The “Bash the Church” Bandwagon (and Why I’m Not on It) — #1

by Mike Duran · 8 comments

Bashing the Christian Church is en vogue these days.

Books like They Like Jesus but Not the Church, unChristian, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith, and Jesus Wants to Save Christians, all share a simple, yet popular premise: organized Christianity is corrupt, out of touch, and/or in decline. Postmodern and emergent Christians are often highly critical of the American evangelical church, characterizing today’s spiritual seekers by their rejection of traditional religion and institutional affiliation. And, at the heart of this rejection — at least according to these detractors — is the American Church’s disconnect from Jesus and the real world.

Whether or not these individuals intend to bash the Church, it has that feel —  especially within our Changing Religious Landscape where so much seems up for grabs. It’s bad enough that Christians must face a growing aggression from secularists, academic elites, and a biased media. Now, apparently, she must face a burgeoning mutiny from within her own hold.

As one who’s been actively involved in the Christian Church for 30 years (including being a full-time staff pastor for 11 of them), you won’t find me pretending that the Church is always relevant, Christlike, and spiritually healthy. Christianity, like any large family, has its share of black sheep and wolves in sheep’s clothing; there are bastard children, money-grubbers, hypocrites, hedonists and snobs. So finding flaws in the American Church is like shooting fish in a barrel.

But is the organized Christian Church really as bad as she’s being made out to be? Have we drifted so far out of touch, become so defiled by a love for money and power, become so detached from the real Gospel, that scrapping the old clunker is the only way to move forward?

I personally don’t think so, and would like to set forth some reasons why I believe that.

For one, Jesus proclaimed that “the gates of hell” would not prevail against the Church (Matt. 16:18) — and I’m assuming that “prevailing against” includes withstanding institutional calcification, raging right-wingers, political hijackers, stuffy prudes, mad prophets, and massive cultural shifts. If the Church is to prevail against the gates of hell, then surely she can brave the Baptists.

Besides, painting the Christian culture with such bleak, definitive, brushstrokes creates a canvas for potential apostasy. No, I’m not suggesting that all post-modern Christians are apostate. But by making such broad, absolute claims about the state of the Church, we create an apologetic for complete, radical, overhaul. Like it or not, this is often how cults begin. Both Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that, at some point in history, the Gospel was lost and needed to be “recovered.” However, this “recovery” resulted in heterodoxy, a complete re-imagining of Christianity. Once we sever our ties with the Church — even the malformed one that exists in America — we potentially become unaccountable, a law unto ourselves. Making the Christian Church out to be irrelevant and obsolete gives one the license for making the Christian Church into virtually anything they want it to be.


Glynn September 9, 2009 at 2:30 PM

Something's clearly happening in the church in America. The "bash the church" movement is part of it. "Let's be hip and relevant to the culture" is another part. "We want to be the next mega-church" is still another. Then there are all the divisions going on the mainline denominations, for all kinds of reasons.

I think what's happening is a winnowing. But I don't know where God's taking all of this.

Thanks for this post.

Deborah Gyapong September 9, 2009 at 2:45 PM

Hi Mike,
Great post. I'm also sick of hearing criticism of "religious" as opposed to "spiritual."
Wishing you all the best
Deborah Gyapong

Nicole September 10, 2009 at 11:39 AM

"Making the Christian Church out to be irrelevant and obsolete gives one the license for making the Christian Church into virtually anything they want it to be."


The body of Christ for all its humanity will not cease to be relevant because of Him, not us.

Rebecca Luella September 10, 2009 at 6:30 PM

I can't find the quote now, but I believe it was Ravi Zacharias who credits Gandhi with the statement "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians." I don't think the current church bashing is far from that position. But how sad if we're taking our cues from a Hindu thinker rather than from the Bible.

Mike, as I'm sure you know, all the things you named—bastard children, money-grubbers, hypocrites, hedonists and snobs—were present in the first church, too. The writers of the epistles addressed these issues and more because the church then, as now, was filled with sinners. I can only guess that the critics expect more of us.

Should we expect more of ourselves too? Or is it enough to say, don't look at us, look at Christ? That latter seems almost too easy.

Pete Tremblay September 10, 2009 at 7:58 PM

Amen Brother. I am also tired of Church-Bashing. I have been a Pastor for 30 years. We need to remember that a healthy Church includes people at all levels of spiritual maturity and it includes those being redemmed and restored. Would we really want statistics that said the Church was quote "perfect"? That would mean we were not dealing with the lost, or the troubled.

Carole September 10, 2009 at 8:36 PM

This is so refreshing to hear! The church is Christ's Bride. I cant undertand why we seem to be so intent on tearing each other down and finding fault?
Jesus greatest commandment is to love one another. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe a commandment from our king is not optional! We are all in different stages of maturity and should be helping each other along, not kicking others when they struggle or have questions.

Sue November 7, 2009 at 10:07 PM

I think bashing the church comes from so many church leaders falling away from the inerrant Word of God being proclaimed. Many, many people are seeking, but are not finding….because modernism and many other secular elements are infiltrating the church. There will always be the wheat and the chaf (weeds) in the church.
Christ Jesus said in Matt 13:30: Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ”

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