Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Church bleeds from my veins.

Papa was a pastor, and I grew up thinking that the church building was just as much part of my home as the bathroom, although I didn't work that out in the most graphic of ways.

I recall running through the sanctuary--not on Sunday morning when it was was a sin, but on a weekday afternoon when holiness was looser. The church was like a playground to me, offering much more space than the tiny parsonage next door, and letting Mom have a few minutes of sanity whilst I roamed the property.

My brother and I used to crawl under the pews while the church pianist practiced and the room was dark. She suffered from delusions, and believed she was a former Communist, now a U.S. spy, and she knew that her previous employers would eventually hunt her down. Robert and I would sneak around making creaking noises on the floors, popping up every now and then, and trying to cough like Communists, to watch her jump from the piano bench.

Growing up a PK provides a singular perspective on the church. I have been a pastor for over twenty-five years, and serve as a pastor now. I have seen the church from the inside out.

I have observed the way a church can love a person into faith in Jesus, and I have seen how a church--even the same church--can convince a person to turn around and walk fast in the opposite direction. I can delineate the methods of subversive torture a church can use to ravage its leaders, and I can testify to the wonder of a soul restored and given hope in the midst of darkness and evil and guilt.

As a result, I have a perpetual question on my heart. I live with it every day, and although I hope it will be answered before I die, I do not anticipate that resolution. The question is this: Is the church God's agent for grace?

I want the answer to be yes.

What is your answer?


Anonymous said...

"As a result, I have a perpetual question on my heart."

I live with that question every day too, Ron.

I wish I could have written this piece... because it's exactly what my heart has been trying to say all these years.

Anonymous said...

I think the Church has misunderstood the message. In my humble opinion, this is true of all religions and denominations. The message was simple: love each other simply and respect all. Be good, which means first do no harm, then seek to understand, then figure out how to help.
When humans try to control each other, the environment, the universe, they inevitably make things worse. While it is highly unscientific or engineering-like, 'being good' and 'being kind', 'being patient and accepting' are good ways to improve things. Let the Universe and the creatures in it evolve as they should and will, only nudge when you see a better global solution. And be careful to consider the ramifications of your action, and that's a hard one to fully understand and foresee.
The Church is not Christ. But the Church has it's place in helping people. The Church should humbly know it's place, and we should all think hard about Christ's, and others messages. Christ's message is similar to a lot of other messages in world culture--Mohammed and Buddha and others. The message is interestingly similar: try to live in peace and love one another, accept that life is hard, and help each other.
That's my humble take on it.

Ron Benson said...


Thanks for your interesting response. I agree that the church has struggled with "the message," but I have to respectfully disagree that the church has completely missed it. Sure, over the course of history since Jesus, the organized church has sometimes abused and been seduced by power. In the name of Jesus the church has caused damage, and the resulting stain on her has lingered. As a respresentative of the followers of Jesus, I humbly ask forgiveness.

That said, however, the church has in the past and continues to excercise a profoundly generous influence in the world.

My last comment, anonymous, comes from the teachings of Jesus himself, who said "I am THE way, THE truth, and THE life." Believing in Jesus' teachings while at the same time disregarding his major tenant of exclusivity is disingenuous. You write, "Christ's message is similar to a lot of other messages in world culture--Mohammed and Buddha and others." I humbly suggest his message is not similar, but strikingly different. Where the other religions promote good deeds, nice behavior, and peaceful living as a way to God, Jesus offers himself as the only way to God, and the good deeds, holiness, and peace come as a result of one thing: GRACE.

And there you are.

I'd enjoy continuing this dialogue with you, anonymous, so please let me hear from you again.

atruebluehusker said...

I think the answer is yes...or at least it should be. God can use almost any number of things as agents of his grace, and one of the primary roles of the Church (and indeed of the individual members of the Church) is to show Christ to the world. And the message of Christ is the message of grace, of salvation through faith in Christ and His work on the cross. Unfortunately, we the Church often fail in so many ways, including adequately representing Christ as we should. Paul writes in Ephesians that we have (and I'm paraphrasing here) the same power that raised Christ from the dead available to us. The key for us is finding out how to tap into that power, so that we are walking with Christ as closely as possible. When we do that, then I believe we the Church are one of the key agents of His grace.

Vera said...

The church as agent of grace... I have seen it in some, found it lacking in others. God help us when He asks us for an answer!

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's that Christ is the agent of grace and his people, the church, are a visible testiment to His grace?

It is religion that clouds the work of Christ in our lives. Religion brings a focus on externals, which leads to a judgemental attitude, which leads people to flee.

If people have truely tasted the free grace of God, how then can they judge others and place high expectations on them? Maybe the gospel most christians know is as Paul calls it "another gospel"

One man's thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone bothered to read the last chapters of Matthew, Mark and Luke? What is the Great Commission? To win souls and save them from eternal damnation. That was the greatest love God could give us. Jesus didn't leave His glory to come here and make us feel warm and fuzzy. He came here for one purpose, to save us from Hell. He spoke of Hell more often than Heaven and He spoke of demons more often than angels. Clue: It was a warning.
Here's a clue about the Laodecean age which we are in now, Rev 3, we are lukewarm and are worldly rich but in reality we are naked and poor and blind. We have left Jesus outside the door knocking to get in.
Loving each other and helping each other are incidental. How many Christians have died for the cause? When the rubber hits the road, the true Christians are those who go down to death's door without wavering on their belief in Christ.(some have been spared that, but did they win souls to Christ?) Some were burned, John the beloved was boiled in oil, all the apostles died horrible deaths. Read Foxe's book of martyres. Read Richard Wurmbrand's books, he watched the communists kill his son before his eyes, and his son told his Dad not to renounce Christ. We are focusing on the wrong things here. Check out the Voice of the Martyres. Hundreds of thousands of Christians have died before the 20th century. Horrifically, more died in the 20th century, but we Americans are insulated from that news. The Antichrist is soon coming. We need to get ready for this. It won't be easy.