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Being Unchurched is Not Necessarily the Problem

Pr. Jaynan Clark

15 April 2011

Pr. Jaynan Clark

Photo of Pastor ClarkIt seems that many are now very concerned about the "church." They are concerned that the "church" is in trouble.The "church" is losing its faith. The "church" is losing its foundation. The "church" is losing its voice. The "church" is losing its position. The "church" is losing its support. The "church" is losing its members. The "church" is losing. . . .

We vote because of the "church" and end up with winners and losers… not really.

Every time the Word of God as the only authority in your life and your faith is put up for a vote, we all-- as a cloud of witnesses-- stand to lose. The church of Jesus Christ, the true and hidden church is not at risk, never has been, never will be as even the gates of Hell cannot and will not prevail against it; however, the institution that prefers to be referred to as "church" is in trouble, as it should be. Let it vote itself out of existence-that is not our concern. After all, there are consequences for putting the Lord your God to the test, placing His Holy Word up for a vote and pretending to serve God and others when serving one's self. The day for pretending to be "good" church people is hopefully coming to an end and the new day for serving a rejected, despised, betrayed, crucified and risen Lord as His forgiven sinful children is upon us. Thank God!

For too long we have cared too much about "church" and too little for the Lord of the church. We have talked about "them" as "unchurched" when some of "them" have greater faith than the "churched" ever imagined. Unchurched isn't the problem; unbelief is and that runs rampant inside and outside the church. How patient has our good Lord been as we continue to organize the over organized in order to take committee action while conducting new "member" classes to try to fill our church pews and coffers? If you listen can you hear Him turn to you as He did to the original disciples in utter exasperation, "O unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me." These rather startling words come from the "real" Jesus from the Word of God, as the Word of God . He seems to be the kind that is most likely not impressed with our constitutions, our committees or our mission statements when they function to divert our eyes from the lost and stop up our ears to His simple directives and harsh criticism. After all, He was never portrayed as a big fan of the institutional church.

So, in the midst of today's world with its lack of faith, absence of hope beyond the now, worship of the self and the loss of truth, there are alarming consequences. Those consequences are in our face no matter where we look, are they not? Home, school, office, government, business, on the streets, in the churches and across the nation-evidence abounds that we have lost our footing because we have rejected our foundation and the cornerstone is now our stumbling block. As Jesus promised, He is after all the stone that the builders rejected and on whom we, at the very least, have stubbed our toe.

Perhaps as then, long ago, now He walks in the midst of us for the sake of the "other" not to be referred to as the unchurched but the unbeliever and says "bring them to me!" Perhaps He intends to continue to stir things up until the temple curtains tear, the walls tumble down and He alone remains as the cornerstone and stumbling block. If that is what it takes to wake us up from our slumber and get us focused on matters of faith and unbelief not church and attendance then so be it!

In their suffering, the lost sheep are silently and hopelessly longing to meet a disciple who is real, not a church member who is not. They wonder if we care about their life, their family, their unforgiven sin or if we just want to boost our numbers and fill our pews. They are suspect of those who are paid to tell them about Jesus and therefore they wait for the "unprofessional" disciples to deliver to them the real Jesus of the Bible. They want no more of the professional preachers who debate if He is even relevant today. Sick and tired of pretenders and fixers and platitudes, whether aware of it or not, they hope for disciples and a Savior that "gets it". Those who "believe in God but. . . .. " just can't take one more representative-well versed but unbelieving. They hope for a real, sinful, repentant, forgiven child of God to come on the scene of their life not because they are so good but because He is.

The "real" seems to be missing in action in not only the church but across today's world. A world of computer animation and photoshop and every form of grand illusion that the mind can invent adds only to the facade. If the church of Jesus Christ is also a western storefront with nothing behind it, just another fake, this they do not need and neither does the "real" Jesus. Listen to Him as he calls to you and asks. . . . will you stop worrying about the church and getting people into the church or to go to the church or to join the church or to finance the church and care if they believe in me?

The problem isn't that they are "unchurched" it is that they are unbelievers, they are sheep without a flock who do not know who their Good Shepherd is. They are God's own children whose faces are not on milk cartons but on our very wine bottles and bread bags. Missing, unaccounted for, as we gather around our tables arguing about who can preside at His table. They are those who will never darken the doors of these so called churches because they do not know who the real Jesus is and those in the pews don't seem to either.

"Church" is the gathering that should result from receiving the gift of faith, becoming a believer and being called to be a disciple and therefore wanting to congregate with other like believers to share that common faith and make more disciples. Church is a result of making disciples, the consequence for taking Jesus at His Word and delivering Him over to other sinners so He can miraculously forgive them, free them and transform their lives from "theirs" to His.

Let's be real--He is!