It’s been a long time since I have faithfully been in church; I’m finding it so hard to trust pastors. The church organization I talked about earlier…the more you get into the organization the more you are expected to blindly follow everything they tell you. It seems like most churches have some level of degree where they expect you to blindly follow what they preach. Been there, done that, and it didn’t work out so well for me. When a church tells you that the pastor is beyond questioning, they take away his humanity and place him on the same level as God. There is a large amount of respect I believe should be given to a pastor, but don’t take away the reality that the pastor is human and not perfect; don’t take away the Pastor’s humanity. I loved it when my last pastor would share his struggles with us; it makes him relate-able to us and our struggles. The Pastor is responsible for his congregation, and God will give him a vision that not everyone will understand or agree with. A Pastor needs people by his side to help support him and the vision God has given him. Just don’t say that the pastor is beyond questioning and can NEVER be questioned. Don’t put the pastor on a pedestal that is only meant for God.
I would love to be back in church. We need to take the time to check out the churches in this new area we are living in. It seems like so many churches these days are always trying to sell you something: in-house and guests speakers’ shirts, books, DVDs and CDs and pay to attend special events and revivals. Many churches operate more like a business than a place to gather to worship and learn about God. Yes, they need to make sure the bills get paid, workers need to be paid, and funds are needed to run outreach programs. I’m not questioning the fact that churches need money to do many of the things they would like to do. My issue comes when I feel like I’m constantly being told about things I should buy. I don’t show up to church to hear a sales pitch about some book, CD or DVD that will supposedly take me to the next level in my walk with God. I show up at church to learn about God, and that alone can help me grow in my walk with God. I’m no stranger to seeking out resources to help grow my faith in areas I’m struggling in. I’m not opposed to hearing about resources at church; just don’t make trying to sell all these products as a constant part of the way the church services are run.
Not too long ago a well known pastor came under fire for asking his congregation to pitch in to help buy him a private jet. His reasoning for it was that he needed it for his travels when spreading the word of God. Yeah, I’m sure that’s how Jesus would travel around these days…in a private jet. The same Jesus that sat and ate with sinners and tax collectors; the same Jesus that traveled on the common roads (no private chariot for him) would travel on a private jet in today’s modern world. It’s exactly how He would travel to meet people, to preach to the masses, to heal the sick as he travels. Oh, wait, how could he? He’s on a private jet, with no way to interact with those who would have needed an encounter with Him as He was traveling. Isn’t that what Jesus’ ministry is all about, being among the people.
There is no such thing as a perfect church. Every church is made up of well…imperfect people; since we have sinned. We will not always agree 100% with everything we hear at church, and that’s okay. However, I’m noticing that many (but not all) churches these days are starting to resemble the synagogues of Jesus’ time. Some people flaunt the amount of money they give to the church by donations and their tithes. Making sure those around them see how much they are giving, or by bragging about how much they give. Others pride themselves on how much time they spend volunteering in the many areas of the church. Then there are those people who walk around with a holier than thou attitude simply because they consider themselves faithful followers of the church: they dress right, act right, and say all the right things; and they look down on those who are not as “polished” as them in church “etiquette” or give nasty looks to those who dare sit in “their” seats. Does this not sound like the pious Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ time? Did not Jesus rebuke them for having the appearance of holiness on the outside, but lacking holiness on the inside?
Did He not also overturn the money tables in the Temple because people were using a place of worship as a place to make money on people who were trying to bring a good and acceptable sacrifice to the alters? Quite often the sacrifice the people brought with them were already good enough, but the business men told them their sacrifice was not good enough. However, if they were to buy the sacrifice from the sellers, they would then have the perfect sacrifice to offer to God for the cleansing of their sins; desperate to have their sins cleansed from them, they would buy what these men were selling them. The sellers were preying on the need and desire of those who wanted to be right with God, and selling them things, not to help people, but to make a profit off of them. Jesus told them they had turned the House of God into a den of thieves. I know many of today’s churches offer items for sale wanting to provide materials to help people grow in God. That’s all well and good, and I think it’s great for churches to provide resources. I just feel it should be done very carefully, and not sold to people as a sales pitch. Church is not a place to give their congregation the sense they are at a Live Home Shopping Network taping. They should not pitch these products as something needed for one to have a good and right relationship with God, and without it they won’t be able to please God. I can’t help but wonder if some of these churches have taken it too far. They think they are pleasing God, but is it possible they are offending Him instead? Without realizing it, they are turning their place of worship into a “den of thieves” by pushing products on their congregations, by presenting one sales pitch after another in a way where the people listening feel pressured, even obligated, to buy the product(s).
I know many people will probably have an issue with what I have written. They would say I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth, and that I shouldn’t be saying these things about the church or pastors. That I can’t say something is wrong and turn around to say, but if done this way it’s okay. Since when does everything have to be so black and white? Life isn’t black or white; it’s filled with many shades and colors. Not everything in life is crystal clear. Life experiences and emotions can cloud judgement or it can keep our eyes open to schemes around us; the same can be said about churches too. The Apostles in the Bible even warned their followers to watch out for false doctrines; this warning still applies today. That’s why it is so important to know what is in the Bible, and how to take and understand scripture in it’s correct context. It’s also very important to know and understand the character of God. All kinds of people will say and do things in the name of God (that go against His character), and they will twist scripture to justify what they are doing; the Westboro Baptist Church would be a great example. This is also why I feel a pastor or church should not be above questioning. You need to be able to have open communication so that you can determine for yourself if you feel the word of God is being truthfully taught or not.
Am I wrong or right for the things I have written, and for how I feel? Does it even matter if I’m right or wrong? I don’t think it matters what others feel about what I have written because this is what I’m facing and dealing with. This is my truth and the reality that I have lived through. This is my truth, and this is my struggle.