Lately, there has almost been one singular theological thought in my mind that I am having an extremely hard time escaping. In my search for another church home (something I seem to perpetually do) I cannot escape this nagging and obsessive thought that is slowly turning into belief that American churches are completely doing everything wrong.
I have made several references about this to my wife whom I think I am beginning to scare. Perhaps this passion, this thought, this nagging burning in the pit of my stomach, is a reaction to the religious fundamentalism of her parents, or perhaps it is God preparing me for something. This obsession over ecclesiology makes me want to forget everything I have ever learned and simply hit the streets. The thought that keeps me up at night (literally) is what I perceive as untapped power of the gospel, a gospel that not only saves us from a sinner’s hell, but calls us to live an abundant life of Christian Hedonism, to borrow from John Piper. The loud call I am hearing from God is that it is time to “take it to the streets.” Never in my life have I felt this passionate about something that I am so sure about, that we still have God in a box, that He wants to break through and permeate every aspect of our lives, our homes, our families, our churches, our workplaces, and these shells and brittle walls that we have created.
I want the church walls to fall down. I want to invite the world in to see and hear about the God that I serve. I want the world to know that I do not hate them and I am not called to hate them. My God calls me to serve the world, not in the essence that I am slave to the world’s desires, but that I am called to lay down my life as a living sacrifice to reach my family, my church, my workplace, and my culture for a living Christ.
This obsession is calling me to a radical obedience, a radical lifestyle, a radical faith, a working faith that combines the beauty of Pauline grace with the works of James. What wretched people we are to sit in our stained-glass churches with the padded pews and condemn people we would never stoop to reach! What sinful pride we have when we condemn others that we think are beneath the gospel! What is the church doing? Where are we going? What kind of crazy faith allows us to remain still and prideful? What kind of wretched man am I to ignore the plight of thousands of people destined to die without Christ? What kind of faith allows me to ignore the poor? What kind of faith allows me to coddle the rich? If the church should truly be “purpose driven,” then tell me what kind of purpose are we going for? If the church has a destination, tell me what it is!
We have oversimplified the gospel. We have dumbed it down to fit with our wimpy view of God, that He is less than sovereign, that He is less than in control, that He does not want everyone to come to repentance, that He raises His elect to a position of power and prestige above a world that He does not care about.
The bum on the street? Get a job! The single-mother? Get a husband! The alcoholic? Stop drinking! The drug addict? Stop smoking crack! The homosexual? Turn or burn! Our gospel is one of conformity and not one of gracious love. We have all the answers to all the wrong questions, questions that we are afraid to ask, questions that if asked, would demand an answer and demand action, and might even demand love.
But our church is too pretty, the carpet too clean, the pews too soft, our suits too pressed, our shoes too shiny, and our lives too separate. We pretend the problems are not there, that they will go away if, in our minds, the world would “turn to Jesus.” The problem is that the walls of our churches are too hard to climb, too thick to breach, and too hard to break. Our doors are shut, the peepholes covered. We see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, and ignore the evil around us, safe and sound in Fortress Community Church. We want to defend our doctrine, but there is no defense for it. Our doctrine is wrong because without works, faith is dead.
Our beliefs do not exist as something to be defended. They exist to be advanced. What would the world look like if the people that claim that they have “right doctrine” would stop simply believing and start doing and being the body of Christ. Are bums welcome in our churches? Are single mothers? Alcoholics? Drug addicts? Would we stoop to love a homosexual? Would we hug a person with AIDS?
When I am left without excuse, I am left without defense. My wait is over. My life of faith has just begun. I cannot deny what is around me anymore. It is time to tear down the walls and advance.


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