The last two reasons John Pavlovitz offers to account for why people are leaving churches are painful. But they ring sadly true.
4. You choose lousy battles.
This hurts. Pavlovitz writes:
We know you like to fight, Church. That’s obvious.
When you want to, you can go to war with the best of them. The problem is, your battles are too darn small. …Every day we see a world suffocated by poverty, and racism, and violence, and bigotry, and hunger; and in the face of that stuff, you get awfully, frighteningly quiet. We wish you were as courageous in those fights, because then we’d feel like coming alongside you; then we’d feel like going to war with you.
Church, we need you to stop being warmongers with the trivial and pacifists in the face of the terrible.
Too often people find more wisdom, compassion, kindness, gentleness, and understanding outside the community of church than they experience in our midst as we continue to wage old battles that have long been resolved for most people. The hypocrisy of our claim to be an open inclusive community is not lost on people who see that we are unable to agree on extending a full open welcome equally to all people.
Children are dying of malnutrition. The earth is dying of environmental degradation. Countries are imploding in vicious civil war. All the while, the church is squabbling over who we will or will not include on the basis of who they feel called to love. This is shameful; it makes Pavlovitz point #5 extremely timely.
- Your love doesn’t look like love.
…more and more, your brand of love seems incredibly selective and decidedly narrow; filtering out all the spiritual riff-raff, which sadly includes far too many of us.
It feels like a big bait-and-switch sucker-deal; advertising a “Come as You Are” party, but letting us know once we’re in the door that we can’t really come as we are. … Church, can you love us if we don’t check all the doctrinal boxes and don’t have our theology all figured out? ….Can you love us if we’re not sure how we define love, and marriage, and Heaven, and Hell? It sure doesn’t feel that way.
Conditional love is not love. It is a bargain. God does not bargain. Grace is a gift freely given, without strings attached. The Gospel does not demand we be good enough first. God invites broken flawed human beings into loving relationship. God does not wait until we are “moral” enough, smart enough, or well-disciplined enough. God does not hold back until we get all the answers right.
We are welcome just as we are.
A community that does not have room for broken flawed people like me, will never be able to offer the expansive invitation Jesus extended to all people. When our hearts respond to the invitation of grace, we will be changed. But change is not a condition before the invitation is offered.True change only comes after the invitation of grace is received and embraced.
This is the welcome Pavlovitz has been looking for from the church:
It’s here, in my flawed, screwed-up, wounded, shell-shocked, doubting, disillusioned me-ness that I’ve been waiting for you to step in with this whole supposedly relentless, audacious “love of Jesus” thing I hear so much about, and make it real.
Church, I know how much you despise the word Tolerance, but right now, I really need you to tolerate me; to tolerate those of us, who for all sorts of reasons you may feel aren’t justified, are struggling to stay.
I wonder what it may take to get us to the point where we are able to offer John Pavlovitz such an open, genuine, authentic welcome.