Posted By: Tim Mannin
some thoughts from our conversations about the Church in our teaching series called She...because the Church is a she.
Do you ever feel misunderstood?
Sure, there are times we all feel misunderstood, misinterpreted, and even misrepresented by others.
If there’s anything in the U.S. that is misunderstood it is the Church.
Today’s postmodern culture is deriving it’s understanding of the church by what they see and hear…their personal experiences. Unfortunately, the loudest voice in the room about the Church in U.S. is portrayed on television. Things like: fallen celebrity pastors, Catholic priests who molest children, politically driven religious agendas, and the craziness from Westboro Baptist are the things that capture the media’s attention.
In addition to the flaws associated with the Church she is also largely known for what she stands against when it comes to policy, social responsibility, and reputation. This has helped create perceptions about the Church. Well over 70% of 18-30 year old’s identify the Church as judgmental, hypocritical, too political, out of touch with reality, and boring. In one study only 16% of people said they felt like Christians consistently showed love to others. What??? Meaning that 84% of people believe that Christians don’t show love consistently!? We want to scoff at such things, but it’s easy to see that the church in today’s culture has a very mixed view (to say the least). The church in today’s culture for many people is largely irrelevant – considered by many as nothing but a nuisance.
SHE IS MISUNDERSTOOD.
AND, I BELIEVE IT’S MOSTLY OUR FAULT.
It’s like this…the Church is a pineapple.
For me the pineapple has no competitors in the world of fruit. Every time I eat a fresh pineapple an explosion of flavor happens. I am surprised—it’s like a partaaay in my mouth. I really do have this unexpected experience that ends with me wondering why I don’t eat more pineapple.
Beyond the taste of the pineapple the fruit carries some interesting traits that are worth mentioning for our conversation. Imagine never tasting a pineapple before and when you initially encounter the fruit you are immediately struck by the shape and texture of the outside of the pineapple. When a pineapple is ripe it grows a hard outer rind that is almost armor like. It is then covered in prickly spikes to fend off birds and other animals. If you were ignorant of what was inside the pineapple it may not seem worth the effort. It’s intriguing, but it sends the message to stay away.
According to the perceptions by today’s generation the pineapple is an accurate depiction of the Church. Generically speaking the Church has formed a hard outer surface. For many she represents and institution that has dug it heels in on issues that condemn and isolate people. Christians have earned the reputation of being ‘holier than thou’ and judgmental – the perception is a hardened group of people that are close-minded.
Not only has the perception of the Church become a hardened group of people, but many believe she has grown sharp edges that that are aimed at fending off anyone that may happen to disagree. The Church has the reputation of being people who are not accepting, not loving, hypocritical, and judgmental.
The message has been sent – STAY AWAY! Thankfully, this is not all that the church has to offer. We must learn to skin the pineapple. We must peel back the negative perceptions that have been formed and let them taste the heart of the church. If people can taste what She was created for – our spiritual fruit – it would transform the way people would experience the Church. Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
What are we letting our culture experience?
Our religious rants? Our separatist attitudes? Our judgmental opinions? Is that what they are tasting…the hardened surface of the pineapple?
Maybe you’d say…”not me…that’s just the stuff they see on TV.”
Fine you aren’t the one ranting…but what are you doing to reframe the misunderstood nature of today’s Church?
The overwhelming truth that we must wrestle with is this -- in our everyday, going to work, living in our neighborhood, life – WE AREN’T TERRIBLY DIFFERENT THAN ANYONE ELSE.
What are we doing to stand out in this world and live the gospel in such a way that people can taste and see the Lord is good?
We must do better.
It's time that we let the world know what we stand for rather than the world only hearing what we stand against.
So we must be better. The problem is many define better differently.
Some think that means better buildings. Better programs. Better outreach. Better sermons. Better organization. Better leadership. Better offerings. Better videos. Better coffee bars.
So...what is better?
I’ll say this…the Church shouldn’t get the leftovers in your life.
Meaning, whatever effort or energy you have to spare isn’t what the church should get.
Obviously as a pastor I would say this right? Sure, it seems like I’d love for the best hours of everyone’s day to be spent on serving at the church. Remember we aren’t talking about OKC Community Church or any other local body…this is about being The Church…and being the Church happens every moment of everyday.
So YES, we are supposed to do Church better.
And yes…the church should be intertwined in the best hours of your day!
Be the most loving person in your neighborhood…start by learning their names.
Be the most loving person at your workplace…start by asking people about their story.
Be the most loving person at your school…start by finding ways to serve people.
Be the most loving person in your family...start by saying unusually kind words.
Be the most loving person at your bank, kids school, supermarket, and doctor’s office.
What if the world knew us by our love (John 13:34-35) instead of by our flaws, boycotts, political preferences, and lame t-shirts?
She is misunderstood.
May we change the way our world experiences the Church by living the gospel in such a way that they may taste and see how good He is.