The title caught my eye, naturally. "Tussling Over Jesus." So I clicked it. And it was worth the read. I commend it to you - click here.
In his case study, Nicholas Kristoff identifies "two rival religious approaches," and indicates they are applicable not just to the particular case upon which he focuses, but apparent in "any spiritual tradition."
He writes, "One approach focuses upon dogma, sanctity, rules and the punishment of sinners. The other exalts compassion for the needy and mercy for sinners — and, perhaps, above all, inclusiveness."
More eloquently than many other observations, this statement identifies the disconnect that so many people sense when it comes to the church. Too many church experts identify this disconnect as "irrelevance," and then suggest remedies to irrelevance that are comprised mainly of stylistic changes.
This is not a question of style; this is a question of Jesus.
The crux of the church's identity crisis in the 21st century is Christological, not Ecclesial. People are not so shallow as to leave churches because they prefer guitar to organ (or vice versa). To suggest as much is an insult. People leave churches because they do not see Jesus there. They do not encounter God. They do not sense the power of the Holy Spirit. They are unable to become the disciples they long to become as a part of this or that particular congregation, and they want to be a part of a congregation where they can. Or in some cases, a part of no congregation at all.
And it's not that God is absent from these congregations, it's that these congregations seem to be striving to counter the presence of God by doing all in their power to emphasize "dogma, sanctity, rules and the punishment of sinners" rather than serving Jesus. For many, church has become the focus instead of God, and when that happens people leave.
For the contemporary church, it's a question of Jesus.
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2 months ago