I am very disturbed by the vast amount of cynicism I am seeing concerning the church and Christianity. Cynicism is when a person openly expresses their distrust towards something or someone through either words or actions. This epidemic would not be so alarming, if it only came from those who are unbelievers; but more and more I am seeing this behavior exhibited by those who say they are Christians.
Before we journey any further into this subject, I want to say to the cynics, “I Get It!”. I understand that you have observed things in church people that would make you question Christianity. I understand the inconsistency among believers that lead to confusion. I understand the disdain for the manipulation tactics within the various forms of church government. I understand that there is seemingly an integrity deficit among church leaders. I understand the lack of differentiation between the church and other facets of society. Finally, I understand that many cynics have been personally damaged at the hand of people in the church. I get it!
All of these things listed are enough to make anyone defect from what they were once loyal to, whether the detachment is positional or dispositional (attitude). However, I personally believe that the so called “omnipresence” of mass media has tainted and marred the image of the church from a global perspective through a number of tactics.
●Misleading people through sound bytes and blurbs
●Implying that the minimum is the maximum
●Expression by irresponsible publishers
●An increase in appeal to wrong authority
More often than not, when we hear dissent concerning the church and church leaders, we hear it from a source that bombards our senses with hard hitting drama-laced sound bytes and quotes which throws listeners, viewers or readers into a media-induced state of shock. Though some of these presentations are accurate, there are yet some that are blown out of proportion and out of context. Our 140 character society and 10 second video splicing society has sedated us with a drug that causes intellectual laziness. We take what we receive in these media snippets as (excuse the pun) the gospel truth; when, in fact they are sensually manipulative trash. And because of our intellectual laziness our minds become overcrowded landfills that creates an emotional “stank” towards the objects being reported about.
Such is the case with the church. And the thing that frustrates the process of exploring to find the truth is that most of the other media sources that you research are generally quote from the same source; because intellectual laziness not only sedates the receiver of information, it suppresses the accurate and objective reporting of the information being received.
1. Take the time to dig past the pessimism. Failure to do so can lead to depression. Proverbs 3:13; Proverbs 19:8
2. Reporters should patiently report. Fast food ain’t good (just convenient), and good food ain’t fast. Proverbs 18:13
We all hate generalizations and stereotypes. But here lately, the corporate church has been stigmatized by the welcomed ridicule of a few churches who had influence in their local communities, but abused that influence. These stories of fallen humanity are used as a springboard to malign the universal church community. The truth of the matter is that most local church assemblies are led by people with impeccable character and integrity. Most local church assemblies are filled with people who love one another and anyone who attaches themselves to that assembly. Now, mind you, I believe every church could use some assistance in knowing how to better engage the community around them, but that is with any organization, whether civic, corporate or religious.
To label every church with the stigma that says, “every one of you are only out to rape and pillage people of your resources, individuality and self-esteem” is totally unfair to those local assemblies that deliberately work to please and honor God by exhibiting godly behavior towards humanity.
1. Take the time to evaluate local assemblies using the Word of God as a measuring stick. I Corinthians 2:13
2. Attempt to prayerfully understand the mission and vision of local church groups and see if their functions line up with their declarations. Then anonymously present your findings in writing to that assembly’s leadership. This allows you to move from being an irritant to being an answer. I Corinthians 2:14-15
Social media has placed power in the hands of individuals; and that’s a good thing. If it were not for social media, you wouldn’t be reading this blog right now. However, power without responsibility can prove to be a weapon of social mass destruction. Once again, the crisis of intellectual laziness causes us to see memes and word moguls who say very nonsensical and even demeaning stuff. Sometimes without thinking we begin sleep-liking. Just liking for the sake of liking, not realizing that with every like we could be empowering massive ignorance; or even worse social engineering people to think, act and respond in dangerous ways. These ways can be so dangerous that they could eliminate an entire school population in a matter of seconds.
Those seconds seem to be running out for the church at a rapid rate. I cannot tell you how many groups I have been invited to on Facebook whose entire agenda is to “out” Pastors. The leaders of these groups, seem to know all of what’s wrong with the church and it’s leadership. From my observations, many of them are hurting and are looking for someone to agree with them in order to share in their disgust toward the church, due to their own subjective experiences. The underlying theme among these cynics is that the church is full of hypocrites. But who is the hypocrite? Really? It seems as though these individuals and groups are (in theory) the bigger hypocrites. Why do I say that? Because they are willing to put the entire universal church in ICU when it’s really only suffering from a paper cuts or possibly at worst a summer cold.
We must come to the realization that though the church is an assembly of redeemed people, those who are redeemed are still people. We all at some point or another have given in to the propensity to act more like people than redeemed. Yet, we must acknowledge an even greater reality: our words and expressions based on our subjective experiences have the power to influence the society in which we live towards a negative ideology of the church, when it isn’t the church that damaged us; it’s a specific person or a group of people within the church.
1. Ask God for the grace to forgive those who have damaged you. Mark 6:15
2. Check your heart to see if your pain is partially self-inflicted because of an ingrained bitterness that makes you resistant to correction. Hebrews 12:9-16
3. Examine the intent of all media that you may publish. You may find that your intent to expose people is simply a cry to be healed. Social media is not the best place to seek healing. Additionally, God never called publishers to expose people, he calls publishers to expose the mysteries of the kingdom. Matthew 13:52
If I want to get a consultation on a diagnoses for brain cancer, I personally would never go to a podiatrist. Why? A podiatrist specializes in caring for the feet. I would, instead, go to a neurologist or an oncologist, or both. Why? A neurologist specializes in caring for the brain and the nervous system, and an oncologist specializes in treating cancer. I will appeal to them because they are trained to deal with the area of concern.
Just as our concern for physical abnormalities should be left to those who are specialized in treating that area, our concern for the ails within the church should not be entrusted to those who have no knowledge or understanding about how the church should operate. Secular media outlets, talk show hosts, psychologist, anthropologist, and unregenerate theologians are the wrong sources to appeal to in order to obtain expert commentary concerning the church. Some of the aforementioned persons may very well have noble intents in their expressions, but they will be misguided in their nobility, at best. Of course I can understand the concern of a lack of objectivity from those who are from within the church to provide a true evaluation on the state of the church.
To get a clear picture of the performance of an organization, process or invention, we must always refer back to the original intent as prescribed by its original inventor. For instance, a chair can be used to function as a ladder, but at the end of the day, its purpose and intent is to be a chair. Functionality does not determine purpose; intent does. Therefore, we must appeal to those who clearly understand the intent of the church if we are going to get a true objective assessment of its character. If a person is to be a true assessor of the church, that person must first be Spirit-filled. I Corinthians 2:14 teaches that the natural man cannot understand or grasp what is of God, because God kind of stuff requires spiritual examination. How do we know if a person is qualified to examine the church. Galatians 5:22-24 gives us clear criteria for examining examiners.
- operate in love
- flow in peace
- is patient
- demonstrates kindness
- has control over desires
There are very few who meet this requirement, even in the church (I Corinthians 4:15). However, there are some. Such individuals are qualified to measure the performance of the church based upon its original intent.
So, now that we understand the qualifications for the church examiners, now let’s find out the standard that these examiners should use to evaluate the performance of the church. Paul the Apostle writes as an examiner of the church concerning his role in Ephesians 3:7-11.
7 I became a servant and preacher of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace as He exercised His amazing power over me. 8 I cannot think of anyone more unworthy to this cause than I, the least of the least of the saints. But here I am, a grace-made man, privileged to be an echo of His voice and a preacher to all the nations of the riches of the Anointed One, riches that no one ever imagined. 9 I am privileged to enlighten all of Adam’s descendants to the mystery concealed from previous ages by God, the Creator of all, through Jesus the Anointed. 10 Here’s His objective: through the church, He intends now to make known His infinite and boundless wisdom to all rulers and authorities in heavenly realms. 11 This has been His plan from the beginning, one that He has now accomplished through the Anointed One, Jesus our Lord.
Herein we find the root of cynicism concerning the church. For centuries the evolving societies in which we live, as well as those who have both connected to and defected from the church, have viewed the church with the propensity to make it about the people within the organism. However, in the above scripture we see that the church was never created with people in mind. The church was created with only one person in mind: Christ Jesus. Our lenses need to be adjusted, and our focus should be realigned. In order to be cured of our cynicism, we must take our attention off of church people and place it on the person of the church.
1. Learn Christ. Ephesians 4:20-23