By the numbers, I believe that most church ministers and members are sincere in their desire to serve God. Many precious people are the fruit of transgenerational religious traditions. And, because of their sheltered environments, they don’t even know that there are options.
Criticism and judgmentalism do not help. Normal response:
- They dig even deeper into the apologetics that have been developed to defend their positions, and
- They don’t see the truth manifested in love by their critics and judges.
Those who easily condemn others who don’t look and act and believe like they do would have easily condemned me during many phases of my Christian experience. It is safe to believe that in any institution dedicated to the worship of our Creator there may be found remnants of the new creation, sincere seekers, and those who are defiantly committed to their religious tradition.
- Some believe a gospel of salvation
- Some believe a gospel of heaven
- Some believe in the all-encompassing gospel of the kingdom
Those who rightly respond in faith to the gospel of the kingdom and are born of the King’s Spirit are heaven-bound benefactors of salvation. As a matter of fact, the kingdom of heaven is in and among this new creation. The throne of heaven is in our reborn spirits. For us, “Heaven came down, and glory filled our souls.”
I have been privileged to participate in many traditions. I have knelt with Catholics and Episcopalians, and I have danced with Pentecostals. I have wept in sacred, heart-rending assemblies, and have entered into healthy exchanges in Bible studies.
As a matter of fact, if the critics and judges were to examine my past church-related experiences, I would be a condemned man. I gradually moved along past so many “positions” and “traditions” because I was cleaving to Jesus. I was “the real deal” from spiritual birth, as are all of God’s children.
Not too long ago, we attended what the preacher describes as “a Bapticostal megachurch.” My spirit bore witness to the authenticity of both worship and word. We met so many genuinely loving brethren. A friend who accompanied us one Sunday said, “I got born again again!”
I returned to the USA from my first few missions into Third World nations bitterly judgmental because of the creature comforts we enjoy—such as air conditioning, theater seating, and some with Starbucks in massive, elegant lobbies. But, given a little time, the Holy Spirit revealed to me the wrongness of my attitude. Folks who have never been there have no point of reference. They are doing what they know to do, all that they know to do. They get dressed up with the intention of honoring God with their best.
This is a leadership issue. Perhaps you will find the following list a helpful guide for some heart chiropractics:
What should we do with the Church of Smoke and Mirrors?
- Get our attitudes right
- Make ourselves available
- Be led to some of these leaders
- Love them
- Develop relationships with them
- Love them
- Listen to them
- Love them
- Pick up on the conversation much like Philip did with the Ethiopian
- Love them
- Pray for them
- Play with them
- Eat with them
- Watch God work miracles
- Christ in us is the hope of glory
Those who are truly confident of and secure in their relationships as sons and daughters of God need not fear. We do not need to defend God. And we can posture ourselves as servants washing the feet of those who are where we were at one time.
What some of us have come to know as “Smoke and Mirrors Churchianity” is the venue where many people get started. It is an unfair judgment because it does not come from seeing into the hearts of the people. It would be akin to high school kids saying that elementary school is no school at all—illegitimate—smoke and mirrors. Making such judgments make us wonder if we are truly ready for “high school.”
We need to graduate to the class that keeps their eyes on things above, and loves everybody.
That’s what Jesus would do!