Someone linked this Open Letter to All the People Writing (And Sharing) Open Letters About What’s Wrong with The Church on Facebook and received a lot of positive feedback. I read it and it irritated me. Probably because, while not a Millennial, I am among those who “liked” the original letters to which the author refers and may have even shared them.
She makes some excellent points and her intent is to spur us on to stick it out and to share our frustration with the leadership in our local church and not spew it all over social media. I get that. And, I agree with her that some of the criticism is petty. But, much of it is born out of pain and confusion. A lot of it is spot on. The American church can’t just cop a “suck it up” attitude and tell people to deal. That mentality has left bleeding believers in her wake and scabbed over church members struggling to keep the phony smiles plastered on their faces while they go about business as usual.
Acting like we’ve got it going on when clearly we don’t is unhelpful.
To be clear, I think it needs to be pointed out the author appears confused about what The Church is. Jesus absolutely loves The Church, His Bride, the universal Body of Believers, His followers. I don’t believe, however, that He is as enamored with “the church”, little “c”, as in the American way we choose to worship Him on Sunday mornings, which is what is being criticized in these types of articles.
That church is failing. We are failing our members and we are failing the world. With a divorce rate nearly as high as those outside our doors, and college students leaving the faith in droves, we’re not doing a great job inside. When people feel the need to take their woes to social media because they are not being heard, when expressing any sort of doubt or unrest is frowned upon, and when they so desperately feel the need to connect beyond our walls, all is not well.
When twenty percent of Americans have a disability and yet, rarely is even one person with a disability an active part of any congregation, there is a problem. Let that sink in. If you attend a fairly large congregation, you may be able to think of a few people there who have disabilities, but do their numbers even begin to approach twenty percent?!? Where are those people? Not in church because they feel unwelcome there. It is often physically inaccessible as churches are exempt from the ADA requirements of other public buildings. Or, they are required to sit in a section not of their choosing, away from family and friends. Often, it is emotionally and spiritually crushing as they may hear things from the pulpit like, “It saddens me to see people with disabilities in our church, it is a reminder that we do not have enough faith.”
I cannot tell you how many times we’ve been told we should visit the local mega church with the awesome special needs program. We are blessed that there is one near us. I realize that. And, from all accounts, it is awesome. But it is also eleven miles away. According to Google Maps, there are at least thirty-one churches in a five-mile radius of our house. Given the church’s pro-life stance, we should be able to walk into any of them and be welcomed and comfortable with children who have special needs. I dream of the day that is reality. Today is not that day and kids like mine and their families are being ignored and worse, rejected.
When there is a church on every corner and still over 100,000 children available for adoption via foster care, something is clearly wrong. James 1:27 tells us that true religion is caring for orphans and yet, most states can’t even find enough foster parents and the system is over-run. While not my experience, many adoptive parents tell me that their biggest critics during their adoptions were fellow church members or even pastoral staff. Post-adoption support is little understood and mostly non-existent and families who struggle after an adoption feel isolated and lost.
These are just a few of the myriad of problems the American church is barely acknowledging. The author appears to not want anyone to have hurt feelings, herself included, over church criticism, but sometimes, truth hurts and it is through strong emotions that change is effected. She wants us to settle down and not post on social media, but often, reading someone else’s words can stir something in our own hearts and resonate in our own souls and spur us to action.
It is time that we rectify the wrongs in our church culture.
Injustice is occurring in and all around the American church. I don’t think Jesus, the one who drove the money changers from the temple, is upset with us for calling it out. I think He’s upset that someone had to in the first place.