27 October, 2009

The Church

The church is made up of simple people like you and me. And because it is made up of people and not just God Himself things will inevitably getting messed up. The church can be a wonderful place, full of community and love and affirmation. The church can also be a manipulative, hurtful, disappointing place, where honesty gets lost in the facade of "being a good Christian."

We sacrifice "Love God, love each other" for "appear to do good and better yourself."

I got into a interesting conversation this weekend with someone who is fed-up with the church in Africa. They struggle with going to church, seeing men worship and pray fervently, then go out and openly cheat on their wives. Or pastors who siphon funds off the top of the offering plate, and then talk about how mighty God is and how He will provide.

There are two classes of Christians in Africa: those who go to church and those who are born again. I had a very amazing conversation with a girl who attends my church in Rwanda who talked about the joy of being born again. And she is full of joy...

I think the church has failed to teach things like faithfulness and abstinence. A church goer told a friend of mine that people don't wait for sex anymore, that waiting for marriage is an, "old way of thinking." It's culture verses faith - we have the same struggle in the US. And we have the same falsity in the US too, I know plenty of people (me included!) that were badly burned by the hypocrisy of the church in the States. I can't attend my parents' church because it feels like a production and I'm glad the beat is getting you to raise you hands, but God doesn't need all this hype.

So we sacrifice the Word for a bass drum and good singers, we sacrifice Truth to make people feel good for two hours (or four in Africa) on Sunday. But a pastor cannot extol financial responsibility and take money, nor can an elder talk about marriage and be sleeping with other women. Most of the pastors in Africa don't have formal training, they stepped in and attended a day class (maybe!) and are preaching. There is "good" money in being a pastor in Africa, so if you have failed at everything else, come join the church! The church in Africa appears to be dynamic, and some of them are, but a lot of other ones are all for show because the pastor doesn't know the Bible and no one is making sure Truth and a better way of living are being taught. So they don't talk about HIV or not cheating on your wife, or practice financial transparency. They just come for a bit, clap their hands, sing worship songs, read a Bible story and leave.

I don't know what I am trying to say.

I was told I had to go to church twice every Sunday - once for the English service, which I love and consider my church "home" in Rwanda, and to the Kinyarwanda service - because people would think me unholy if I didn't show up. Um, I'm sorry, no. I will not attend a church I'm not attached to to minimize the local gossip. I go to church, just not your church, so back off. 

It's been a struggle. I guess, in the end, the church isn't perfect anywhere. We can look at the appearance of holiness in African churches which is really just charisma before God. Maybe we should envy their abandon before Him and not think of them as being any more "spiritual." They look at our big mega churches and think we are blessed - maybe if they realized what really happened inside they would see that appearances aren't everything.

The church can be good, don't get me wrong. I have been blessed by the English service and my church in DC. But too often the church is wide and shallow instead of being deep and narrow - or deep and wide - why can't we have both? Because community gets lost with numbers and transparency is intentional and until someone starts it it is easier to just pretend or slip out the side door again and not be known.

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© Amanda Lunday