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Churchianity and 10 Commonly Accepted Distortions of the Gospel

This past Sunday I preached about the difference between “Christianity” and “churchianity.”  I had so many people come up to me afterward who were intrigued and wanted to hear more that I decided to put a few of my thoughts on paper.

First, here’s a chart that explains more of what I mean.  This is not all-inclusive, and it doesn’t mean that everything in the left column is unimportant.  It just means that we tend to overemphasize certain aspects of our faith under “churchianity” that distort the Gospel and following Jesus.

Churchianity

Church activities

Sundays

Sit and listen

Go to heaven

Right doctrine

Knowing

What I get out of it

Consumer

Observer

What we're against

vs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christianity

Personal relationship with Jesus

Every day

Be equipped and go

Bring heaven to earth

Right living

Doing

What I give to it

Contributor

Participant

What we're for

In churchianity, we make the Christian faith more about a religion than a relationship.  It’s more about rules, rituals, and regulations than living out our faith from day to day.  Now, I’m not one who wants to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and I believe we do need rituals that point us to Jesus, rules that help guide our steps, and regulations that guard our hearts.  The problem comes when we place more of an emphasis on the scaffolding rather than the structure.  Rituals are scaffolding; relationship with Jesus is the structure. 

As I have observed many Christians within my stream of Christianity (conservative Evangelical), I’ve noticed that we can be disparaging of tradition and anything that smacks of ritualistic faith.  Many do so under the guise of being more “spiritual” and authentic because they don’t get caught up in all the trappings of religion.  What tends to happen, however, is that some believers fail to apply the aspects of the right column in the above chart.  They don’t want rules and rituals, but they’re not willing to be equipped and go, either. 

Following Jesus is not a Sunday-morning experience only.  But in saying that, we need to make sure we’re honestly pursuing Jesus every day of the week.  You might agree that as followers of Jesus, our emphasis should be more on doing than just knowing, but then what are you really doing?  If you agree that Christians should not be consumers, then what are you contributing?  If it’s not just about observing, then in what are you participating?

I give you a call to action. It’s time to learn more in order to serve more.  It’s time to make Sundays a worship and training ground for what happens in your life through the rest of the week.  When you sit, listen and observe, you do so in order to get ready to get up, share and participate.  It’s time to put faith into action, words into obedience, and knowing into doing.

“You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did” (James 2:22).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Cynicism Can Make Ice Cream Taste Like Spinach

When I had my heart attack three years ago, and when it seemed like everything was falling apart around me, I found myself sliding into a pit of cynicism and despair.  Maybe you’ve been there.  Maybe you’re there now.

Up to that point in my life, I always considered myself an optimist.  But, as Carey Nieuwhof writes, “Most cynics are former optimists” (Didn’t See It Coming, 16), and I’m living proof. Cynicism is a mindset that controls our attitude.  It’s a blanket draped over present circumstances and future possibilities. Cynicism says, “Okay, so things are going well for now, but you just wait.”  Your car is on the verge of breaking down.  Your kids may be healthy, but they’ll still get sick.  Your job is never secure.  Your marriage appears to be fine, but it’s just an illusion. You’re just one heartbeat away from another heart attack and possible death.

Cynicism can make ice cream taste like spinach.  It can make sunshine merely a precursor to storms.  It hollows out joy and fills it with the cream of bitterness.  No one likes to be around an Eeyore, but when we find ourselves in the wardrobe of Debbie Downer, what do we do? 

First, we acknowledge that life is filled with pain.  We don’t deny it, we don’t run from it, and we don’t hide it.  Solomon once wrote, “The greater my wisdom, the greater my grief. To increase knowledge only increases sorrow” (Ecclesiastes 1:18).  Solomon may have written this on a bad day, but his words are true.  Wisdom is the gateway to loving life (Proverbs 19:8), but it also brings awareness of the reality of death.  Cynicism takes this knowledge and turns it to gall.  True wisdom in Christ turns this reality to hope. When we acknowledge the reality of pain in this world, we can then learn to deal with it.  Knowledge is the path to cynicism or Christ, death or life. 

Second, don’t project past failures onto future possibilities.  The past is the past.  Learn from it.  Grow from it. But don’t repeat it.  My mentor, Alan Ahlgrim, once told me, “You did the best you could with what you knew at the time.  But just because you did the best you could doesn’t mean it was the best that could have been done.”  Have you experienced past failures?  Welcome to the club.  The issue now is how to move forward without letting the past define your future.  God told the Israelites in a season of new opportunities, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past” (Isaiah 43:18).

Third, keep believing. Faith, by definition, is a choice. You choose to believe the sun will rise tomorrow, even though all you can see is the darkness of night.  You choose to believe that God will guide you through pain, even though all you feel is hurt.  Nieuwhof said it best, “Because hope is anchored in resurrection, it is resilient.  It can withstand a thousand [critics].  It can outlast a dozen or a hundred frustrating jobs.  It can outmaneuver ten thousand broken hearts.  If you want to kick cynicism in the teeth, trust again. Hope again.  Believe again.  That’s the hope found in Jesus Christ.  And that, in the end, is what defeats cynicism” (ibid., 26).

“In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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