I don’t actually have 10 things to say, but in recent months I have noticed a trend in the Christian blogisphere. Article after article is being produced with a list of what Christians should stop doing or saying. The movement is a response, I believe, to things that this generation has struggled with in the church. Many of these articles are insightful and helpful in the evaluation of our lives and churches. I do, however, want to address some of the fundamental flaws with these lists and rules. So here is my list.
1. Lists are dangerous! (Please catch the irony). One of the great complaints of my generation is that the church was too legalistic and in essence has added to the laws of the bible. To this I say ‘amen’ (amen of course is on a list of words I should not use)!! So my question is simple; how is coming up with a new set of laws and rules any better? As a preacher one of the reasons I love my church so much is that I feel the freedom to say what I believe God has laid on my heart through the careful study of the bible. I preach without fear of consequence. One of the articles I read is a list of what preachers need to stop saying. Enter the culture of fear. That I may be somehow personally responsible for the loss of another’s faith because of the words I choose to use is terrifying. Now I have to consider a list of forbidden words that I must memorize and avoid if I am to not offend. This is what I call a new legalism. It is just another set of rules to follow. The message of Christ is Freedom. This does not, to me, feel like freedom. It is important that we don’t simply produce a new culture of legalism and therefore a new culture of fear and miss the freedom of Christ.
2. We cannot avoid sounding like Christians. I am told to sound less Christian, but that is like telling someone who is Irish to lose the accent! I am not saying we shouldn’t be aware of making the content of the scriptures culturally relevant, but if we can’t speak like Christians in church then when can we? I love the bible, don’t get me wrong, but it is by its very content offensive. It is filled with words like sin, condemnation, rebuke and hell. There is very little I can do to make this book more offensive apart from preaching a false representation of it. I am told to stick to words like grace, hope, peace and healing. But wait a minute; even some of these words have been tabooed. So how do we teach the bible if we don’t use the words found inside of it? In order to truly know what the bible is teaching we need to use the language God has chosen, even if it sounds too Christian. We cannot avoid the hard teachings. In fact, the bible explicitly instructs me not to (2 Tim. 4:1-5). I cannot not sound like a Christian because it is what and who I am.
3. Start with personal evaluation. When I point my finger at “Christians,” like somehow I am exempt from this group or I use terms like “the church” I need to remember that the first person I am calling out is myself. When I demand perfection or for my guidelines to be adhered to, I am only imprisoning myself with more legislation. If I want the church to be better I will look in the mirror and ask God to do a work in my life. Again, this is what the bible teaches me to do (James 1:23, Heb. 4:12). There is MUCH that can be done to improve the church. Don’t believe me? Spend 5 minutes with yourself!! It always works for me.
I realize for some of you, the church has hurt you. I don’t want to minimize that. But we do not speed up the healing process when we spend time making new rules and blaming past generations. Healing starts with understanding. We need to understanding that we are all flawed. We need to understanding that we all need grace. And we need to understand that WE are the church! Freedom is found in Christ and Christ alone. Not more rules.