We are in between big series’ here on the Kit K blog. We have just finished talking “cults and high demand groups.” We are just about to talk “Dominionism and the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation.” But in the mean time, I’ve got a slightly lighter, much more personal topic to talk about – relevance. Is the church still relevant? Is faith still relevant? Is the way we do church still relevant? (I’ve even got the very first guest blogger coming up. He’s going to be talking about whether preaching is still relevant. So excited about that!)
But for right now, I want to talk about whether or not faith has a place in 2018.
When my life got turned upside down about three years ago (after Hubby and I had to leave our church), I lost an entire community of “covenant, unconditional” relationships – relationships that turned out to be neither ‘covenant’ nor ‘unconditional.’ In coping with that, I had to also look at many different beliefs that I’d held. It was a time of deconstructing my old faith and reconstructing a new one out of that wreckage.
Tough, but oh so transformative. I like who I am now, and what my faith is now, to a much deeper degree.
I’d believed that the church in Australia was being persecuted, that we were up against an increasingly humanistic society that left little room for God. I’d believed that it would be a battle to share my faith with people, because their hearts would be hard and the conversation would be adversarial unless I’d prepped the ground with months if not years of friendship.
I discovered I was wrong on oh-so-many counts. Perhaps I’d changed my posture from needing to be right and to convert people to my way of thinking, to just wanting to understand and connect with people. I don’t know. But over the last three years, I’ve sat with atheists, agnostics, pagans, and people of many other spiritual persuasions and we have talked and talked and talked. In these conversations I’ve been warmed by a shared desire to make the world a better place, to better serve humanity, and to show deeper compassion to the marginalised and down-trodden. I’ve seen noble, compassionate and heart-warming similarities in the ethos of these people and for the first time in my life felt like the something we shared was greater than the something that divided us.
Surely this is a better place to start than on a street corner with a megaphone shouting a message of sin and damnation.
I’ve realised that the Western world really isn’t a place where the church is truly being persecuted. We are blessed! Syrian Christians are being persecuted, for sure! Christians in some Muslim countries sure are, but Remnant theology doesn’t belong in the Western world because all we face in terms of persecution is adverse opinions on Facebook (which literally everyone faces, regardless of creed), and a government that wants to make sure the church doesn’t abuse people – surely a noble and Christlike pursuit by the powers that be!
So is faith relevant? You betchya! But does Institutional Religion have to evolve in order to maintain relevance in an ever-evolving world – heck yes.
How do we evolve? I don’t know. All I know is how I have personally evolved, and that I feel like my faith is more relevant now than it ever has been.
These days, I pursue a faith that concentrates on what it stands for rather than what it stands against. In years gone by, the church as an institution thought of itself as the moral guardian of the world. Preachers could stand on the podium and blast fire and brimstone messages, and hold people in adherence to their faith via fear. It was the stick rather than the carrot. You want to go to Heaven, not Hell. So be a Christian.
I still believe in John 14:6, where Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” But I no longer believe that fear of Hell is the only reason we should pursue a life of Christianity.
Jesus came to serve the world and give His life for it. He came to the marginalised, the misunderstood, and the down-trodden as well as those in the highest offices of the land. He exhorted us to a higher law – the law of love while also making sure we knew that wasn’t a call to anarchy and disregard for the law of the land. He didn’t come to reinforce the law of Moses and the legalism of the Old Covenant, but to transcend it and call us to a higher expression of faith – that of love. It is my belief that modern Christianity should be leading the world when it comes to compassion.
I could criticise it for its performance here, but really the only thing that matters is whether or not I am putting my money where my mouth is and challenging myself to show more love, compassion and generosity.
Sure, love means speaking truth when truth is required. Sure, sometimes this will be confronting as heck. But I’m not too keen on getting the balance skewed in favour of ear-chewing. There’s a time and a place. I’m well aware that large chunks of the world have issues with the term ‘sin,’ and maybe that’s a topic for another day. But it’s about balance here.
We don’t need to throw out the doctrines the Bible warns us against. We just need to make sure we realise that we can’t police other people’s walks with God. We can only make sure that ours is pure, and true and the best it can be in terms of being ambassadors for a Saviour who has been as badly abused by Institutional Religion as any other abuse victim. Remember, Institutional Religion actually killed Jesus. So I’m absolutely sure He knows what harm at the hands of those claiming to be righteous feels like.
When I first began the deconstruction/reconstruction journey, an abortion bill went before Parliament. It was at that time I had a conversation with a friend from my new church that flipped how I thought of faith. She said (something along the lines of), “Of course, I’m pro-life. But if you give me a choice between publicly campaigning against abortion and inadvertently shaming people who have been forced to make that horrible decision, or to be able to sit with someone who has seen that heartache and show them the love of Christ, I’ll take that option. Other people can campaign. I can do what I need to quietly about that. But showing the love of Christ is my job.”
Other people can campaign on it. Good for them! There is absolutely place in this world for campaigning and holding the government to account (please do it gracefully as broken hearts can be caught in the crossfire!), Its just not mine.
I’d love it if we could’ve reinvent Christianity – if we could make it something people join because it is good, and noble, and inspiring, and loving, and true, and compassionate, not just because we are afraid of Hell and want other people to be afraid of Hell too. If we could make it a movement of people who amplify the beauty of salvation, forgiveness, grace, truth, love and service rather than a movement of people who wish to police how other people wield their God-given free choice.
I love the Church, even though I see its faults. I love the people who make up the Church, even though I sometimes want to head butt them.
These days I look at the red letters in the Bible more than I look at the black ones. I want my faith to emulate Jesus – the ultimate example of all good things. To me, He will always be relevant. Read the beatitudes, the sermon on the Mount. Read His exhortations toward sincerity, community, and the higher law of love.
These things will always make the world a better place. The world knows what the church is against. We don’t need that to be the only drum we beat. Let’s beat a drum that plays beautiful music instead.
Just some thoughts. I know – less academic and more heartfelt than my usual posts. But hey! That’s me too.
I’d love to hear what you think about the relevance of faith in the modern context. Shoot me a message!