I saw this linked on my friend Cassie‘s blog. I had to copy it in full here because I know some of you don’t click my links.
I mentioned how we haven’t been to church in awhile. For the record, I don’t expect “the church” to be perfect. I don’t expect them to do no wrong, to not sin. I don’t expect that at all. That said, before we left our previous church, they repeatedly justified their actions by saying in the Bible we are told to hold churches and their pastoral staffs to a higher standard. So that’s why we’re not back, we’re doing just that. We expect more from our church. We believe the issues/sin involved with our last church are systemic and haven’t been addressed, that’s why we haven’t been back. It’d be a whole new ballgame if they owned up to their failures and worked to improve. A whole new ballgame. I don’t know who’s right or wrong in this, I don’t really care. We’re just following our hearts here.
But truthfully, it goes deeper than that. This blog post sums up what Zach and I have been feeling for awhile now. We’re not perfect, in fact, we’re far from it. We don’t do enough, we don’t even come close. But wouldn’t it be amazing if the church stood for something again? Wouldn’t it be amazing if we stood for something again? I’m just ready to get down to Jesus’ business and stop letting all of my excuses get in the way.
a while back i had heard about the eighth letter gathering up in canada, where 25 people will be sharing their letter to the north american church. yesterday, one of my favorite bloggers, rachel held evans, announced an open synchroblog this week where anyone was welcome to share their own letter. after a particularly wild-week-in-the-trenches around here i had this post on the tip of my tongue so i thought i’d just turn it into a quick-off-the-top-of-my-head letter instead. here goes:
dear north american church,
you have developed a bad reputation. you didn’t mean to. i believe your heart is good & you have been so sincere in your dedication to Christ, of that i have no doubt. the problem is that somehow you’ve become more committed to teaching the truth than actually living the truth. to building successful businesses that are self-sustaining rather than living by faith & giving your resources away. by creating walls instead of bridges.
and the world’s started to smell out your contradictions. you see, they are in need of hope and peace, not anger and control. they are hungry for love and cups of cold water, not hate and picket signs. they are desperate, dying, divorcing, and deconstructing, and you are spending energy on trying to prove your “this is what the Bible says” point.
and you’ve forgotten one of the most important things that Jesus did, that he modeled for us so beautifully–he restored dignity to people who had lost it. the sick, the lame, the broken, the desperate, the outcasts, the marginalized, the least, the last. over and over, he healed them, lifted their head, and touched them with hope. hope that the kingdom of God was available now and it wasn’t only for the learned, the put-together, the well, the powerful. it was available for all those who were humble enough to admit their spiritual poverty & need for God.
the world does not need any more dignity-strippers. they’ve got enough of that going on without the church’s help.
what the world needs are dignity-restorers.
- people who are willing to call out God’s image in those that don’t know it’s there.
- people who are willing to sacrifice their own jobs, time, heart, and money to change systems that keep others oppressed.
- people who use their own power & privilege to make space for those without it.
- people who are willing to give a rip about that one person who everyone else has given up on.
- people who see beyond gender, politics, religion, socioeconomics, and all of the other things that divide and segregate us and engage in deep & meaningful relationships anyway.
- people willing to go the long haul and offer compassion & love to the hurting instead of trite advice & easy spiritual answers.
- people who will stand between the stone throwers & the one about to be stoned and advocate on their behalf.
- people who touch the untouchable.
- people who see the best in others instead of the worst.
it’s not going to be easy to make this change for you.a cool website won’t do it.all the right answers won’t do it.going to the next great conference won’t do it.putting the word “missional” on the tip of everyone’s tongues won’t do it.
to really become known as dignity restorers, you’re going to have to give up all kinds of things you rely on to keep you safe, strong, and protected:being right.systems that perpetuate money & power & controlhanging with people who are just like youmaking sure you’re the “us” and they’re the “them.”
but first, your own dignity must be restored. you must get in touch with who you really are. who you were meant to be. not what you think you had to become to feel better about yourself. yeah, Jesus can heal you, too. humble yourself and touch his garment, seek his ways, and surrender to love.
and here’s the wildest part–if you won’t do it, can’t do it, refuse to do it, you need to know that others will. right now, others are. they are actually being “the church” instead of wasting time hashing over who can teach & who can’t, who’s right & who’s wrong, who’s giving money & who’s not. they are just getting down to Jesus’ business without the trappings of “the church” and doing just fine.
oh but i have no doubt if all your resource, all your hands & hearts & eyes & ears & buildings & power & influence & hope could really be channeled to restoring dignity in person after person after person after person, the image of God uncovered in his people, shining brighter and brighter, would dim the darkness of this world like never before.
please, step into who you were meant to be. it’s beautiful. it’s better. and the world really, really needs it.
so i got out what i wanted to say this week. i really believe the world doesn’t need another sandwich board church sign on the corner announcing really good coffee & fun for families. the world needs people willing to restore dignity where it’s been lost.
what would you like to say to the north american church? let it rip.
It's a great letter, but I'm kind of confused about the context. Is this about the Catholic Church in America? All Christian churches? Any church in particular?I understand the final message would equally apply to any Christian organization, but the letter implies also some criticism that I'm not sure where or who it is directed.
I would say that letter is directed to any and most all organized religions. It doesn't have to matter the sect…When people ask me what religion I am, I have no answer. I have no place that I have been to that has ever made me feel at home or that we (my family) belong without being judged or criticized. And I've tried too, its not like I'm saying this without trials… I've studied religions in college, I've been to many many different churches as well… I was raised lutheran. I left that church for 2 reasons: 1. When I asked them to baptize zane, I was lectured for over an hour on how I'm a bad christian for wanting my child baptised but that I wasn't IN church every Sunday. They also would not allow a woman to marry ryan and I. I left and haven't looked back. I've married a man who used to have a strong faith in catholicism, yet when the pope tells me to jump, I would rather ask GOD how high, not a human being who has sin just as I. Nope, not catholic. I have tried conservative pentecostal churches, episcopalian churches, even went to a local all black pentecostal church… each time I didn't follow the "rules" by my clothing, I didn't dress nice enough, make enough money, and even was segregated against for the color of my skin. Nope, none of them were home.Yet, I believe. I believe there IS something, there IS a god out there. If I could find a place that didn't judge, that didn't say "follow THESE rules and then u can belong", I might care to join then…Bottom line, I try to live a life where I know I have been blessed so I give what I can to others. I have ran a food pantry for the hungry, I will paint 2 africas for you, I will donate my time to be PTA to provide opportunities to children who can't afford it or who lack parental involvement. And its not just me, my children have been taught this as well…. we donate there "overflow" of bday toys to our local child abuse shelter, zak befriends the under dogs at school, izeah and zane look out for each other and their friends. Ok, rambling now… bottom line, when I find an organization that accepts all types of people including the poor working alongside the rich, where job status doesn't matter, a church that accepts ALL sinners… because we ALL were born with sin, then maybe ill give it a shot. Until then, my church will remain in my heart and I will try to live my life for others.Funny, I just read an article in time about this too…. how our generation actually has more faith and belief then previous generations but we are looked down upon because we are from a generation that doesn't believe in "organization" or "rules"…. good read… made me feel not so crazy! Lol :)Next stop… may be the Unitarian Church in Davenport… I've heard fantastic things and witnessed fantastic events. Maybe I will find the place myself and my family belong just yet :)Better yet… I've always found sitting under a beautiful tree and saying my peace to God the most perfect way to have a relationship with the higher being.All done 😉
Excellent post! Amen sisters!
Hey Tesi you need to check out SGI. That't who I am with:) They are an amazing Buddhist community and we welcome all. It is a very diverse group in every way. If you ever want to come to a meeting let me know. I was raised Catholic and I didn't like the money and the guilt. I am soooo happy I found this group of people. Check it out http://www.sgi-usa.com. Also you can be a Buddhist and a Christian:) One more thing check out Zeit Geist on Google Video.
Tesi, I thought your friends post was poignant and sadly, all too true. Have you read the Whole in the Gospel? It is by Richard Sterns, the president of World Vision and is about just that. I just finished it; and it has turned my world upside down! I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand what God means when He commands us to "spend ourselves" on behalf of the hungry and oppressed. BTW, our dossier made it to Ethiopia on Monday and I couldn't be more excited! Thanks for your leadership and being willing to go where so many of us have been fearful to go. You have been a trailblazer that has helped me have the courage to do what God is calling me to. I just want to thank you for your obedience.
i recently read Rachel Held Evans' book, "Evolving in Monkey Town." I really enjoyed it, especially the chapter entitled God Things. She is a very thoughtful writer.