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On Taking the Red Pill and my New Church Reality

posted by Susan Dominikovich on , , , , , , ,


"Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?  Or am I trying to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ."  (Galatians 1:10)

If you are a Matrix fan, you'll understand what I mean when I say, I took the red pill.

The main character Neo has a choice to make. He can take the blue pill and go back to blissful ignorance, living in a world as it appeared to be.  Or he can take the red pill and see the world as it really is.

Neo takes the red pill and stops living in a false reality.

I took the red pill.

My false reality was church.

Before any of my readers decide to throw the book at me, please note:  I acknowledge that there are churches who understand the Biblical mandate that our purpose is to bring glory to Jesus Christ and Him alone.  And in doing that, they are equipping the saints, loving one another and making disciples, as commanded in Matthew 28:19.  I know there are churches doing this well and they are in God's favour and are blessing many. This gives me hope. If that is your church, then know that I am not writing about you or yours so there is no need to be offended.  

But there are also a great number of churches who proclaim the sovereignty of Jesus Christ and behave very differently or worse, don't even point to Jesus at all.  As Jamie Brown in Worthily Magnify last week pointed out, "the gospel assumed is the gospel omitted."  These church leaders, pastors and elders are building a kingdom: their own.  Their vision is for greater numbers and for more church plants, rather than for growth in disciples.

When we had trouble with our church last year and didn't know where to turn, we sought the advice of another pastor in the area.  We explained everything and he left us with no hope because ultimately, he said, the survival of the church as an institution was more important than the well-being of the individual.  More important than who is right and who is wrong.  More important than truth or justice.  So I would easily become a casualty.  Translation:  I was not important and neither was my family.

Really?  Is that really what the Bible says?

Actually, Jesus Himself says, "A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."  (John 13:34-35).  And again He says, "My command is this:  Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."  (John 14:12-13)

Excuse my cynicism but I guess I just have a different definition of love than some churches.

The church as an institution didn't exist in the Bible as it does now so our model is quite simple.  The church in Acts was a gathering of people who fellowshiped together, met one another's needs, broke bread, praised God, prayed and heard the Word. (see Acts 2:42-47).  Size didn't matter, and where they met didn't matter.  Financial remuneration didn't matter either although gifts were given to Paul and the Apostles for their travel expenses.  And when the church strayed from this model or made it more complicated than it should be, or brought in other practises from their cultural context, they were reprimanded.

No one was reprimanded in my situation.  No one was held accountable for some very bad behaviour which was also very unloving.  Neither was the situation handled scripturally; rather it was hushed up and swept under the carpet.  Instead of graciously admitting they had made a mistake and that things like pride and ego had got in the way, the leadership put a thick protective hedge around someone who should never have been given so much power and authority and so I became a casualty.  I was struck off.

At that moment, I took the red pill.  And I did not like what I saw.

I saw the reality of church, the institution versus what I had always believed it to be.  I saw the reality of some Christians versus what I had always believed them to be.  I saw that agenda and ego and power and expansion and bullying was at the helm and making decisions on behalf of the flock which had little to do with love or discipleship making and everything to do with protecting themselves.  And sadly, I heard and read from others that I was not alone in discovering this reality.

There is a global problem in the church today; the church is far more focused on self than on Jesus.

A question has plagued me ever since I took that pill: what do I do about it?  What now?  Do I wrap myself up in my disillusionment and abandon any thought of "doing church" (institution or otherwise) ever again?  Do I find allies and fight for true Church as I believe it to be (Neo-style)?  

Neither of those solutions are satisfactory.  I refuse to become disillusioned.  I am not much of a fighter. 

And then a couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon a discussion on-line, raised by a fairly anonymous blogger.  Jamie Brown at Worthily Magnify wrote about performancism in worship leading.  The discussion went viral.  His original post had thousands of hits and I found myself fist-pumping on more than one occasion as I read through the post and all of the sundry comments which followed.  Brown wrote a few more add-ons afterwards, receiving almost as much attention.  His main premise is that as worship leaders, we have a responsibility to point to Jesus, not to ourselves in all that we do with whatever we use.  He asks that leaders very graciously get out of the way.

And most of his readers (not all of them) agreed.

{Cue fist pumping.}

You see it sounds straight-forward and it sounds obvious, this pointing to Jesus, but it just wasn't happening in my church, nor is it happening in many others.  And I believe if it's a problem with your worship leader, it's a problem with your pastors and leadership team.  Too many leaders have gone down the path of more hype, more events, more service, more colour, more noise, more youthfulness, more this that and the other thing in order to be more attractive.  Sure, it might mean they get more bums on seats...until another church becomes more colourful, more noisy, more this, more that...

Ultimately the question needs to be asked of these church leaders:  what is that you are attracting people to? What exactly is your gospel message? Because it's supposed to be the person of Jesus.  No more, no less.  Paul writes in Galatians, "As we have already said, so now I say again; if anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!  Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God?  Or am I trying to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ."  (Galatians 1:9-10)

I do wonder what some church leaders do with that verse, but that's for them to work out when God presses it upon their hearts.

For now, for me, I am excited!  I realise what I am supposed to do and the discussion which ensued from Jamie's posts has helped no end.

I am supposed to PROCLAIM the gospel of Jesus Christ in my worship and life, as I have always sought to do.  I am to make disciples of Christ, not disciples of church, as I am going about the every day of my life.  That is my purpose.  The reality of church may have changed forever, but the reality of Christ in my life is still the same.  No more, no less.  I'm not supposed to do anything but that.  Let God sort it out.

Except I am supposed to BELIEVE EXPECTANTLY and PRAY.  Because as Jamie Brown points out in his Final Thoughts on the issue, "If a post written by an unknown worship leader at an Anglican church in Northern Virgian can reverberate on the Christian blogosphere like mine did, then I think God is up to something."

God is up to something.  He is sorting it out.  If I am unhappy with the current state of the evangelical church, then how much more so is He?  He won't let us go too far down this road of kingdom-building.  

Thank God for that.


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