I keep hearing from researchers and polling experts that the church in North America is doomed, only one generation away from extinction, in fact. I’m here to tell you: That’s not going to happen. Not on MY watch. The church in America is deeply blessed to have a powerful resource that it has never had at any point in its history:
Bloggers… bloggers like me.
Yes, since 2005 I have poured my time and my words into telling the church what it should be and do.
I’ve boldly called out the worst parts of the church with unique page views as my only reward.
It was a close call. I could have chosen to sleep in an extra hour. But I pushed through the bleary mornings, brewed stronger coffee, and saved the church with my blog posts.
You may tentatively suggest, “But Ed, how can you be so sure that your blog saved the church?”
I would bow my head, shake it a little in frustration, and respond, “How can you prove that it didn’t? The church is still here, and I did blog regularly about church stuff.
I’m also sarcastic sometimes…
It’s ironic really. At first I was really critical of the church on my blog. And now I’m critical of how I was critical of the church on my blog… on my blog.
Critics abound, and I don’t think that’s always a bad thing. We need to call out the crazy town antics of church leaders. In fact, a blog may actually save someone’s faith. Not my blog of course. My blog saved the entire church, remember.
We are experts at spotting counterfeits, but who will help us see what is true, and good, and alive?
Yes, there is a place for critiquing celebrity Christianity, the business management strategies of pastors, the markers we use for success and God’s approval, and the ways church members are controlled and manipulated. If there was an “eject” button that could toss those things out of the church, I’d fight to be the first one to push it.
I’m just wondering if we could spent a bit more time writing about what’s working, what’s good, what’s out of the ordinary and unexpectedly good and authentic.
These aren’t always the most controversial or clickable topics. Frankly, they’re often hard to find, and unbearably ordinary without the flash and flare of big personalities. Perhaps that’s why it’s hard to write about all of the things that make church wonderful. It looks like a friend who offers to bail you out of a hard time, families who bring over meals when you’re struggling, single moms who support your wife through the tumult of a newborn, pastors who share openly about the burdens on their minds, elders who listen to the congregation, and leaders who are wholly invested in making church the best experience possible for the children who show up.
There are stories of hope out there, and I’ll be honest, I need them. I need to know that some good things are happening. It’s not all celebrity preachers building mansions out there.
There are churches who are giving financial gifts to third world congregations that these local churches can use to bless their communities however they see fit.
There are pastors who quietly read spiritual classics and graciously share the best quotes with people who would otherwise overlook them.
There are church leaders I know who regularly attend prayer retreats.
There are church elders who have rearranged their weeks in order to serve their neighbors better.
There are pastors who actually just have conversations with people in their community because they like talking to people.
There are pastors who leave the ministry to found non-profits that will be more effective at serving the needs of their neighborhoods.
There are churches who define their success by how much they give away, rather than how much they accumulate.
I’m not out there doing a whole lot. I’m just a guy who writes stories and Christian living books. I’m not going to save the church, but I can at least write about what’s working.
I’ve repented of my old ways. I’ve learned that I have more to offer as a person who points stuff out, who finds what is good and better and hopeful. I’ve spent so much time pointing at what’s wrong that I’ve grown a bit jaded. Yes, there will always be terrible things about the church. I hope people will stand up to what’s wrong. I just hope that’s not the only thing we do.
The next time you learn about something outrageously good in the church, write a post about it. Change the names and situation if you must. But good heavens, we jump so quickly into the fray when the shit hits the fan, but we’re slow on the draw when someone cleans it up.
I can’t speak against anyone who needs to process a toxic church experience, but the churches doing it wrong don’t want to listen to an online consultant and the churches doing it right have no need for an online consultant like me.
I wasted one blog post after another writing about disappointment, fear, and disenfranchisement. Perhaps I needed to get it out of my system, but I didn’t always need to make it public.
I thought the church was super lucky to have me as a critic and consultant, showing the bright way forward to the future. I thought that I could save the church through criticism, but criticism without a way forward, without building something just left me despairing and hopeless.
We weren’t lucky to have a critic like me. We’re lucky to have faithful people who show love in small and big ways day in , day out. They brew coffee, snuggle babies, balance budgets, serve meals, talk to the overlooked, cry with those who mourn, bless their critics, give away what they can, put the needs of others over themselves, and give us something to model.
I’ve spent enough of my time telling the stories about what’s wrong. It’s time to commit myself to stop acting like an online consultant and to start telling the kinds of stories that will provide the counter-narrative a church drowning in materialism, celebrity, and programs needs.