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Change in the church?

Tweet This year has been … is being … an interesting year for me. At the turn of 08 to 09 I knew that this year held so much promise, so much potential. The media was hyping the year up in the negative sense, doom and gloom, financial ruin on every corner. Yet in the [...]

This year has been … is being … an interesting year for me. At the turn of 08 to 09 I knew that this year held so much promise, so much potential. The media was hyping the year up in the negative sense, doom and gloom, financial ruin on every corner. Yet in the midst of this noise I heard something different, a message of change, a message of power, a message of freedom.

It didn’t come from one place, it didn’t come from the media but all of a sudden 5 or 6 different pastors that I, from time to time, listen too all started talking about a change in the church. This year I’ve explored a little of what that means, but I’ll be honest – I can be pretty lazy at times. I can get quite fired up about something but then wane off and .. well all the huff and puff goes.

So why am I writing this here, on my blog of all places. I need to be a little more on-to-it, to keep myself in line and push forward. See yesterday I was involved with the team helping for a day seminar with John Burke (from Gateway Church) – I was doing some techy stuff. It meant I had the opportunity to talk with John and to spend the day listening to him. For those of you who don’t know, John is Snr Pastor at Gateway a church with this catch phrase:

No Perfect People Allowed – Come As You Are

Tradition & the church

I decided yesterday to send out a tweet asking those who were around “what stops YOU from going to church?” … I was expecting all sorts of answers, the answer I got back (I should have expected) threw me, made me really sad and then really angry.

The People – that’s what stops me

What the … ?. How utterly messed up is that? WE – those who are supposed to be Christ like, WE are the reason people don’t come to church. And it’s little friggin’ wonder really. Too many churches (people) have forgotten what it is to be followers of Christ, and have simply become followers of tradition. For example … show me where in the bible it talks about:

  • infant baptism
  • a church leader having the right to absolve sins
  • to hate gays, lesbians or smokers
  • to act piously, superior
  • to have only 1 person in the faith who can talk to God on your behalf

It doesn’t .. God doesn’t. These are things that the church has piled on top of faith to make “religion”, to build up something that people can kind of hold onto, but can never really be free of. I hate to say it, but the churches of yesterday (and many today stuck in yesterday) have probably done MORE damage, to the true faith, than good.

Talk to ANYONE who grew up in a Catholic church, Anglican, Baptist or Presbyterian – many of these faiths/denominations crippled people with rules, with crap that the seniors in the church deemed as right.

The real faith

It’s because of this model, because the church has been rocked time and time again by scandal, by fights between churches about gays in church, about infant baptism about. ….. about CRAP, that people want nothing to do with Jesus. Why can’t churches just drop all this pretense and get back to the gospel? Where is the truth, where is the helping? Where is Christ??

I was listening to Rob Bell from Mars Hill Bible Church talk about this, he shared a story that goes like this. His friend was an alcoholic, who joined AA to help recover. His friend invited him along. Sitting in this AA meeting Rob suddenly realised “THIS, is church”. There was no preaching, no drums, no band, no singing, no prayer and no religious crap.

So why was that church? Rob friend said to him “where else can I get 5 phone numbers of people who I can call, 24/7 and say ‘HELP’ and I know there will be a voice on the phone, with no condemnation, no judgment .. instead with love, understanding and compassion”

We got it wrong

How did we as “the church” get it so $%&^#ing wrong?? How can an AA group be more like the church of Christ than the baptist church down the road? How can we, ‘the people of the church’ be the reason people don’t want to come to church?

I know that there are many many people out there desperately looking for the answer, a solution to their problems. They are lonely and looking for friendship, they are stoned and looking for support, they are drunk and need help, they are in financial trouble but they don’t come to the church – why would they. ‘We’ just judge them, or we try to change them into cookie cutter templates of what is “right”.

Lets read the bible for a second if we may:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death”

For those wanting check that, it’s in Romans Chapter 8, verse 1 and 2.

What if …. ?

What if you knew you could come and talk to me about anything, and know that I wasn’t going to judge you. Instead you were met with love, compassion and a honest frank discussion? What if there was a place you could go to where you didn’t have to pretend, you can come – long hair, tattoo’s, piercings and all. A place where you could meet with other people and talk about the things you face in life.

What if you could meet with a bunch of people where the statements like “I watch too much porn”, “I had an affair”, “I was abused as a kid”, “I am broke” or “I shoot up just to get through the day” were not only allowed but were …. addressed, talked about. A place where you were given the tools & friendships to help.

What about a place where you can come together with others to enjoy life, to share the ups and downs and to just get on and live.

You … today

What’s your church like? (and by church I mean, church, soccer club, pub, darts team, bowling alley) Do you have a group around you where you can be you? Does this group allow you to let it all out? Does this group encourage you in your life?

If not, why not? Because maybe, just maybe a Jesus who encourages this, is a Jesus people might just want to know. Forget the religion, get rid of the tradition – let’s find the Jesus of the bible & see where He takes us.

Me?

I’m still exploring but I’m starting to see more and more what this is about – I’m on a journey, to drop the pretense of being a ‘christian’ (which growing up in the church, is something that can come naturally) and find out what it means to be ‘a Child of God’, a ‘follower of Christ’.

For those of you reading this, that know me well, those I work with or hang out with, or go on bagel runs with – I challenge you to challenge me. Go on, ask me the hard questions, tell me what you think of … well this post, my story etc. I’m not perfect, I make mistakes and you are the people who’ll see them … but I want to be real, I want to be honest.

I’m not ABOUT to become a bible ‘basher’ – don’t worry, I’m not into that & don’t think it works, but if you are up for a coffee & a chat, then lets talk, I might even shout you the coffee

Challenge me, ask me, push me – but be prepared to answer this question for me “what stops you from knowing Jesus?”

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7 Responses

06.21.09

Ok. So I don’t know this kid at all. I can tell you something though, your right. The main reason why people don’t like christianity is because they associate it with the church, an entity thats had a long history of screwing up. People say the church was meant to be a “body.” I don’t understand why the body should have to exist. If we are all God’s children then why must we try to wash away our own identities in this thing we call “church.” In short, this blogg of yours brings up good points, but it comes from a percpective of someone who thinks the church is one of the few ways to “get to know Jesus.” Jesus never said anything about me ging to church on the sabbath or going to church at all for that matter.

06.21.09

A very good post my friend.

You are so-so right! We need to get back to realizing all those “rules” aren’t the way.

If you look real close, we have Sadducees and Pharisees these days too!

I wrote a similar hub on this subject too-going on in my own church:
http://hubpages.com/hub/Hiding-In-The-Sanctuary

06.21.09

@hmm thanks, yeah its hard when history portrays you or something you associate to as X Y or Z – the church is not alone in this, look at almost any cultural group & history can dictate how we portray them.

Anyway, onto a couple of good points you raised.
1) the body of Christ, (found in 1 Corinthians chapter 12, verse 12 & 13) This is NOT about loosing ones identity – again this might have been something the church has done in the past, but shouldn’t have. This is about owning your identity and being part of a bigger group. Take a Soccer team for example. We talk about them as the TEAM, they played well, they didn’t play well, they won a gold medal etc. However when you as a STRIKER or me as a GOALIE join we don’t loose who we are, no the team leverages our strengths and abilities to the greater good of the entire team. The defenders help me with my weaknesses, and they open a way for me to use my strengths .. likewise in a church we should celebrate our identities and yet acknowledge we are part of this team

2) You mention that I come across saying the church is one of the “few ways” to Jesus. I didn’t meant too, I think the church is NOT a way to Jesus, however I do think the church can be a hindrance to knowing Jesus. It’s not about getting to Jesus, it’s about relationship with God. In John chapter 14 verse 6 Jesus tell us that HE & only HE is the way, the truth and the life. That’s it, end of story. Nothing about the church, nothing about rituals, nothing about condemnation or shame. Just Him, His love.

3) You say the bible doesn’t say anything about going to church … I have to look into that a bit more. But how about this verse in Hebrews chapter 10 verse 25 that talks about not forgetting to meet together. Translators tell us this is actually talking about gathering together at the end times – but lets for a second take it at face value. The verse states “don’t forget to meet together to encourage each other” – nothing about singing songs, notices and kids time. No it’s simply states we should get together and encourage each other. I’m not saying those things are not important they are … but that’s not church – that’s something else. Or should I say that’s not what being a christian is – worshiping God (through singing, drama, work etc) is hugely important – but relationship with Christ and other believers is what is all about. Everything else should stem from that.

See following Christ is not something you do alone, the entire gospel, the entire message of Jesus is about relationships – you and me, working together to encourage each other into a deeper, personal relationship with God.

(Note: I tweaked this comment reply to read a little better – to help the flow for future readers)

06.21.09

I think you kind of missed my point, but thank you for responding. (And I apologize for the lnog-windedness of my post, just got a little thoughtful)

The point I was trying to raise was that when you join a group, you are no longer identified seperate from that group. At first this might sound rediculous but think really hard. In a war we don’t think of ourselves as battling Greg and Sally, we think of it as a nation battling a nation. We are no longer Joe and Sam, we become nameless warriors of America or whomever the group is we are fighting for. Yes you are abosolutely right in your soccer example. The team utilizes your strengths and weaknesses. But even in a simple game of football its team A vs. Team B. Everybody is identified by there groups not by their individualities when they choose to participate in a group.

Another point I think you missed was that I don’t think that the church is a way to Jesus. In fact when I read your article it seemed clear that you thought something around those lines, however you clarified sortof your position. And to a degree I agree with you on that position. The message of Jesus was about relationships, but namely the relationship to God. God is personal! He doesnt belong to a group, but to individuals.

It is my belief that the only way you can truly find religous peace and truth is by finding it for yourself. I’m sure you yourself have been on your own spiritual journey no? Then wouldn’t you say that even though you can talk to people for clarification or finding different percpectives, it is ultimately your mind and heart that forge a relationship with God?

I do respect the church and your position, don’t get me wrong. It is nice to have people to talk to about spiritual matters without them getting offended.

06.21.09

@hmm all very good comments and I appreciate the time you’ve taken to reply – thanks. I see what you are saying now about the “becoming a group thing” and I guess that’s the same in many areas of life. Even at work, I’m not just Me, I’m part of XYZ Company.

As for the spiritual journey thing …you are right there too. There is a verse in the bible I really really love in Phillipians chapter 2 verse 12 – 13 where we are encouraged to work on our own salvation. Yes meeting with fellow believers is important in this, but at the end of the day YOU are responsible for YOUR personal relationship with Christ. A church family, a group of friends who encourage you etc etc are just part of you working out your salvation with God.

I’m not sure I missed the points, and I don’t think you missed many either, however this discussion highlights one thing. I have to be careful of here as I continue to explore this through written word. Sometimes what’s in my head doesn’t come out here on the blog quite right & this is something I need to explore. This is also why I need your feedback etc. See, I”ll write something that makes sense to me in my head & current life experience, doesn’t mean that as you read it it imparts quite the same message … I need to get better at this writing thing. And I will, after all this is a journey. I want to explore this with those reading this blog & yes I want to encourage honest open discussion.

If we were to have this discussion over a cup of coffee, the conversation could flow easier…reading between the lines I think maybe we are hinting at something very similar – something along the lines of …

  • God desires a personal relationship with you
  • Jesus, God’s son, came to provide a way for us to reach out & grab this personal relationship
  • Meeting with fellow believers to encourage & learn from each other is important
  • ‘The Church’ has tainted the worlds view of Jesus, God & christians
  • ‘The Church’ is a part of, but is NOT the way to Jesus, to God

Would you agree with this:
At the end of the day, God want’s a relationship with ME – I need to acknowledge that, own that and do what ever it takes for me to achieve a personal relationship with God through His son Jesus

06.21.09

Yes I love conversing these sorts of things in person. It does flow much easier. Yeah in the end we do have a similar ideaology on the issue, but my purpose in responding was to get you to think and help you out (even if i think of the matter slightly more individualistic.) Yes I do agree with your statement by-the-by. Don’t worry abbout how things seem less clear in type than in your head. I have the same problem. Well, I think I’ve done enough. I do have one last question though. Kind of important. Jesus never said he was God. Yet pretty much the entire church says so, and yet we have no clear nonbiblical documentatiom of the church thinking him God till around the 3rd century with the Necian Creed. I myself have been looking thouroughly into the matter in both the bible and historical info. Any thoughts?

06.21.09

Yeah cool … it does help to work through things some times – I really do appreciate your input :)

As for Jesus not being God, well hmm, lets see. We know he is the Son of God – that’s biblical (I’m at work so won’t race around finding verses for now). We have Him talking about the “helper” or Holy Spirit … and I’m pretty sure there are lots of verses talking about the trinity, Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit – being one, but three.

Okay … A couple of quick verses … John 10:10 Jesus says “I and the Father are one” … I found that here with some others hope they help as you look into this

Blessings to you