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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

03/09/10

Letter to a Well-Meaning Church

“Not all who wander are lost.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

Dear Church,

I wanted to thank you for the warm welcome my wife and I received this past Sunday. Your congregants truly are a generous group of people. The compulsory greeting sessions are always somewhat painful, but I met some people I may actually shake hands with again.

Your worship team is impressive to say the least. I thought I was mistaken initially when I heard the first few licks of “Crazy Train.” I wouldn’t mind playing a few songs with those guys if they could tolerate an amateur.

When your pastor mounted the podium I hardly knew it; he looked just like me. Informal and at once familiar, I’d swear I’ve met him before. After he had recommended a few movies and television shows, he spoke of reaching the lost and inviting a friend to the next service. It seems your church has a great bash planned for just such an occasion, and for the benefit of just such a person.

Here, I would offer you some humble words of caution. I have many friends who make their homes as far from any church as they can. There are many ideal places I can think of to go with them, but your church is not one of them. You feel certain of your positive influence upon them, but seem to think little of theirs on you. It also seems not to have crossed your mind that a church may be the worst place for someone who does not yet speak its language, so to speak.

May I offer some further advice? It seems that you make a categorical mistake when you insist on calling your church the Church. The capitalization shouldn’t make you blush. There is a world of difference between your congregation, and what Christ means when he refers to His bride. The Church is nothing less than the organic body of believers world-wide who, by God’s grace, act as His ambassadors. It’s not that the Sunday morning service shouldn’t be evangelistic; it’s just that inviting the uninitiated to such a gathering is a bit like starting a story with the climax.

You spoke often of the importance of culture. For you, the word seems to refer exclusively to the domain of the media. If there were any references to classical paintings or Greek deities, they escaped me. With all the talk of conversion, I must confess I sometimes wonder whose converting who. We might consider making the church a shelter from pop culture instead of another one of its havens. After the many film, music, television and twitter references, I grappled with the question of what a phrase like “in Christ alone” even means. Your team sang it you know?

Please understand, I mean no disrespect by any of these remarks. I’m just a fellow believer who needs a place of rest and replenishment.

Faithfully yours,

A Wandering Believer

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