Justin Buzzard is planting a church out in San Jose, California. At an information meeting he had recently concerning this church plant, he gave a list of ten reasons why people should not join his church plant. He reprinted this list on his blog; it also appeared at The Resurgence.
Chaplain Mike over at internetmonk.com expresses very strong feelings about this list and the approach to Christianity which underlies it. Go ahead and take a look at his post.
As I read the list and see the approach to Christianity and to doing church which it communicates, my heart is sick. On the one hand, I like Mark Driscoll a lot and have a lot of respect for what he is doing with Mars Hill and the Acts 29 network (of which Justin Buzzard’s new church plant is a part). Driscoll and his churches are all about taking the Christian message into places where the Church usually doesn’t go and creating a place where people who might not be accepted in traditional churches are welcome.
As I look over this list, I can’t help thinking that I would not be welcome at this church. Go ahead and look over the list if you haven’t done so already; if you are honest with yourself you will probably admit that you should not be a part of this church either.
“Consumer Christianity” is rampant in American evangelicalism. Our churches are filled with people running around from church to church looking for the next cool thing. People change churches because they like the music better somewhere else, or maybe the teaching or the kids’ programs. Or because they generally just don’t want to commit. This is a problem.
But there are legitimate reasons why people change churches. Some people were hurt by the church. Maybe they had a really bad experience at their previous church. Or maybe they just don’t feel welcome in churches that operate like the majority of churches in American evangelicalism. Maybe their church doesn’t have an outlet for them to use their God-given spiritual gifts in service of the church (or they did at one time but did away with it and said “If you still want to do that then go find a different church”).
The proper response is not to mow people down with a carpet-bombing of “Don’t come to our church if you’re a Christian who’s already going to another church.” The proper response is to get to know people and offer them pastoral guidance, encouraging them to work through whatever issues they have at their present church if possible, and assuring them that they will work together with other churches to maintain unity in the Body of Christ in their area.
The overall tone of this list is “We’re on a mission here. If you have any issues, weaknesses, hurt, or brokenness in your life that might impede us from completing our mission, then stay the hell away. We may be small in number, but we are going to work like hell and grow like hell and take over the world for Jesus and DON’T YOU DARE TRY TO STOP US!!!!!!!!!”
What a marked difference from the invitation that Jesus gives us: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
I don’t have it all together. I doubt, I struggle in my relationship with God. I am a difficult person; sometimes I can be very unteachable. Sometimes I can cause problems through the way I relate to other people. I have ideas about what kind of place the Church ought to be and can express them quite strongly; just read my blog if you don’t believe that. I need to know that there is hope for me and a place in the family of God and the kingdom of God for me because Jesus died on the cross. I need a place where I can come and just sit in that.
I would be willing to bet that many of you probably feel the same way in your more honest moments. You are aware of the brokenness in your life, whatever form it may take, and you are aware of your intense need for Jesus. You need a place where you can come and just sit in that, knowing that the Gospel is for you just as much as it is for any unbeliever out there.
Alas, Justin Buzzard’s new church is probably not that place.