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I spent 12 years of my life working for YoungLife, a non-denominational youth outreach ministry.  During my time there I experienced more than a few churches that acted less than Christ like in their attitude toward YoungLife, myself, and most sadly, non-Christian kids to which we ministered.  It generally revolved around our “stealing” youth group kids (trust me, that was never…ever our goal) or the fact that we hung around and built relationships with “bad” kids (you know, they smoked, drank, even did drugs).  In the beginning, it angered me quite a bit.  As the years wore on, it just frustrated me.  Toward the end of my time with YoungLife it simply saddened me.  Now, something else has begun to really dig into my heart and frustrate my spirit.  This is much more clouded and veiled.  It is the self centerdness of  churches and church members (and believers in general).

I should have seen it coming.  I once spoke with a collection of pastors about having YoungLife in their town.  One of my guys shared his testimony.  He was doing and dealing drugs in this suburban town, disconnected to his father and dismissing his ever loving mother.  He and I met and slowly God revealed Himself to him through YoungLife and our relationship.  He committed his life to Christ early in high school and was now walking with Him and allowing himself to be used by God to reach others.  At the end of this emotional (and yet brief) testimony he asked if the pastors had any questions for him.  One pastor rose his hand and said to this HIGH SCHOOL student (not me), “Yes, what do you want from us?”.  That was it, those were his first words after hearing how God had called this young man into a relationship with him and saved him from a life of drugs and darkness.  No “praise God” or “keep it up son” or even “thank you for sharing, that must have difficult”.  No.  What is this going to take from me.  The goal was lost, the focus had shifted, the priorities askew.  Maybe this (and the others who nodded or ignored my guy completely)  pastor once “got it”.  Well, he didn’t have “it” now.

This “having lost it” has been reinforced over the years to me.  I just don’t get why so many churches and Christians spend so much time preaching, teaching, and meeting when they are not REACHING those who need Christ so badly.  I know, book after book has been written on this topic.  Ironically, it’s the topic of books that made me finally put a finger on why this frustrates me so much.  There are a thousand analogies out there to describe churches and Christians, this is one of them.

I met a woman at a party who is paid by her “growing contemporary organic” church to…read books on faith and church.  A teen age young man asked her if she had read, “A Christmas Sweater” by Glenn Beck.  Knowing Glenn Beck to be a Mormon and this book not being as cool as the latest church growth strategy book she dismissed the young man quite condescendingly.  Here he was trying to enter HER world and she shuts him down.  Then she spends the rest of the time proselytizing the discipline of reading.  Her love of reading was evident.  Her love for this young man and to a degree, Christ, was not.  It then hit me.

I am so frustrated by churches, even good growing Christ centered effective for the Kingdom ones, acting like restaurants serving spiritual food.  Week after week if not day after day, their members come in and gorge themselves at the trough of spiritual knowledge and wisdom.  Oh, there may or may not be a dress code or some folks who get a certain VIP seating/treatment, but they all gorge.  They talk about the other restaurants and how their food doesn’t compare to their fare.  They talk about the new renovations that the other place has built or the fact that people will tire of the new chef at the other place across town.  Some argue that the new “fusion cooking” is just a fad and won’t hold up to their old fashioned down home cooking like their grandma made them years ago.  Some just love the “comfort food” they get each week, it just makes them feel so good.  At this woman’s (the reader) “restaurant” they have gone so far as to hire her to read up on what other chef’s are doing, just so they can stay ahead of the trends.  The proudest of spiritual restaurants brags about how common people come in and quickly become regulars and have their palates refined.  The more high brow of these establishments dig deep into the recipes and can tell you about each and every ingredient, where it came from, how it was intended to be used, and how you can use it to cook for yourself at home.

However, I just don’t see enough of these places realizing that there are people starving right outside their doors.  There are thousands of people who not only don’t come to their restaurant, they’d rather die of hunger than come to one at all.  Why not take them some food?  Why not feed them?  Oh occasionally, maybe twice a year you organize an event where you market your restaurant by giving away something or having a special tasting at your place.  You figure that once people come through your doors, they will never dine anywhere else.  But to equip your patrons with the ability to cook?  To show them how to simply get some basics together and give them to the hungry?  No, we can’t let them do the work of the professionals.  We teach them ways to invite their friends to the restaurant, rather than just feed them.

Thousands of hours are spent refining palates, arguing over cooking techniques, debating where the booths and tables should go.  Tens of thousands die of hunger, right outside.  Inside, there are many who know all about food, how to cook it, how to critique it.  Outside, they’d settle for some solid bread and wine…perhaps a fish.  Simple fair for those that are so very much in need of it.

So, am I really this bitter and angry?  No, I suppose not.  I was really hurt for my young friend who simply looked at this woman as somebody who didn’t get him.  He kind of had that, “oh well, I tried” look on his face.  I fall short in many ways myself.  I just wish we could have it be less about us and more about those who need Christ, through us.  That’s all.

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