Thinking Differently About Church…

by Bob Hamp

Figuring out what we are doing wrong is not always the key to doing it right.  In fact, often, figuring out what we are doing wrong is the first step to doing it wrong again, but in a new way that deceptively feels like we have fixed the problem.

Here is an example; If you eat too many Oreo’s and you decide that this is wrong, you commit, instead, to only eating lettuce. Beginning on this journey of lettuce only pseudo-freedom, feels so productive until someone waves an Oreo under your nose.  You resist.  Then, the boss yells at you, your kids get put in jail, and your car is totalled in a freak accident.  Now you seek out and devour an entire shelf of Oreo’s.

The problem is that your solution was in response the problem of
what you eat, but you never addressed the problem of why you eat.

Defining the problem correctly is always the first step to an effective and lasting solution.

I am pleased we live in a time when the church seems to be diagnosing themselves better.  We have come to recognize that our separatist, judgmental, and cognitive past has

been an obstacle to really engaging and changing the world.  I am concerned however that as we smugly acknowledge how wrong our predecessors did church, that we might settle for something that feels better and deceptively makes us think we have solved the problem.

We have answered the question: “What are we trying to fix?” in this way.  We are trying to fix the churches mistakes.

What if we are actually trying to fix the problem of man’s state of existence and our separation from God?  What if we are trying to fix the problem of man being his own source?  What if we make this shift to a kinder and gentler, more culturally relevant church and we the people, are still the source of that change?

As we combat what Dallas Willard calls the “gospel of sin management” what if we simply shift over to managing the sin of the churches historical ineffectiveness? We might temporarily feel a bit better, but stumble again in a few decades and try again to manage the sin of an ineffective church.

For too long a season, we (the church) focused on trying to get people to get their sinful behavior under control.  We became known as a judgmental, non-loving group.

So now we focus on being less judgmental and more loving.  But if we are the source of those changes, we have not solved the problem that God is trying to solve.

God is trying to solve the problem of a human race, cut off from his Presence. God is trying to solve the problem of a human race who have became their own source.   Jesus said, “…I came that you might have life, and life abundantly.” He came that the Spirit of Life might again come to, and work through the human race.

If we move from our place of judgment to simply a place of greater love and acceptance we may inadvertently leave scores of people in the trap of a lifetime of bondage.  Jesus did not come to offer simply love and acceptance.  He came to bring the Presence of God’s power into the reality of human suffering. He came to move us back to a place where He was our source, and we did not solve our problems based on our knowledge of good and evil, and our ability to figure stuff out.

We must be willing to believe and declare that people are trapped, while offering them the access to God’s presence and freedom.  The same access that Jesus made available to the human race. Being nice does not set captives free.  Minimizing their trap, cannot get them out of it.

Let’s not answer the question, how have we done church poorly. Let’s be sure we answer the question:  What is the problem that Jesus came to solve?


Bob Hemp