Last month, Giant Church Inc proved what the voices of those who speak out against it already know. The people who we served with for years, who claimed we were their family of choice, who we gave our time and care to, who counseled or walked us through painful and private events, proved once again that we were tools in their legacy building strategy. I wrote about it near the beginning of the series in Until We Didn’t at Giant Church Inc. The following is an excerpt:
We realized a majority of our friendships at Giant Church Inc were merely transactional. We were assets if we submitted, served, gave, and never questioned. We are liabilities when we think for ourselves, ask questions, call for accountability, and speak out against wrongdoing. It is an agonizing experience, made even more so when you see your children enduring the same.Until We Didn’t at Giant Church Inc
Giant Church Inc sent a clear warning to those who think about telling their stories. What was shared with them in pastoral counseling sessions or prayer requests, or as friends…..will be shared as they see fit. Nothing is sacred, private, or confidential.
Thankfully, God has brought me through a deep healing season. My faith is stronger; my love for God, myself, and others is deeper; my hope for the church is renewed. I have a renewed sense of hope for the church for several reasons. I am connecting with others who share my passion about helping the church understand the Kingdom of God, care about the dynamics of spiritual formation, and endeavor to join God and collaborate with others doing this work. We are learning the value of incarnational communities, new ways of engaging the Bible, how to craft a personalized rhythm of life, the ideas of narrative therapy, the essentiality of feedback in our formation, and other practical ways to help Christ followers follow and become like Jesus.
These inform the way we interact with those in our churches, homes, workplaces, and communities. We are making disciples as we go, and we are doing it both inside and outside the church without elaborate programs, growth tracks, or proven strategies. Instead, we show up as welcoming presences, rooted in God’s love, walking out the way of Jesus and invite others to join us.
In the Middle
We are modeling simpler lives which include silence and solitude, worship, and community, both abstinence and engagement. We are showing the world that holiness is not dogmatism and prudishness but as Richard Foster wrote in Streams of Living Water, “sustained attention to the heart, the source of all action. Holiness is world-affirming. The holy life is found smack in the middle of everyday life. It sees the sacred in all things.” We can trust that God will show Himself to those seeking Him when we show them that our ordinary, everyday lives is right where He is. I cannot help but have hope for the church when I witness this kind of love and work. And it is a risky kind of love.
I was on an episode of Inglorious Pastords recently and we discuss whistleblowing, washing feet, and risky love. It’s not all serious, though. We have several good laughs.
But Some Have Not
Unfortunately, there are many who haven’t experienced the deep healing I described. Our children, the younger ones among us, and some who walked away from the church have unresolved pain and unhealed wounds from the spiritual abuse they endured. The barrage of stories making evangelical headlines each week only add to the list of reasons for them to stay away from the church. The Southern Baptist Convention report on sex abuse cover-ups, the Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, the hierarchical misogynistic theology coming out of some denominations, Ravi Zacharias, and Kanakuk Kamp are now exposed because of investigative and journalistic reporting. Thankfully, more and more people are finding the courage to tell their stories. Those coming behind us who want a real relationship with Jesus see what’s happening and they find it disingenuous and repulsive.
Church, we are called to be light. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We should be the safest places for the most vulnerable. Instead, we’re havens for abusers and wolves. We’re places where the unspeakable happens and is covered up.
Let’s raise our gaze, Church. Let’s fix our eyes again on Jesus. Let’s love one another. Let’s get back to the Great Commission. Let’s help our congregations in their spiritual formation. Let’s give up the numbers games and the legacy building. Let’s stop building brands and promoting platforms. And let’s stop ignoring the abuse, coercion, power mongering, and manipulation in our places of worship. Let’s speak against it. Let’s make our churches safe spaces for everyone.