a while back i had heard about the eighth letter gathering up in canada, where 25 people will be sharing their letter to the north american church. yesterday, one of my favorite bloggers, rachel held evans, announced an open synchroblog this week where anyone was welcome to share their own letter. after a particularly wild-week-in-the-trenches around here i had this post on the tip of my tongue so i thought i’d just turn it into a quick-off-the-top-of-my-head letter instead. here goes:
dear north american church,
you have developed a bad reputation. you didn’t mean to. i believe your heart is good & you have been so sincere in your dedication to Christ, of that i have no doubt. the problem is that somehow you’ve become more committed to teaching the truth than actually living the truth. to building successful businesses that are self-sustaining rather than living by faith & giving your resources away. by creating walls instead of bridges.
and the world’s started to smell out your contradictions. you see, they are in need of hope and peace, not anger and control. they are hungry for love and cups of cold water, not hate and picket signs. they are desperate, dying, divorcing, and deconstructing, and you are spending energy on trying to prove your “this is what the Bible says” point.
and you’ve forgotten one of the most important things that Jesus did, that he modeled for us so beautifully–he restored dignity to people who had lost it. the sick, the lame, the broken, the desperate, the outcasts, the marginalized, the least, the last. over and over, he healed them, lifted their head, and touched them with hope. hope that the kingdom of God was available now and it wasn’t only for the learned, the put-together, the well, the powerful. it was available for all those who were humble enough to admit their spiritual poverty & need for God.
the world does not need any more dignity-strippers. they’ve got enough of that going on without the church’s help.
what the world needs are dignity-restorers.
- people who are willing to call out God’s image in those that don’t know it’s there.
- people who are willing to sacrifice their own jobs, time, heart, and money to change systems that keep others oppressed.
- people who use their own power & privilege to make space for those without it.
- people who are willing to give a rip about that one person who everyone else has given up on.
- people who see beyond gender, politics, religion, socioeconomics, and all of the other things that divide and segregate us and engage in deep & meaningful relationships anyway.
- people willing to go the long haul and offer compassion & love to the hurting instead of trite advice & easy spiritual answers.
- people who will stand between the stone throwers & the one about to be stoned and advocate on their behalf.
- people who touch the untouchable.
- people who see the best in others instead of the worst.
it’s not going to be easy to make this change for you.
a cool website won’t do it.
all the right answers won’t do it.
going to the next great conference won’t do it.
putting the word “missional” on the tip of everyone’s tongues won’t do it.
to really become known as dignity restorers, you’re going to have to give up all kinds of things you rely on to keep you safe, strong, and protected:
systems that perpetuate money & power & control
hanging with people who are just like you
making sure you’re the “us” and they’re the “them.”
but first, your own dignity must be restored. you must get in touch with who you really are. who you were meant to be. not what you think you had to become to feel better about yourself. yeah, Jesus can heal you, too. humble yourself and touch his garment, seek his ways, and surrender to love.
and here’s the wildest part–if you won’t do it, can’t do it, refuse to do it, you need to know that others will. right now, others are. they are actually being “the church” instead of wasting time hashing over who can teach & who can’t, who’s right & who’s wrong, who’s giving money & who’s not. they are just getting down to Jesus’ business without the trappings of “the church” and doing just fine.
oh but i have no doubt if all your resource, all your hands & hearts & eyes & ears & buildings & power & influence & hope could really be channeled to restoring dignity in person after person after person after person, the image of God uncovered in his people, shining brighter and brighter, would dim the darkness of this world like never before.
please, step into who you were meant to be. it’s beautiful. it’s better. and the world really, really needs it.
so i got out what i wanted to say this week. i really believe the world doesn’t need another sandwich board church sign on the corner announcing really good coffee & fun for families. the world needs people willing to restore dignity where it’s been lost.
what would you like to say to the north american church? let it rip.