You say your church is doctrinally orthodox, and you recite the Nicene Creed every week? I don’t care.
You say that, in your church, people speak in tongues, make prophetic pronouncements, and experience other manifestations of supernatural power? I don’t care.
You say your pastor is a brilliant orator, an exciting motivator, and a wonderful teacher? I don’t care.
I don’t care how many members are on your roll or how much your congregation has grown in the past year. I don’t care how many were “saved,” sanctified, filled with the Spirit, baptized, confirmed, commissioned, or ordained in your services last week.
I don’t care what translation of the Bible you use or whether you are “pre-tribulational” or “postmillennial.” I don’t care whether you are Catholic, Reformed, charismatic, liturgical, evangelical, Anabaptist, or emergent.
I don’t care whether your pastor wears a robe, a suit, or jeans with holes in the knees. I don’t care whether you sing ancient hymns accompanied by a pipe organ or contemporary songs accompanied by a praise band.
All I really care about these days is how much and in what ways your church or your particular brand of Christianity is helping people to look like Jesus. Jesus loved people unconditionally. He gave hopeless people hope. He encouraged authenticity and he condemned hypocrisy. He embraced social misfits and outcasts while he rebuked the religious establishment.
But isn’t orthodoxy important you ask? Isn’t it important to believe the right things, to identify with and embrace the historic creeds of the church? I used to think so, until it dawned on me that Christians who supposedly believed the right things about Christian doctrine also owned slaves, drove native Americans off their land, and opposed racial equality.
Do you join a march on Washington in opposition to Roe v. Wade and in defense of unborn children in America while never shedding a tear or breathing a prayer for already-born children in Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria or other places who die as a result of attacks by American drones and other acts of terrorism or war? I’m not interested in your kind of Christianity.
Do you persist in further splitting and splintering the church, which already resembles pulverized kindling, in the interest of “greater faithfulness” and purer doctrine? I’m not interested in your kind of Christianity.
Do you, consciously or subconsciously, regard Christian ministry as a contest in which you are in competition with other churches or ministries for market share and revenue? Does your budget reflect thousands (or millions) for staff, facilities, and publicity but almost nothing for extension of the kingdom or service to your neighborhood? I’m not interested in your kind of Christianity.
If I identify with your brand of Christianity or your community of faith, will I be warmly received not for what I do, nor even for who I am as much as simply because I am? Will your community enfold me like a family, accept me as I am, love me unconditionally, and give me hope?
Will your community of faith assure me of its compassionate concern for those whom Jesus identified as “the least of these”—the poor, the lonely, the unemployed, the socially inept, the cantankerous, the generally unlovable?
I’m sixty-seven years old, too old to waste any more time just going through the motions. I used to evaluate a church or an expression of Christianity starting with its denominational affiliation or its doctrinal statement. Now I start with the quality of its body life, the intensity of its love and compassion and kindness, and the values conveyed by its annual budget. Love, compassion, kindness, acceptance, mercy, humility, forgiveness, and hope. That’s the kind of Christianity I am looking for.
Otherwise, I’m not really interested.