to believe like us rather than just experience and read the Bible seeking out the Holy Spirit's guidance. They must accept our doctrine and systematic theology, from sacraments to ordinances and all kinds of in between. Members are expected to prioritize their lives according to club's activities as well. If the club has an activity, all are expected to attend because that is where they should want to be. From choir practice to Sunday school, the church has become the local place to consume Christian "services".

The staff members have devolved as shepherds and largely become "cruise and activity" directors who talk about Jesus once in a while. They have good intentions, and they went to seminaries to learn how to run this club according to the rules. This club is no different from any other. Eventually it becomes exclusive by its very design as only those who really fit in are accepted.

The laws of "society" rule and the club must of course have regular outreach programs to find more people willing to pay the price and sacrifice their lives because it is the right thing to do. The club's programs can never conflict with one another, because we can't present any sort of competing choice for our members. It has become the rule of the church to dictate what should occur and when. This is a human construct built on market driven and political models inherent in every aspect of our lives. God gave us a much simpler rule. Love one another.

The modern church is limited because of its modern control construct. It has created a formula for including people which is flawed at its very foundation. The ecclesia which its seeks to create is rooted in community and services rather than in worship and in the "loving of our neighbors". We love them, if and when they come out and play by our rules, following our expectations.

We indeed embrace an illusion of inclusion. Instead of meeting our world where it is and choosing to embrace a vision of God which includes all possibilities, we just go to the club every week. It is after all, safer and easier, and we can be sure that we aren't being led astray by one of those antichrists.

  • Perhaps, just perhaps, our churches should have no walls and should be made up of people loving people, in homes, in places, wherever they are, however they are.
  • Perhaps we should stop planning Christian activities and instead seek to give up control of our lives and our club to God. He is at work in the world around us already.
  • Perhaps, just perhaps we should stop building our churches and start living our lives in the fullness of God.. outside the church where the examples are needed the most.

I'm just sayin.

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