So many believers get frustrated with their faith because God hasn't answered a specific prayer request, because a special person close to them died, because a young person died who we think should not have, because the person in the pew next to them doesn't agree to the very same beliefs you do, because young people won't change to fit our traditional worship patterns, because the music minister repeated a chorus one too many times and the list goes on... We are obsessed with the trivial. We focus on the minutiae and no longer see the big picture.
Yesterday, I saw that Anne Rice 'left' Christianity. "The Marquee Blog" quoted Ms. Rice thus:
Rice wrote, “For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian ... It's simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.”
Rice then added another post explaining her decision on Thursday:“My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me," Rice wrote. "But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been or might become.”
I've got to say this, to the great offense of some of you: I understand Anne.
American Christianity in particular, but Western Christianity in general, is prone to a terrible disease: consumerism. We 'shop' churches and we participate in the programs of 'our' choosing. We attend churches that fit our personal income and community status specifications. Then we comment and complain about those who don't "fit". The Western church has been made into our image rather than God's. Anne might be disappointed, even upset; but I think God has already passed judgment.
Anne wants to walk with God; so do I. As a baptistic Christian, I've grown fond of the old revivalist hymns as a source of theology. One of my favourites is, "Just a closer walk with thee."
Just a closer walk with thee
Grant it Jesus, is my plea
Daily living close to thee
Let it be dear Lord, let it be.
I am weak, but Thou art strong
Jesus, keep me from all wrong
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee
I think every church and without doubt, every Christian, needs to rethink and recapture that idea. As Christians, we believe that the very Spirit of God resides within each believer. We believe that Christ's presence is with us. Would he be pleased with how you walk, with the choices you make or the kind of presence you have with others?
I know several people who have a 'church face' for their church attendance; a 'family face' for their time with family; and a 'vocational face' for their time at work. They serve on committees, they vote at business meetings, they even sing in the choir or do time in the nursery - but if you asked them to "take up their cross and follow Jesus" or to "be crucified with Christ" or to "walk the narrow road" or "to give all to the poor and follow Jesus" - they would look at you like you were an alien. In America, they call this reality; in the New Testament, Jesus calls is hypocrisy. You are either who you are in Christ, or you are not. You say you love your neighbor, but find ways to be angry with people who use to be your friend? That's hypocrisy. The last time I checked, every Christian was called to be a peacemaker and thus an emissary of Christ everywhere they went.
Now all of us have struggles. I do, Anne Rice does and so do you. But the hypocrisy has to stop. The church and its people need to get serious about the character and mission of Christ. If it does not get serious, then my church and your church can join the growing number of churches that are dying, losing members and closing their doors.
On top of that, why even be a Christian if you don't want to walk with God in this life?