I’m going to admit up front that I have been guilty of this at times in my life. I have to keep myself in check in this area, so I will share it with you. Even if you don’t attend church anywhere you have probably watched people who go to church engage in this type of behavior. Sorry about that. We are not painting a very good picture for you.
Does this scenario ring any bells? You got up on Sunday morning, put on your ‘Sunday best’ (whatever that may be), listen to the music and the teaching, and then head to lunch. Sunday lunch is normally tied or slightly ahead of Friday night for the busiest time of the week to get a meal out. This is the dominant way most churches impact their local economy. (GEEZ! Sarcasm is flowing today!) Then the conversation begins. You know the one I’m talking about. It typically begins by rating the music; “Wow, that was really good today!” or “I don’t really like that song very much.” or “Why is that person on the stage?, Why did they do that with the lights? That was too loud! That was too quiet! Why didn’t they do my favorite song? Why don’t they do a hymn? Why do they bother doing a hymn? I sure like it better when so and so is up there.”
Then we move on to the communicator; “He/She just didn’t do it for me today. I feel like I’ve heard him/her talk about that before.” or “Man that one was a home run! That was his/her best ever!” We rate leaders, experience, how we are treated, and how we feel about how the services went.
I’m NOT talking about guest, or people who are trying church for the first time. I’m not talking about leaders challenging the process. I’m talking about Christ-followers! It doesn’t just happen at lunch on Sunday. It’s when Christ followers head out to the neighborhood pool, or out to a business lunch, or with other friends, at the movies, at the park, wherever. It is people who name the name of Jesus in comparison driven, critically driven, gossip driven conversation about their local church.
I’m just talking about church people in general. I’m not thinking of anyone in the church I serve in. Most everyone at our church is too polite to do this in my presence. I just hear it happening all the time. Normally, when I hear people being critical of their church, I’ll innocently act like I didn’t hear what they were talking about (but I heard ‘church’), ask them where they attend, and tell them how awesome a person one of their leaders are.
The sad part is that this is what the community knows to be true of people who attend church. You might as well have gone to the movies and rated it on Flixster. I’m going to add that to future ideas (along with my Christian TMZ website); we should have an app to rate your church service. Would you use offering buckets, Bibles, or microphones as an icon to rate your experience? Might depend on your denomination! It’s a joke!
Here is a Sunday lunch conversation you hear far too rarely. “How am I going to apply the truth of that teaching to my life?” “You know, the truth of that song just wrecked me. How can I live that out?” “You know something the Pastor said makes me want to study that further.” “There are some things I have to rethink based on what I heard today.” “I’ve got to share what I am learning with my friend who needs this.”
Those comments happen, but for the most part they are not the reputation of Christians in the local community. The culture of gossip and criticism based on preference and feeling is robbing the local church of its potential, robbing people of getting serious about being more devoted disciples, and makes a relationship with Jesus look like so many other options in pop-culture.
It’s time to change the conversation, our behavior, and our reputation.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.