Has anyone noticed that there are a lot of people telling us Christians that we are doing a lot of stuff wrong? The funny thing is that many of these very people are studying to become shepherds of the flock, or are currently pastors, yet they are perhaps the harshest accusers of the brethren. I have noticed some of my own tendencies in these elect “few”–or not so few–who admittedly haven’t got everything figured out, but are polite enough to point out all of the places that we haven’t got it right either.
When I read Christian authors who insist that Christians “shouldn’t do this” and “ought to realize that such and such doesn’t work”, I am left at the conclusion with all of the sad broken pieces of my ministry and theology to pick up. The unfortunate problem is that once my understanding of Biblical Christianity has been completely shot through by the bullets of their wit, pithiness, and questioning but unassuming tone, I am offered no alternatives. Things were torn down, but I was offered nothing to build in its place.
This is a recurring problem for some authors, always questioning, always searching, but never coming to the end of their treasure hunt. Every statement is followed with the ironic tone of the word, “Really?” Authors such as these are ever the critic, but never the originator.
I appreciate constructive criticism. The Reformation was as constructively critical as it comes. However, the Reformers didn’t sit around the pub bemoaning the languishing church. They recognized shortcomings, and they got their hands dirty in the church and tried to change it. My fear for some Christians is that they have become too cool to join the church. Allow me to rephrase that; they are fine with joining The Church, but they are uncomfortable with joining a church. The idea is that if I am a Christian, a.k.a., a member of The Church, I can criticize the church (lower case “c”) comfortably from the sidelines.
The problem with this thinking is that criticism does a great job of pointing out problems and tearing down walls, but without the constructive element, there is only a pile of rubble left. It is much easier to sit on the sidelines of a basketball game and criticize the guy who is shooting 0-for-12, than it is to step in and do better. To those who are dissatisfied with the state of The Church (upper case “C”): Come join a church (lower case “c”)–it’s the only way to fix it.
Note: Some might comment that the Reformers actually did not join the church but rather began working apart from the church. I would argue rather that they were forced out of the local churches, and had to pursue alternatives. However, the alternatives they started were…churches! As long as there are faithful churches to be found, Christians need to seek them out, to help them grow to maturity in Christ and to help themselves grow to maturity in Christ (Ephesians 4:12-16).