Archive for May, 2015

Why so cynical? Thoughts on church disillusionment

Why so cynical?

I have for the last 10 years or so lived between the worlds of Christians that run institutions and those that given up on them. As more and more institutions die and the ranks of the disaffected grow tension is growing.

Why are people leaving?

I think people get tired of investing in something that doesn’t seem real anymore. At least it seems like the main thing, whatever it is we put on our mission statement or on the wall or whatever, isn’t really the main thing. Pastors get tired of preaching sermons to people who so rarely seem to learn or change. Volunteers get tired of plugging holes in a program. The more the church or organization is driven by self-preservation, the more contrast there is between the inside story and the public story, the more people are motivated by obligation or hype, more unreal the experience becomes. There is a tension that grows inside more and more until we just can’t keep supporting it anymore.

It has happened to me a couple of times. Now lots of people have come to blame the “system.” Lots of thoughtful people have explored the ways we shape our systems end up shaping us in return. The medium is the message and all that. Those are worthwhile topics to engage in.

The bigger issue is really trust. It isn’t just the system we don’t trust, it is the people in it. Sometimes it is the people in charge, sometimes it is the people who think they are in charge. Even if we change the system we are still faced with issues of integrity and accountability. Having a hierarchical structure or some kind of board doesn’t mean any real accountability is occurring.

We can point to national scandals but the real killers are little scandals. Every little squabble swept under the rug. Every firing that comes out looking like a mutual decision. The awkward silence when another person leaves and won’t say why.

Every organization has a culture and in some cultures there are things you just can’t question, but sometimes they are the very things that need to be questioned. It is a dangerous thing when an organization celebrates and trumpets every morsel of positive feedback and quietly rights off each critical comment because those critics obviously don’t get it.

How do we get back to the place where we are willing engage with each other and build something again? We need to become trustworthy. We need to become faithful. We need to earn back trust by walking sincerely, transparently, and selflessly. Christian leadership has evolved in to management techniques, strategy, and influence with only lip service to integrity and virtue. Christ needs to become preeminent in the church.

But I have this against you: that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the works you did at first. But if you do not, I am coming to you, and I will remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

(Rev 2:4-5 LEB)

No Comments