The Church today – Christlike or Phariseelike?

I have been doing a great deal of thinking recently about the church in America and its reality.  Not what we say it is, not what we want it to be, but what it really is.  If we Unknown-2were to strip away the mask, and the cute phrases, and the nice sounding mission statements and looked at the reality of what is left what would we find.

Now, mind you I am not naive enough to say this is everyone everywhere and yes I am making some generalizations.  I am very well aware that there are MANY great Christians and “churches” that live it well.

However, I am coming to the conclusion that the “church” and “Christianity” in North America looks far more like a movement of Pharisees than it does a movement of “littlepharisee Christ’s” spreading across our cities.  To be a “holy” people is not to be a “holier than thou” people but to be a people who look like Jesus, act like Jesus, love like Jesus, serve like Jesus, go where Jesus went, and be Christ-like to the world around us not just to those within our faith family and for those who are like us.

The Pharisees were all about keeping the rules and staying away from certain groups of people.

Jesus was known as a friend of sinners and came eating and drinking with sinners and tax collectors.

Pharisees made laws to protect the laws.

Jesus was known for “breaking the laws” for the sake of loving the world around him.  Jesus loved and accepted people in spite of their behavior.

Why is it when we talk about “Holiness” do we automatically go to “not sinning” instead of being like Jesus.  If we are going to be like Jesus don’t we automatically have to look at who we are friends with.  Our church culture has used words like “sanctification” and “Holiness” to separate us from the world around us and therefore make us more like Pharisees than like Jesus.  “Sanctification” and “Holiness” should be calls to enter relationships with the very people who need to see the Love of Jesus not the judgement, condemnation and laws of the Pharisees.

I would love your feedback to this question…

When you look at the church (generally speaking – from your perspective and connections) how would your rate the church on the scale of 1-10… 

(1) Looks like Jesus………………………………………………..Look like Pharisee (10)

(Non Judging, Friend of Sinners) …………………. (Separateness, judgment)

(Relational) ……………………………………………………………………… (Legal)

pharisee Unknown-2

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Adventures in missing the point

Sad realities of Pharisaicalism in the church today as represented by the following Adventures in Missing the Point….

When Jesus walked the earth there were a group of people known as the Pharisees.  They were those who were offended by Jesus and his heretical “law breaking” practices.  They were those known more by their laws than by their love.  The same type of people fill the Christian Church today and I seem to attract them like a magnet.

The Pharisees often missed the point.

I am considering writing a book entitled Adventures in Missing the Point.  Some of the chapters would be like these…

Chapter 1 – Communion doesn’t work if you don’t pray for the elements properly

When I was pastoring a church in New Mexico I had a young man approach me after the service and hand the elements of communion back to me and say, “I am sorry I can’t take these they weren’t prayed for properly.”  With my mouth hanging open and my hand out I took the elements and thought to myself how sad.  He totally missed the point.  Communion is more than a chip and a sip and it is not about whether the right words were spoken in a prayer. It is a reminder of how much we are loved when we don’t deserve it.

Chapter 2 – Baptism doesn’t work if you don’t dunk em all the way

After finishing a service I was met at the door by a man who was obviously upset and  more than a little mad that I showed a video of baptisms which included some who were baptized by pouring instead of dunking.  He, with fire in his eyes that could have accomplished his request said, “That baptism video should be burned.  It needs to be destroyed. It should be burned.”  When I picked my jaw up off of the ground he informed me that, “It should be burned because it is teaching things contrary to what Jesus taught about baptism and how it should be done.”  First I am trying to figure out what exactly Jesus taught about baptism and its methodology.  But even beyond that is the irony that this man said this standing in a church building, having followed an order of service that cannot be found anywhere in scripture.

He missed the point of the 25 lives that were giving public testimony to the fact that Jesus had transformed their lives.

Chapter 3 – Message can’t be heard if you quote someone who said the “D” word

A letter was recently written to our denominational leaders reprimanding me for swearing in church.  He stated in his letter that Rev MacLearn said “Hell” multiple time and “Dam” at least 5 times and an even more explicit word.  I was telling the story of how we started a church out of a drug rehab group and I quoted the lady who didn’t want a “dam higher power” and the more explicit word was when I changed a quote to, “and elfin Darrell he’s a pastor”.

The Irony is the man quoted me in the letter.

He missed the point and then he went and did likewise.  The message was missed because all he could hear was the words that offended.

Chapter 4 – story can’t be heard if a picture of Jesus was used to tell it

One of my recent favorites is the response to my recent blog A Picture of the Church.  This responder was at least nice but I am afraid he missed the point of the story.  He states,

Guys, I know you mean well. But do not displease our Lord by displaying a material depiction of Him. He is Holy, and said in Exodus 20 that we are not permited to make resemblences of anything in Heaven or on Earth. Jesus came at a time when there were no Cameras. Lets keep it that way. Thanks.

Quote:” Is there divine warrant for pictorial representations of the Messiah? No, there is not. There are no commands to make pictures of our Lord. In fact such pictures clearly violate the second commandment for a true picture of Jesus should evoke worship in the believer. If a pictorial representation brings thoughts of love, devotion, and praise toward the Son of God, then obviously it is an aid or medium to worship even if people are not bowing down toward the picture. ” Brian Schwertley.

The point of the story was not to try and paint of picture of what Jesus looked like but to show what the world sees when the church functions as the body of Christ.  It wasn’t to say that I believe this is what Jesus looked like and to paint a representation of Christ.  We all know there were no cameras and nobody knows what Jesus looked like and we can be sure that the common picture is a far cry from reality.

I also find his quote interesting for in it he states,

In fact such pictures clearly violate the second commandment for a true picture of Jesus should evoke worship in the believer.

I find it Ironic how many tears have been shed when people look at this picture and it “evokes worship in the believer”.

I don’t identify these adventures in missing the point to be mean in any way to the individuals who missed the point but to simply point out again how easy it is for us to get hung up on the law, add to it and adjust them all at that same time failing ourselves to go and live what Christ called us to be and do.

I wonder how many of these folks are eating with sinners and tax collectors? How many are loving God with all their heart and loving their neighbors as their self (neighbor includes the homosexual down the street – loved or judged)? and how many of them have followed Christ command to go and make disciples?  all of these are clear in scripture.  I don’t find Jesus teaching on baptism methodology.

Now before we are too quick to judge those who have missed the point let’s stop and honestly ask ourselves what we are hung up on and are we possibly unintentionally missing a point?