Monday, March 9, 2015

The UGLY Church

Photo Image Courtesy of Katarzyna Mazurowska via
What does this mean? Are we to keep on sinning so that God will give us more of His loving-favor? No, not at all! We are dead to sin. How then can we keep on living in sin? All of us were baptized to show we belong to Christ. We were baptized first of all to show His death. We were buried in baptism as Christ was buried in death. As Christ was raised from the dead by the great power of God, so we will have new life also. If we have become one with Christ in His death, we will be one with Him in being raised from the dead to new life.
We know that our old life, our old sinful self, was nailed to the cross with Christ. And so the power of sin that held us was destroyed. Sin is no longer our boss. When a man is dead, he is free from the power of sin. And if we have died with Christ, we believe we will live with Him also.
Romans 6:1-10, NLV

Recently, I have been doing the long, hard work of self-examination through the book 40-DAY JOURNEY WITH DIETRICH BONHOEFFER.  Author Ron Klug marries his own deep questions, prayers, and Bible Psalms with Bonhoeffer's hard-hitting thoughts on various parts of Scripture.  Ultimately, we are challenged to become our greater selves in Christ.

The past few entries have taken a deep, difficult look at "cheap grace," that is, God's great mercy and salvation without repentance, inconvenience, or abandonment of self on our part. This refers to a feel-good religious experience, much akin to being entertained rather than changed.  And it is rampant in our churches.

I cannot help but read this and reflect through the lenses of a special needs parent and ministry leader.  When I do, so much of what I see looks too much like the world.  Cliques with the beautiful and affluent garner the full attention of pastors and staff, while the less popular families struggle through their days, hoping there really is a Jesus.  Mission trips halfway across the world are lauded as life-changing and noble, while the families struggling with their kid's Asperger's Disorder at home or with their child's seizures again in the hospital are largely ignored by fellow congregants.  The same people singing with great power and emotion on Sundays, "take me deeper," or "break my heart for what breaks yours," won't inconvenience themselves by being Christ for just a few minutes to a mother who could just use an extra set of hands, a meal for her family, a note in the mail, ANYONE saying that they have noticed her pain and have her in constant prayer.

Is it any wonder that the rest of the world looks at the Church and thinks, HYPOCRITES!
When we cheapen grace, suddenly there is no need for repentance, for agape love, for selflessness.  We're saved no matter what, so who cares how we live?  Cheap grace looks like warming a pew on Sunday while ignoring the marginalized on Monday.  Cheap grace looks like either entertaining or rigidly formal church services that don't include those with disabilities, mental health issues, or chronic illnesses.  Cheap grace looks like having plenty of money to spend on the showy, while closing a wallet to the desperately needy.  Cheap grace looks like gossiping about how that woman is raising her child rather than getting off our rear ends to actually enter into that woman's pain and heavy daily life.  And cheap grace also looks like being too busy to help because we're just too tied-up with our clubs, activities, and hobbies.  I have even encountered some who use their child with special needs as an excuse to disengage from the active grace that has been so lavishly poured out upon them.

Friends, I apologize if this seems like swallowing a bitter pill or absorbing a swift slap across the face.  But what Jesus, God-with-skin-on, did for us ought to change us -- DRASTICALLY.  We should be so selfless and other-thinking that people notice a difference in us.  Our sin of neglecting those right here in our midst should cease if the grace we believe in is truly a costly one.  We should be walking out of the four walls of the church building and beginning to serve without hesitation.  And the dollars we spend should be less on fluff and more on being that Jesus life-line to someone who really needs to know He exists, just so they can hang on for one more day.

Oh, if only the UGLY Church would start looking more like the Bride of Christ and less like the wicked Pharisees of Jesus' day!

PRAY:  Father, forgive us for cheapening that which cost You everything!  Holy Spirit, increase our awareness of those around us today who need us to step out of our comfort zone to offer them a simple glimpse of YOU.  Help us value serving more than being served just as You did, Jesus.  Make us look more like You rather than just being smarter sinners.

DIG DEEPER!  WATCH:  The Jesus I Know "Dinner Party" with Pastor Chris Emmitt

~ Barb Dittrich


  1. Great post, Barb!!! It's the ugly reality that's not beyond God's restoring redemption!