Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Terrorist at Sunday School

Some years ago, there was a study of terrorists. The researchers found no striking commonality among terrorists, except that a much higher than expected percentage were children of pastors, rabbis, and mullahs!
It is no secret that many children of pastors are jaded about church. Although many of them end up following a spiritual vocation of some sort, just as many do not attend church at all. Hopefully, very few turn out to be terrorists!

Why do so many family members of church leaders – or previous church employees – become cynical about church?

I think it has something to do with the opinion that they previously had about church. No one becomes “disillusioned” who was not originally “illusioned.” The Bible teaches a high view of the church. It does not teach one to idolize the church. There is a difference.

Church is meant to be sacramental.

Something is sacramental when it offers an understanding of and a participation in, some higher reality.

A sacrament is something like an iceberg. It has a visible part. It has an invisible part.

Our faith instructs us to expect to encounter a spiritual reality as we participate in a sacramental rite with faith.
The Christian faith has always offered such sacramental acts as communion, baptism, anointing with oil, the laying on of hands, the dedication of infants, ordination, and marriage.

These sacramental actions are often involved in those times when we acknowledge some fundamental changes in our lives or in the lives of our fellow believers. That word “fundamental” is important. Sacraments deal with fundamental change.

A man who buys a pair of shoes has something new to put on his feet. Tomorrow, he may them take off. But a man who gets married today, or ordained, or baptized, undergoes a fundamental and permanent change. Sacraments acknowledge these sorts of fundamental changes. Indeed, they are conduits through which such changes takes place.

Unfortunately, sacrament can easily become idol.

An idol is something that points to nothing. It is a thing in itself that leads one nowhere else. It accepts honor, respect, and even worship for itself. Bread and wine can become idols. Baptism can become idol. Even the Bible can become an idol. Nothing should ever be worshipped but God.

The Church is meant to be sacrament. It is messy, earthy and human but it points to God and helps human souls know Him.

Unless it doesn’t!

If church does not point the soul to God, it becomes an idol. It accepts and then expects praise, labor, respect, and even worship for itself.

Too many pastors and other church leaders pour their lives into the church and fail to meet God or to lead the flock of their churches to God. Their lives and work become an offering poured out to an institution, a campus or a group of people. Church becomes mistress and wife and children become abandoned.
The sacrament becomes an idol and God is lost.

When this happens, people searching for God slowly become disillusioned, bitter and sometimes even apostate.

They don’t really ignore God; they just don’t know where to find Him. That is because they once mistook him for something else.


urwurtha said...

Pastor Dan,

You have always been able to take the most complex issues church leaders face and break them down to reveal truth and understanding. This simple post brings such clarity and perspective... thank you.

Brian Wieneke

Antonia (Toni) said...

I think if we would just remember our own families struggle relating with one another this would help us to remember our spiritual family is no different. The best of us struggle with relating with one another.

This is one reason why we need God walking with us. We need one another AND God knew this.