So Many Questions: Pastor Wayne Jacobsen says Christianity often fails to be like Christ
In his book, “Finding Church: What If There Really Is Something More?” (TrailView Media, $11.99), pastor Wayne Jacobsen doesn't pull any punches when he outlines why he believes the church is losing membership in droves — especially during a time when people the world over are praying for peace.
The institutions themselves might have become convoluted, but for him, redemption comes by simply asking the question: “What would the church look like if it were made up of people who were learning to live in the same reality Jesus did?”
Question: What are people seeking from the church in the 21st century?
Answer: That's probably got as many answers as people you'd pose it to. Speaking for those who may be done with the conventional way of doing it, I think they're looking for more an authentic, grace-filled relationship with God and more authentic relationships with people.
But of those who go, I think that a lot of them look for comfort, some of it's nostalgia, some of it's obligation: “I'm committed to be here, so I am.” I think, in the most genuine way, I hope what people are looking for is a genuine relationship with God and his people that's transformative.
Q: What is the church seeking from us?
A: Again, it would be varied by what one you're talking about. At a cynical level, I think it wants attendance and income to keep the machine going. I think on the most positive side, it wants people who are journeyers, who really want to know God better and find the environment in which they can be helped to grow in that journey with each other. But, percentage-wise, I don't know how big that plays out. When I attend most churches, I don't catch that the real passion is to help people grow in Jesus. “It's a program, we're trying to run it, we want it to be successful, we want it growing.” It's those almost self-ambitions, I think.
Q: Having faith is a term tossed around a lot these days, but Christianity has become the butt of many a joke. Where's the disconnect?
A: I think it's largely been over Christianity's over-focus on morality, and wanting people to live their lives a certain way and condemn them if they don't. And I think the reaction has been to make fun of that and to distance people from that.
I really separate between the love Christ Jesus came to spread on the Earth and Christianity as a man-created religion that sometimes reflects what Jesus has in mind, but most of the times does not.
Q: With regards to that morality, isn't it kind of hard to love without judging?
A: Christianity hasn't done well with that at all. But when we look at the life of Jesus, he seemed to do it really well. He seemed able to love people who are engaged in things he didn't condone. For him, loving wasn't attached to condoning. If we really learned to love people, I think we'd see that transformation begin to happen. When we don't really love people, and just want them to confirm to our ethic or doctrine, we become our worst in the world. And I think that's why a lot of people have rejected the message of Christianity.
Q: If we're so hyper aware of equality and human rights these days, why can't we just love each other as we love ourselves?
A: If there's an indictment against Christianity, it's that. The one thing we were asked to do was love each other deeply. But the trajectory of Christian history — even within Christianity itself — is toward factionalism and division and animosity and suspicion, even among different Christian denominations. When the one message is “Go learn to love each other well,” and we're still not doing that … .
Christianity doesn't help us love well, especially at our most broken. It kind of holds off love as a reward. “When you do what I want you to do, then I will love you and treat you with respect and kindness and if you don't do what I want, then loving you means I have to punish you, judge you, bash you, hurt you, to make you want to do what I think is in your best interest.”
And that isn't love at all. Love is a genuine affection and caring for another human being. Organizations don't love, people do. And if we could learn to love the world around us, even the bits of it we disagree with, then not only would the world be a better place, I think we'd make the love of Christ more accessible to others around us. And we've failed at that for sure.