Especially those of us who blog a lot about topics related to the American church.
Always in search of fodder for writing, there is no shortage of blogs that have been written about what is wrong with the church. Every so often, there is a public departure by a prominent Christian from some wing of Christianity. Or a leader will explain why he isn’t going to church these days. And a whole bunch of us will talk about what this means for the church. My own keyboard has not been exempt from these activities.
But I’ll tell you something.
I think I finally figured it out.
I figured out exactly what is wrong with the church.
That’s right, I have found the source of its problems. I have discovered what is making it be the monster that we have made it out to be.
Maybe we can put this discussion to rest.
Because I have figured out, once and for all, what is wrong with the church.
I must confess something.
I must confess that I am a sinner, in thought, word and deed.
There are many things I have done. And many more things I have left undone.
And all of these taken together have made me the problem with the church.
For example, I have not loved God with my whole heart. I know, that’s like Christianity 101, but I often haven’t done it.
When I go to church, my thoughts are often distracted by other, lesser things. I am worried about my own ambitions rather than God’s. I have prayed selfish prayers and sang selfish songs to try to get my way.
I have been prideful, convinced that my own way was the right way, convinced that I was the smartest guy in the room and that I had it all figured out before age thirty.
I have not loved my neighbor as myself either, despite repeated exhortations to do so.
I have often been more concerned that the people in my church look like me than that they look like Jesus. I want people to agree with me, because that is easy. I have pushed away people who do not agree with me, because it’s more convenient that way. I tell myself that people who do not agree with me are not really Christians. I have fantasized about a mystical group of Christians who all agree with me, because that would be so wonderful, but alas, I have not found it yet.
I have been frustrated, unforgiving, even hateful toward people in my heart, even in church. I have wondered what is wrong with people that they cannot see things my way. I have been quick to assume that they must not be “real” Christians. Maybe they are just too stubborn or selfish or stupid to see things my way. Maybe they come from a selfish generation of people, or a generation who lacks vision or zeal. Those kinds of generations can be such a pain.
I have worried about the splinters that I see in my neighbor’s eyes from across the room. But I have also worried way too much about what all those people thought of me. I have often been far more concerned with my reputation than with what God thinks of me.
I have looked for faults wherever I can find them. I have nitpicked everything, which is not a very good way to live, because I end up doing the same to myself. It’s a good recipe for self-loathing.
Even as a leader, I left many things unsaid, and many things undone. My testimony did not always draw people closer to the truth.
I have worried about my own small problems, rather than the much larger problems that other people face. I have constantly embraced the privilege I have been born to, while complaining that my life is not just a little bit more privileged. I have ignored needs and injustices because confronting them was inconvenient or it did not advance my own little personal agenda.
I constantly justify myself. I tell myself that this is just the way I am, and people need to be more accepting and understanding of me. I blame them for not understanding me when I choose to be remote and aloof.
I have asked God with false incredulity, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” while feeling wholly justified at making myself my brother’s judge. I much prefer the role of judge to neighbor.
It appears that on close examination, the problem appears to be me.
I am what is wrong with the church. I am the problem.
I am sorry about that.
I let you down.
But at least, perhaps we can start to resolve this conversation. We can stop looking for the answer. Because, I admit it, I am the problem with the church.