It’s Your Fault I’m Not A Better Christian

This morning I led a one hour breakout session on the faith community and poverty.  It was a part of a larger all day forum held at one of our local colleges on the needs of children, especially those in poverty.  It was a lively session with lots of great ideas, but I got the distinct impression from the 15 or so who were present that they held their clergy responsible for not having made the church or themselves more responsive to Jesus’ teachings or more spiritual in their own daily lives.  Almost all of them were members of a Christian tradition of one kind or another and active in their own congregations.  Moreover, they were mostly professionals in early childhood education or social service intervention.  Yet they appeared to think of the church and its role as being the responsibility of ‘them’ rather than seeing themselves as a part of the ‘us’ who are the church.  Amazing!  How did we end up with such a disconnect, or has it always been that way?

11 thoughts on “It’s Your Fault I’m Not A Better Christian”

  1. hate to say it, but it\’s the consumer church mentality creeping in. church isn\’t a place where people come to be changed, they come to \”get\” something; to feel good; to be inspired, motivated, encouraged. unfortunately, talking about issues of injustice isn\’t very uplifting. i know i\’ve shared this in part, but it\’s amazing to watch kids start to see that they are supposed to care about the poor if they are real about their faith. that care for the least of these is actually a central part of Jesus\’ kingdom values. how do we develop or \”re-capture\” a sense of ownership in our churches in an age of outsourced and professionalized ministry?

  2. \”Yet they appeared to think of the church and its role as being the responsibility of \’them\’ rather than seeing themselves as a part of the \’us\’ who are the church. Amazing! How did we end up with such a disconnect, or has it always been that way?\”Um, because in the Episcopal Church, it\’s the priests who have control over what happens in liturgy and worship in every parish?

  3. as more than one Rector has told me,canonically I am in charge here, or canonically what I say goes, or canonically, well you get the idea. The vestry, guilds ministry leaders, etc are usually \”massaged\” to fit the rectors desired outcome and so catholicity is changed from an including theology to one of a manipulating theology. If a parishioner wants to be involved then they quickly learn that to be accepted means to change, or align their views or giving more to the rectors. Also as the mcdaniel clan has pointed out the consumer church mentality has a very strong hold, but I take it one step further, the church validates itself by numbers, or butts in the pews, building size, amenities, numbers of meetings, acquisitiveness in other words, very capitalist but hardly the gospel message. This largeness has transfered itself to the action aspect of christianity, the personal has been removed. The personal action of buying a hamburger for hungry person, beggar and sharing lunch with them is given very little \”stroke\”, rather the organizer who can create a program to get others to do work or donate monies to buy work gets strokes, worthy and needed yes, but it is the personal action that is more Christ like and I believe called for in the gospel of Jesus. I don\’t know how to create an acceptable environment for such actions in our current structures where money and giving to the church has been and remains a substitute for self action, and personal relationship with Jesus has been reduced to a phrase of praise.

  4. BLS and Bruno,I think you may have over played the idea of \”Herr Pastor\”, as the Minnesota Lutheran pastors of my youth were known, and of \”Father Knows Best\” as the Episcopal rectors were said to be. Times have changed a lot. But I digress, in my breakout session there were no other Episcopalians. Those who identified their denominations included Adventists, Baptists, UCC, and Church of God. I recognized a couple of Catholics and one Jew. So I think we should be talking about something broader than perceived weaknesses in the Episcopal Church. McD,Sounds to me like you are onto it. Formation of discipleship is what Sunday School and Youth Ministry are about. I keep thinking about those Sunday School classes jammed with hundreds of kids in the 1950s and 60s. Whatever was taught to them wasn\’t very good because most left the church and the ones who stayed did so with a very crude understanding of the faith. They went on through their adult Christian life with a sixth grade Christian education, and not a very good one at that. That\’s the part where bls and Bruno\’s criticism has some real merit.I\’m pleased that the new rector of my former parish is a younger man with children and a passion for youth ministry. I think it\’s a big improvement over an old college teacher type like I was. The congregation grew year by year during my tenure, even during the gay debates, but I am an educator of adults, and that is not good enough for what is yet to come.

  5. Interesting thoughts from your commenters here – seems to me that some of your them indeed believe, as you posted, that it is \”someone else\’s fault\” that people are not better Christians. I would disagree with them in that I believe it is definitely my own fault that I\’m not a better Christian than I am. It would be easier to place the blame on someone else but I find I really can\’t with any conscience at all blame anyone but me for my often un-Christ like behavior:(

  6. ouch! i\’m with SS and take my own personal responsibility for my own numerous short comings…including not being a better Christian.

  7. yes, it is the individual\’s responsibility, but if we believe in the concept of the Church, then let\’s hope corporate worship and Christian formation are looking at the whole gospel rather than personal salvation…individual responsibility is a great place to start, but individuals largely make decisions based on a wider array of formative experiences…it\’s my job as youth pastor to make sur i\’m teaching students about the whole gospel which includes a concern for the least and lost…it\’s connecting matthew 25 with matthew 28…

  8. Couldn\’t agree more with mcd clan….youth formation is so critical – it does carry through with us, right or wrong, our whole adult life. As adults, I strongly believe we are called to community worship, community formation as well, but with the onus on us to use our minds, our history, our spirit, and for those who would claim Jesus as savior, to decide the rights and wrongs of how we follow His teachings in our daily lives. He did not forget the least of us and neither should we. Sometimes it is OUR fault for influencing another in Christianity by the way we do or don\’t take Christ\’s teachings seriously in our day to day existence.

  9. I\’m confused. If a young person comes out of high school not knowing how to read – where does the responsibility for that lie? With the student?I suppose it depends on the case – it might possibly be the student\’s fault in a few cases – but surely we all recognize that the problem is most often poor instruction and bad leadership?So why would this case be different? Aren\’t leaders supposed to have any responsibility at all? To me, that\’s absurd. Are people supposed to walk into the church knowing how to be a \”good Christian\”? How?

  10. (And I hate to mention it, but Christianity in America seems to me to be in pretty poor shape currently. The \”religious\” right seems, for instance, to think it means a Republican in the White House. As somebody else mentioned, there\’s also a strong consumerist ethic in religion today.How did that happen? It wasn\’t always like this. Why shouldn\’t leaders accept responsibility for this? They are leaders, after all – right?)

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