The Church Stinks…

From an email I sent to my church today…

In the last few weeks I have done a lot of thinking about the church. Not merely this church, but the whole North American church. I have come to some realizations more clearly than ever before and I’m going to tell you what they are, but please prepare for some honesty and frankness.

It’s time to just say it.  Folks, to me, the church stinks. Church-as-usual I mean.  I’m not a fan of boring sermons, of music that sounds like you’ve blasted a hundred years back in time, of stuffy suits, of marquis with cheesy slogans on them out by the road, and of having to mind your p’s and q’s so much that you feel like a fake anytime you even come close to acting like the person you really are. I’m not a fan of feeling like I have to use spiritual language so that people will know I’m seeking God.

The Lord told me this is what we should do, instead of “Let’s do this.”
God’s vision for Wildwind involves… instead of “Here’s my vision.”
How’s your spiritual life, instead of “Tell me how you are doing, really.”

The fact is I don’t, and never have, cared about the “code language” that helps one Christian identify another. I have noticed that most people at Wildwind don’t seem to either, and that’s one reason why I love our church. Mostly, I’m not a fan of churches where people who are struggling can’t be honest about that. I’m thankful that I pastor and attend a church where I can be honest about things, even as pastor, and still be seen as someone who wants God in my life.

Wildwind will continue to be about what it has always been about. Honesty. The pursuit of a godly life together in an honest way. Honesty says I don’t know all, or even most, of the answers just because I’m the pastor. (In fact, as pastor I am simply the “chief seeker.”) Honesty admits that the lives we all lead publicly are usually the cleaned-up and pressed versions of the ones we live in private. Honesty admits that our actions and language are usually different Monday through Saturday than they are on Sundays and understands that we’re neither any better, nor any worse, than the person sitting next to us. Instead of trying to muster up spiritual feelings on Sunday mornings before we get to church, honesty understands that staggering into church broken sometimes is what it’s all about — after all, we just might find healing there. Wildwind’s core value that covers honesty, is authenticity.

I can’t tell you how many times I have staggered into church broken in the past few months. Even so I have found, and continue to find, healing at Wildwind Church. And it is not a building that is healing me, but the people who are Wildwind. It is you who listen to me tell you sometimes that I am lost, and yet are willing to continue to follow; you who know I am not who I wish I could be, yet have faith that somehow — like you — I’m okay with God; you who walk this road with me in small group, through encouraging notes you send to me, through continuing to believe I have something worthwhile to say to you, even though you know I’m not always a genius at managing my own life.

Let Wildwind always be that place. After all, I know if I can find not judgment but healing and grace there, it is available to everyone. I’m the one up front, therefore I’m the easiest target — the one easiest to hit with stones of judgment, and the one held to the highest standard (as it should be). And yet I have received not one single email or call from someone sitting in judgment of my recent struggles. Please know that no matter where you are, what you are struggling with, or how messed up you feel inside, there is grace for you. I have been on the receiving end of that grace, and I know there is plenty left for all who need it.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. A request for me to defend some of my comments does not obligate me to do so.

  • Mike

    Dave,

    I appreciate this posting; It seems to be timeless in in its message (note original posting date of May 2007). You and I have had some conversation recently about how it is people who make the church and the response from “Anonymous” above also demonstrates how people can not only make the church, but break the church. I hope she has found a peaceful resolution to her problem.

    While I am currently not a member of Wildwind (nor currently active in any church) I do subscribe to your beliefs about what a church should be and your leadership style. As you mentioned, authenticity should be the core aspect of a church – indeed even a building block.

    Lack of authenticity in organized religion is one of the main reasons I drifted away from the church (although I still maintain strong spiritual beliefs). I will share with you at another time some of the experiences that I had, although they are not appropriate for posting here. Suffice it to say I believe you are dead-on when you say, “Honesty admits that the lives we all lead publicly are usually the cleaned-up and pressed versions of the ones we live in private.” This is exactly what I encountered – cleaned up versions of the real beings.

    Thankfully, Wildwind is the type of place where one can find forgiveness, healing and grace. Honestly.

    • I hope you are right, Mike. I hope Wildwind is that kind of place. On our best days we are. I’m sure sometimes we fall short. I hate those times when I really want to do the right thing and love as I should, but I simply don’t know how, and it seems like everything is wrong no matter what you do. All people, and all churches have those times. And we are so often faithless, responding to people’s (and church’s) love disabilities with a cynical, “and to think I actually believed you cared” rather than realizing that we’re all in process. The truth is, none of us loves very well.

  • Anonymous

    I’m tired of church people and the whole thing. I can’t NOT GO TO CHURCH–that’s wrong, isn’t it? But, I can’t help feeling like a SUB-Christian, a little lower than others. My husband was told the other day by two leaders that they knew they didn’t “feel right” about my husband for some time now, meaning that he is somehow spiritually inferior. My husband is so broken right now. I see his life, I see his walk, and I see his desire to please God… How do we go back when we feel that the perception of us is that we are somehow TAINTING the church? I’ve been around for a long time. I grew up with my dad being a pastor and then in my adult years being heavily involved in leadership and loving the church and loving people. I know better than to speak against leadership and to cause division. Having said that though, I don’t know how to be on this end of it, being a church member, and not measuring up to the expectations of others. Our church really is a good church with good in them–even the leaders. But how do we go back when they view us this way?? I don’t really want to be around people who don’t “feel right” about me and about my family.