Gerard ter Borch (1617-1681), "A Lady Reading a Letter"

A Letter to the Church-At-Large

Gerard ter Borch (1617-1681), "A Lady Reading a Letter"
Gerard ter Borch (1617-1681), "A Lady Reading a Letter"

Dear Church-at-large,

I’ve been an observer since my youth, and I can help but notice a trend in my lifetime—first, I found it among Protestants (Baptists of various titles like “non-denominational”), but I’ve found it among many Catholics, too.

A trend. A pattern, if you will. A thought. It’s the assumption that you can entertain me, or us: a generation of entertainment connoisseurs. But you cannot entertain us; at least, you cannot entertain me—and I find the very effort somewhat insulting.

Oh, you may have snatched up a fair number of baby-boomers with your watered-down orange-drink outreach; you may entertain a fair number of forty-something suburb-dwelling middle-class soccer-moms-and-dads whose children will probably realize they are full of crap after their second divorce. You probably have a fair number of youth pastors, leaders, or ministers (which is, unfortunately, usually a mask for the more accurate title of Ecclesiastical Parasite); you may even have a large number of odd young adults and teenagers, many of whom spontaneously break into tears during the more emotional parts of praise songs (but even these, we know, only feel guilty because they are a part of the same entertainment culture as we are. Or they had sex with their boyfriend). But I do not think I am not alone when I say: I am, and shall forever remain, on the outside. The last thing you want to offer a generation gluttonous on entertainment is cheap grace wrapped in cheap thrills.

We drink beer with hipsters while talking of music.

We drink scotch with intellectuals while talking of ethics.

We are not impressed by your in-church coffee-shop bible-studies.

We’ve watched an ungodly number of YouTube videos. Your hip five-minute dumb-downed musings on the mysteries of the universe and the nature of the divine are not going to keep our attention.

I do not want bastardized Calvinism via a concise visual aid.

Jonathan Edwards is not my homeboy.

I do not want a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Personal relationship Jesus wears a sport coat and drives a Suburban. Or worse, a graphic tee and a smartcar.

Church-at-large, you have so little to offer us anymore, and as the numbing glow of entertainment seeps ever further into all our lives, you will have only less and less. You’ve taken him who is plain and dressed him up with a lightshow and kick drum. But you will only end up as irrelevant as your music. I would take that bizarre religion of holy madmen, who tell me that I drink the blood and eat the flesh of my god.

Behold, the plain man cometh.

—N. W. Smith

9 thoughts on “A Letter to the Church-At-Large”

  1. You are angry at something. Quit looking to ministers, leaders, and pastors for perfection. Look to the one who is perfect…and, celebrate these people – because they are DOING.. you need to spend more time being part of the change, part of the sollution, rather that rant about other people trying to make a difference, and sharing the love of Christ because it’s their heart.
    Quit being an “observer”
    Quit sitting on the sidelines with your pen and notepad, feverishly scratching out criticism

    1. Mr. Kryvoruka,

      It is difficult to “be part of the change” and “make a difference” without first standing, as the author of this piece writes, “on the outside,” in a position from which criticism is possible. Yet the author is not one who has detached himself from the Body; on the contrary he is an active member of a local church. His concern is that many of the practices which characterize the American church are wrong and present an offense to taste and theology alike. The “solution” involves stepping away from these and calling others to do the same. Otherwise, one remains part of the problem.

  2. Oh Mr. Critic,

    A true critic is a connoisseur, an SME of the topic he is analyzing. And, the purpose of the critic is not to “call out” that which is lacking but rather to encourage, motivate & promote excellence in their field. Having said that, What would you have the church at large do?

  3. Pingback: A Cranky God

React! Reply! Challenge!