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I think in some context there is a lack of authenticity, or at least in connection to current reality. Even as a pastor and in ministry for 15 years, I get cynical of the "Hey brother, praise the lord, I'm blessed" talk that people use because it doesn't seem real.

That being the case though, in our church context we DO have what this guy is talking about. We have Celebrate Recovery - which is to help people with their hurts, habits, and hangups. Our lead pastor, AL leads that not just as a facilitator but also as a participant.

There is a lot of criticism of "THE CHURCH" today, and mostly rightfully so. At the same time, I think some criticism that comes across isn't directed at THE church but at A church, and the difference isn't made in people's minds. Just because one church is lame and misses the point doesn't mean that they all do.


As a average Joe, the churches around me seem more like a 'social club', and if you don't belong to the right one, then you aren't important. When my neighbor tries to get us to join his church, I don't feel it is because he wants to share his ministry with us, but because he thinks his church is better then others-he brags about the band and the guys on stilts, and all the "cool special lighting effects". I get a lot of feeling that it is a competition among the churches here to draw the biggest crowd, and sadly it is not faith based. Then you have your old school "holier than thou" types who just look down their nose and scoff when I tell them I don't attend church. Or my favorite response, "you know you're going to hell, don't you?". One guy even told me that he was a "chosen one" so it really didn't matter what he did here on earth, his place in heaven was already waiting for him.

Having said that, I do not believe this is a blanket problem of Christianity itself. It is just the feel of the churches (and people) I get around here. However, I can see how that would cause the average Joe to feel isolated from the church, and develop the attitude that this is the way 'The Church' as a whole operates, even if they do not deserve that opinion.

Thought I would just throw out this average Joe's opinion, for what it is worth.

Ben Dreessen

It's funny... I am a Christian, actively involved in a church that I think is doing a lot of things right, but I've written two poems that echo the average Joe's misgivings about "the church" because I share many of them:

Song of a Missing Person

I don’t want your sickly pine-scented love,
Your clean is so basic it burns my skin.
Your beige linoleum-tile dwellings shine
like the corridors of a mental ward
on Monday morning. Your social club looks
like a suburban school board meeting
and a center for the mentally disabled.

Your god is the god of gingham shirts and comb-overs,
floral dresses with padded shoulders, chubby white elbows,
hackneyed melodies and electronic drum beats,
split-level ranches and brand-new minivans, self-help books,
ice-cream socials, session players, slick production,
domestic contentment, sports jokes, makeup and platitudes.
What more could I contribute so such manifold splendor?

Good Company

The performers up on stage
bare the glassiest smiles among us.
Some are fearful to acknowledge
their hunger for applause,
knowing if they did, their churchclothes
would drop to the floor.

Here’s the part where the music stops
and the a-cappella flourish
gives us all a chill. Just looking
around the sanctuary you’d guess
lobotomies are a condition of membership,
but I never consented. I stepped out of line
and slipped unnoticed through the side door.

If they knew, they’d keep me at a distance.
They’d shun me like an infidel.
Still, I believe, and no subversion
of the human heart can change the truth.

Sadly, I think there is a great deal shiny faced inauthenticity in the church, but it is also inextricably mixed in with countless acts of genuine humility, compassion and faith. I recently visited a church in Kentucky that was astoundingly honest and authentic. The humility and sense of gratitude for God's grace were palpable in every aspect of the service. The pastor looked and sounded slovenly. But the grace and love of God were abundantly clear. I'm sure that church isn't perfect either, but I wished I could bring it back to Illinois with me.


1. "Does the Church (in reality, the people attending the church and its leaders) lack the humility to express its real life and problems to non-attenders?"

It is a struggle for all of us to be transparent in front of others. But if the Church is acting the way it ought, then we will be bearing one anothers' burdens, and not judging each others sin struggles, but rather encouraging one another. Secondly, we need to beware of self righteousness, the very thing that the Pharisees were told off for.

2. Is the Church humble and authentic but communicates itself poorly, confusing its non-members?

No, and then yes. We are not humble like we ought to be. And yes, we confuse the non-members. "Come to Jesus, and He will make your marriage problems better, help you with your addictions, etc." How about come to Jesus and He will heal your biggest problem. The rest will flow from that.

In conclusion, stop being self righteous, live lives of love and grace, preach the gospel clearly, and live like the Church ought.

Coleen Sharp
Brighton, CO

Bill Mills

I don't think I believe in "average Joe." Neither do I believe in the people average Joe can't befriend. They are fictional caricatures. It is very easy to invent cartoonish, shallow, clueless, people and then criticize them. Those cartoon hypocrites are not the Church though. I am the Church. Other real people who belong to Jesus are the Church. Although each of us are still in process, we can discover that we are all deep and wonderfully unique if we would invest some time in loving each other. Maybe our meetings and traditions aren't the best context for this. I don't know.
There's nothing wrong with the real Church. God will finish what He started. In the mean time, surely loving and serving real people is a better use of our time than slandering imaginary ones.

Ben Dreessen

I don't think we're trying to slander people or create caricatures. I think we're just trying to figure out why, when genuine, well-meaning Christians get together, we sometimes end up sending the wrong message—to ourselves and others. As I said, I see a great deal of good being done, a great deal of love and humility demonstrated by believers, but I do think that certain cultural tendencies have cropped up that obscure Christ unnecessarily, and I can really understand why that would make some non-believers want to steer clear of the Church (althugh, I think deep down that it's just an excuse to avoid submitting to God's authority). I agree, we're not hypocrites or terrible people, and yes, imperfection should be expected, but still, there is room for thoughtful self analysis in the interest of becoming more like the ideal church.

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