Here’s a quick rundown of what’s been happening in the church this week.
- The sexual abuse scandal within the Roman Catholic Church keeps spiraling upward, including allegations that Pope Francis knew about the cover-up.
- At a meeting with evangelical leaders on Monday, President Trump warned them that they are “one election away from losing everything,” and that violence may erupt against them if Democrats are elected in November.
- And Charles H. Ellis III, Presiding Bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, has issued an apology for how he touched Ariana Grande onstage at the Aretha Franklin memorial service on Friday.
At least, as you scroll through your social media feeds and watch for news items, that’s what you’ll be told has been happening in the church this week.
What you won’t be told about are the hundreds of thousands of faithfully celibate Catholic priests worldwide who said Mass, heard confessions, visited the sick, baptized children, and shepherded their flocks with Christ’s compassion and mercy.
What you won’t be told about are the evangelical leaders who spent this week praying for the hospitalized, preaching the gospel to the incarcerated, counseling abuse victims, and ministering to undocumented immigrants.
What you won’t read about are the untold bishops who serve faithfully, priests who love sacrificially, preachers who proclaim Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Because, of course, all of that is not newsworthy. It’s not scandalous. It doesn’t make people angry or outraged or spitting fire on Twitter.
But it should.
@@What’s been happening in ordinary churches this week is so outrageous and scandalous that the media, if they only knew, would be all over it.@@
These humdrum churches and seemingly innocuous priests are, bit by bit, day by day, trampling underfoot almost everything the world holds sacred. For instance, they are attacking the freedom of the individual to live his or her life as they see fit. These preachers have the audacity to undermine the fundamental belief that we are masters of our own fate and captains of our souls. They say, apart from Jesus, we are in bondage to sin and evil and destruction. And, in Jesus, we are not free to shape our lives according to our pleasures and whims, but only as God sees fit. Here’s your headline: “Local Pastor Attacks Individual Freedom.” That’s newsworthy, isn’t it?
But the plot thickens. In these same dangerous congregations, pastors and priests and worshipers refuse to recite the creed that bigger is better. They teach children not to set their sights on making a name for themselves. And they even have the gall to tell people to consider others more important than themselves. These religious assemblies, in other words, are committing heresy against American dogma. And yet where are the news stories covering this social blasphemy?
But it gets still worse. Churches, all over the world, are training secret agents who will infiltrate businesses, universities, and social organizations to spread the subversive news that every administration, every political leader, is in a lame-duck administration. The true king took his seat long ago. And he alone has all authority to judge, to decree, and to direct the course of this world to achieve his ends—all of this without our votes, without the approval of a congress, and without the possibility of a coup to remove him from office. Why aren’t all these secret spiritual agents—who pose as chefs, Uber drivers, farmers, and school teachers—being exposed and attacked for contradicting the elementary principles of this world? Where is the media storm?
@@Oh, if only the world knew what all these ostensibly boring congregations, un-newsworthy priests, and everyday Christians were up to, we’d see many more unflattering stories about the church and an exposé of its scandalous beliefs.@@
Early in the church’s life, some Christians were dragged before the city authorities in Thessalonica and accused of “turning the world upside down,” (Acts 17:6). They were guilty as charged. They were turning the world upside down. Or, rather, they were putting the world right side up. Their message endangered established institutions, political convictions, and basic worldly beliefs about humanity and authority. They were preaching about a scandalous Messiah who was executed in a scandalous crucifixion to win a scandalous salvation for all. The uproar was so great that a mob was formed against the followers of Jesus. No doubt the Thessalonica Tribune was there to make sure the event was front page news.
For now, anyway, most of us in underwhelming churches, led by unremarkable pastors, have remained largely undetected as we go about destroying the foundational assumptions of the world, and rebuilding from those ruins a foundation that goes by the name of Jesus the Christ. No one is interviewing us or tweeting about our scandalous beliefs.
But if that ever changes, we’ll be ready, with gentleness and reverence, to step up to the microphone and give a defense to everyone to account for the hope that is within us.