Mark Daniels begins a series here of letters to his non-church-going friends. In it Mark argues briefly that it is pretty hard to be a Christian while not going to church. I agree and I think the two basic arguments that Mark presents are sound. However, I think there is a flip side to the deal.
Christians do not have to force themselves to church when church is just flat out wrong. There is nothing that hurts me more than the wounds I have suffered at the hands of the church and the far worse wounds that many others have suffered from the same source. I have much sympathy for the idea that the church has done as much harm as it has good.
I've met Mark, he is a good man, and nothing condemnatory I write here applies to him.
Because of my sympathy exrpressed above, I always have a hard time when clergy talks about the necessity of supporting the church believing the genuiness of their motives. Are they motivated by true conviction or the need to maintain thier paycheck/power or other self-interest? I spend much time in deep prayer on that fact, greatly saddened both and my cynicism and that conditons exist that justify it.
So how can a church and its representative clergy get through my cynicism? Well, as I have said, lecturing me on the necessity of going to church is not going to do the job. What I usually look for is confession, its attendant humility, and sincere effort to lead the church towards the holiness it is supposed to exemplify.
The church as an instituion and it clerical representatives need to become very, very comfortable with the words, "I was wrong."
In the age of the "already/not yet" we will not achieve the perfection God intends for us. Thus confession has its so vital role. This is a difficult problem for clergy as leadership often demands the appearance of rightness. But we must remember that in our faith context rightness comes from confession - it is our strength, not our weakness.
I grant such an apporach to leadership may in fact limit our worldly impact, but I think it will add to the Kingdom in ways we cannot imagine.