Friday, December 28, 2012

Where did Jesus go?

Lately I have been sitting quietly by and pondering the modern church.  I have a long and complicated personal relationship with God and what I guess i'd call "Religion" in general.  The simple version is this:  I started going to church on my own accord around age eight, asked my parents to come with me, which they did, then they became Christians, too.  I was baptized at age 9, and despite what people will try to tell me or argue, I really did know what it meant to me and what I was choosing to do.  I went to a church in Lake Oswego, Oregon to a youth group that had a click of snotty holier than thou girls which never included me and then rebelled, not going to church at all from age twelve to 15.  At 15 I joined a youth group at a Lutheran church and made tons of new friends which made church cooler again and went on to take trips to Los Angeles, Seattle and Canada with their choir. At 16 my parents moved our family to Albuquerque, NM and we joined a different church where I started making friends in the youth group.  The youth group in NM was a bunch of kids who were all secretly rebellious and outwardly "churchy" on Sundays.  I rebelled some more and got into drinking and typical teenager acts of defiance and eventually went to college at Portland State where I walked away from religion entirely for a while, until moving back to NM where my dad announced he was becoming a pastor.  After a car accident at 22, I decided to go to Bible college in Missouri where I found out that real "Christians" are rude, judgmental  stuffy and close minded, also anything but loving with the exception of a few, who were the basic black sheep of Christian college, and of course, my friends.  Eventually I got married and my husband and I started going to my dad's church.  My dad's church is an old Baptist church built in the 1940s where the same 100 people have been members since then.  It is a church stuck in tradition, legalistic approach and its members refuse to embrace any change or progressive thought beyond "updating" the music which now, sounds like the 1980s versions of hymns instead of the 1940s versions.  Its tough being a young adult in my twenties in a dying church that refuses to change.  There are some good things that it has brought to the neighborhood, but overall its depressing to see religion so joyless, so cheesy and so pointlessly doctrinal into denomination jargon that nobody understands anymore.  Its the perfect picture of religion slipping into an irrelevant, culturally disillusioned state of anti progress.  There's a few that constantly work and give and help to try to promote change and the rest just sit in their pews and complain about why there shouldn't be drinks in the sanctuary and how the Baptist association wouldn't agree with this this and that.  Its completely missing the point.  ON the other hand, My husband and I decided to seek out something different to kind of try something new and see whats out there so we went at the offer of some friends  to Mars Hill in Albuquerque.  At first we liked it and event started going to a community group where we met a ton of nice people but after a while, the whole thing really started to get to me.  I started looking around at the status quo of Mars Hill.  Young, hip, trendy, "edgy" and I couldn't help but notice a parallel on the spectrum.  Whereas my dads church is too rigid and too outdated, Mars Hill is almost too manufactured, too networked, too "trendy".  I couldn't help but wonder if even Jesus would fit in here.  They pushed us for membership almost immdediately and increasing numbers seemed like a priority.  The main pastor who preaches via satellite, Mark Driscoll seems more like an inner church celebrity than a pastor.  Mars Hill members are die hard Driscoll fans and it was, at times almost like they took his words at face value rather than challenging them or digging deeper, all the while repeating Driscoll-isms as if they were law.  Needless to say, I have been really personally challenged to find out what church is missing today.  Something isn't clicking and it really bothers me.  I feel detached from my faith and I think I can honestly say that church is the reason.  There is nothing that is relevant about churches.  They are either completely detached from relevant cultural community or they simply create their own and ignore everything else outside of it, forcing others to either conform and join or be lost by the wayside.  Its an epidemic with mega churches like the Mars Hills and Calvaries of the world  who simply mass produce Jesus on a full scale like a product you can find at wal-mart and sell him to a certain type of person.  And the smaller churches lose too, because they feel threatened to hang on to legalism of the 1950s.  The cold hard truth is that denominations don't mean anything to a huge number of people in the world who simply call themselves Christians.  These people are like me.  They are young and pushing 30, they are the next generation of leaders and they are lost.  They know who God is based loosely on their upbringing and experiences but they have no home base for where to find him because they simply do not fit anywhere within church culture and they refuse to settle for trendy as an answer and legalism as a motive.  Its really, deeply saddening.
   Now I look Jesus.  He wasn't a Pharisee.  He didn't toss the book at people without tossing them compassion first.  He spoke their language and made his teachings culturally relevant to the people in which he spoke to.  He put it in their terms for them to understand.  Jesus was not nit picking at their petty habits because they were sinners.  He was teaching them and loving them despite these things.  Jesus was also not trendy.  In fact, I guarantee Jesus would not have gone to Mars Hill.  Jesus was humble.  He was without a podcast and flashy means to get his own voice amplified.  Jesus acted, he didn't boast or self inflate.  I think Mark Driscoll should remember that.  Jesus was not about his own ego or becoming a culture icon.  He was a simple, honest teacher.  So I continue to seek the truth for my generation.  What is church?  Where do we go from here?  There's a gap, a mess we've created with no solutions.  Let's start by fixing that.  How do we make Jesus' message truthful again  without all the fluff, whether big sound systems and our own indoor label or cheesy music and "no coffee in the sanctuary" signs?  I don't know where to start or what the answer is but I will admit that i'm a Christian and i'm lost in a culture that does not speak for my faith.

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