By Kenneth Justice
“I was in church on Saturday for a funeral and I got yelled at by a dude 20 years younger than me” said my mid-50ish friend
Yesterday I was having coffee with a good friend of mine who recently returned from the funeral of a pastor-friend of his. The pastor had served the church for nearly 50 years and my friend went to the funeral on Saturday to pay his respects.
“Kenneth, the temperature on Saturday morning when I got to the church was like 8 degrees. So I had my winter coat on, a scarf, gloves, and a hat. I had just come through the door of the church and I was hobbling up the stairs (my friend is disabled) which led to the main lobby, and as I’m slowly making it up the stairs, this usher, who was in his 30’s, looks over at me and has a nasty look on his face which he follows with a harsh sounding, “Sir, you MUST remove your hat while you are in the church building!” said my friend, “I couldn’t believe it Kenneth, it was 10 ****ing degrees outside! And I’m getting yelled at because for the all of 30 seconds I had been in the building I hadn’t removed my hat yet!”
Obviously the usher was well versed in the protocol of church attendance; men must remove their hats while in the ‘house of god’….but my friend was convinced that this usher had taken his responsibility a little bit too far; a little common sense should have been practiced by the usher…especially since they weren’t even in the actual sanctuary of the church; they were merely in the lobby.
Unfortunately, in many ways the encounter my friend had over the weekend is what many people experience in relation to church; a heavy emphasis on dogmatism and rules and a major lack of love and understanding.My friend is severely disabled and has a really difficult time walking up stairs; and so as mad as he was that the usher yelled at him for wearing his winter hat in the building, he was even more pissed off that he wasn’t offered a shoulder to lean on from the usher to help him up the stairs.
Too often the church is not for the unchurched; it is often only designed for the people who know the rules and are willing to follow the rules to a “T”. And if you happen to be a poor soul who wanders in off the street; instead of finding a welcoming embrace you may instead get yelled at for wearing a winter hat in the lobby of the building.
As a Christian this subject frustrates me quite a bit because it seems to me that in many ways the Western Church has somehow lost sight of what really matters most. My friend is a Christian so the experience didn’t alienate him from believing in God,….but I can only ponder what it must be like for an atheist, agnostic, or person of another faith to encounter Christianity and see things such as a guy getting yelled at for having his hat on in the building.
Had Jesus seen my friend hobbling up the stairs I suspect he would of cared less about him still having his hat on…and would have been more concerned with running up to him and helping him make it up the stairs without falling! Whenever I read about Jesus I often become perplexed since it seems like it is exceedingly difficult to find any Christian leaders who look anything like the dude. Jesus exemplified humility and what it meant to serve others……
—–) He didn’t hang out with rich people in order to be popular
—–) He didn’t exclusively hang out with other religious leaders
—– The majority of his life was spent hanging out with the poor, the hurting, the brokenhearted and the people at the bottom
Yesterday Suzi made an interesting comment, “Bloggers that I initially tried to connect with in my early stages only started to respond to me once I had gained a following that was similar to theirs” …..and just as Suzi described the culture of the blogging world; the church world is very similar.
Many of the ‘famous’ Christian teachers, preachers, professors, and speakers live in an altogether different world than from the laity they preach at. Try and get an appointment with one of the religious elite and you’d be lucky if they give you the time of day……..instead of being servants to the people; many Christian leaders have more in common with politicians and rock stars.
Where Jesus spent his life hanging out with the people at the bottom of society; many priests, pastors, and theologians spend the majority of their life hanging out with the people at the top of Church culture. It’s a sad comparison………and one that is more often true than not.
Somewhere along the line the Western Church seemed to have forgotten that Jesus came to help the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and heal the sick……..and instead of modeling their lives after Jesus; it seems like the church would rather worship a bunch of rules and yell at disabled people who wear hats in the building.
I really need another coffee this morning,
If you haven’t heard I’m currently on a national and worldwide tour of 100 coffee houses this year. My next stop is in Atlanta on March 1st, followed by Chicago, Pittsburgh, St Louis and more! Check out my homepage for more dates and locations, I’d love to have coffee with you!