Somethings wrong with this picture.

7 04 2008

Picture the scene.

Its your second time in Church, and you’re a new Christian. In fact last week you decided to give your life to Jesus after something changed in your heart. Your friend had invited you to a multichurch youth meeting and there for the first time someone told you not only is God alive, but He loves you and he already knows everything about you. After praying the sinners prayer you gave your heart to Jesus, and your friend invited you to His church. You’re not sure what all of it means because everything is new, and strange. That Sunday the Church is a hive of activity, and there are just people everywhere. The band starts to play and people are raising their hands, and jumping around. Everyone seems really excited and you get excited too. All of a sudden it stops and the pastor gets up on stage. He starts  talking about taking up the tithes and offerings. He says if you’ve got two notes in your wallet, a $5 or a $50 note then which one are you gonna give? Then he goes on about how you cannot outgive God and that God blesses those who give. All through this speech people are yelling “Amen” and “Preach it” at one point near the end some people stood up and applauded.  You’ve never given money to a church before, but you dont want feel like the odd one out, so you pull out $20 to be safe. The pastor did say something in there about robbing God of His tithes didnt he?

Then comes the main event, the sermon. Tonight the pastors son is preaching and he’s telling a story about how he didnt know God at all. You think that its a thing to say but you’re intrigued. He starts by saying that he was very involved in the Church when he was younger, he read his bible lots, sang all the songs, raised his hands and prayed every night before bed. But one day He asked God if he would be allowed into heaven and God replied to him “Away with you evil doer, I do not know you.” Hi shouted that scripture from Matthew 7 and slammed his hand on the pulpit. He went on to say that you had to get right with God. You had to be careful not to lose this salvation thing you’ve been given. You sit uncomfortably in your seat, and start to wrestle with the thought. Even though you’re now a Christian, Jesus might throw you into hell because He doesnt know you? Surely a pastors son would have the inside track on getting into heaven? Then he uses another example. He says God has given us a beautiful gift, similar to a priceless porcelain vase, and everytime you sin its like you’re smashing it in front of Him and saying you dont want the gift. He concludes by saying that if you dont have it all figured out then you should just fake it till you make it. By this stage you’re feeling terrible. Its like someone has crushed all the joy and excitement you had about being a Christian. This church service has been like a boxing match only you’re not allowed to fight back. Ironically people are shouting “Amen” and “Hallelujah’s” all the time when he says these things. You start to wonder if these people are actually listening to what He says?

The people in the congregation arent much help either. You dont really know anyone and neither does your friend but you decide to sit down and grab a coffee. Nobody even gives you a second look. At one stage 2 people come and sit at the table next to you but they are so engrossed in their own conversation that they dont even notice that you’re there.You start to feel even worse. Finally someone comes and talks to you. The first thing they say is how great and awesome they thought the sermon was. They speak so highly of the preacher you’d think they were in love with them. You smile and nod in agreement, forgetting what you were going to ask about the sermon because you’re just new and dont want to upset anyone. The whole conversation seems so fake.  You leave without even knowing the other persons name, but thats ok because they probably wont remember yours next week.

The next week you’re back in Church and you’re a little late. You sneak in and sit in the back. You cant see your friend anywhere, and you remember then that he said he wasnt going to be there this week. You’ve missed the mini sermon on tithing this week which is good because you havent got any money left after you had to service your car.  The pastor starts his sermon by saying how annoyed he gets when people will turn up late to church but early to rugby games.  He carries on telling everyone to get out their bibles, and says that everyone should highlight the passage he’s about to talk about. He says that if your bible is too clean then you must be a dirty Christian. Having got your first bible two weeks ago, you havent written anything in it. You really dont know how to read it, let alone what to write in it. After that comment you let out a little sigh and stare out the window. Time passes slowly and you really cant relate to the sermon at all. It doesnt feel very motivating and you’re losing interest fast. But suddenly the pastor changes tack and say starts shouting and slapping his hands on the pulpit. The place errupts with people cheering and giving a standing ovation. You cant understand what all the commotion is about, but then again you werent really listening so he could have said something important. Someone turns around and motions for you to stand up too.

After the service you head out to the tables and grab a coffee. This time nobody talks to you and you decide to leave. On the drive home you feel so confused. You’ve got so many unanswered questions buzzing around in your head. Is Christianity really this hollow? Are those people all suffering from some form of mass dellusion? Why does the pastor always tell me I’m not doing enough? Is this the way Christians Grow, by beating each other up about sinning and pretending they dont have any problems? This all seems so wrong and upside down. You’re no longer enthusiastic about Church. You feel like the pastor has been telling you about a completely different God to the one you encountered in the youth meeting three weeks ago. The whole situation feels hopeless. “Whats the point? Why should I even bother to go? Wheres all the talk about God loving me? Surely if He loves me he doesnt want to beat me up every week, does He?”

After a few months you’ve stopped going to church altogether. You figure that if you wanted to feel that bad about yourself you could find a place that would do it for free. The whole experience has left a bitter taste in your mouth. The more you think about it the more it seems that the Church was only interested in taking your money, and if you didnt want to give it to them they would make you feel bad about it…

Is this the end of the road for you?

 

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