Late last week, tragedy struck the Indianapolis community. On Sunday, at least one local pastor threw out his scheduled sermon in order to preach to his congregation about the events that took place. I know because the local news spoke with that pastor, and they plastered the headline across the screen: Pastor Changes Sermon to Address Shooting (or something like that - the point is, it was big news how the church, how this church, was responding).
And that's good news, isn't it? We want the world to be looking for the church in times like these. We want them looking to see how we respond with the Gospel love of Christ.
Except...this pastor blew it. Big time.
Oh, the world probably doesn't think he blew it. The world loved what they heard coming out of his mouth. Here's another guy, representing a large group of persons, who are on the same page as popular opinion. Here's a guy on the right side of the issues. Here's a guy who 'gets it.' The world was probably proud - and pleasantly surprised - to see this guy, to see the church, coming out the way he did.
Here's what he said:
He said he thought it was important that he change his message that Sunday morning to remind his congregation of the importance of writing to their leaders, their elected officials, and their congresspersons in order to enact the kind of change that they want to see surrounding, in particular, gun laws. He went on to say that his church - not just his congregation, but his denomination as a whole - has a 'clear position' on the issue of gun control and that it was time for his members to speak up and make their position clearly heard.
Thank you, pastor. (And the whole newsroom applauds.)
Uhm, excuse me? You have the entire Gospel of Christ at your disposal, and you have the ear of the local media, and you have a chance to speak powerfully into a broken moment in your community, and the best you can come up with is a 'clear position' on what has become one of the most hotly contested political issues of our time? The best you can come up with is how important it is for you, as a people of faith, to write letters to your congressperson?
No wonder the world is laughing at the church. No wonder the world has no interest in our God. No wonder the world isn't curious about our Gospel.
This was no small church pastor, either. The church this pastor preaches at is one of the largest in our community. It is known for its community outreach and events. Its denomination is one of the largest and most well-established denominations in the country, well-known even to those who don't attend its churches and can't articulate its doctrine. The name alone is recognizable.
And in a moment when the world stands most in need of the kind of hope, grace, love, and confident assurance that the church has in spades, this guy comes out on behalf of Jesus (who he never mentions, by the way - not once) with the bold proclamation that the church has a 'clear position' on the issue of gun control and will be taking steps to lobby for stronger legislation.
That noise you heard was my heart breaking. Honestly. I just sat here with my mouth hanging open, completely unable to process what I heard this pastor waste his opportunity on. Thinking about the members of his congregation who were proudly watching from their own homes, nodding in agreement and saying, "Yes! That's my pastor!"
Listen, this isn't a post about my position on gun control, or even on what Jesus's position on the issue might be (if He even has one, and He probably doesn't). This is a post about how the church had a moment, a powerful moment, a moment when the world was turning to the church to hear what we had to say, and we blew it. Not one whisper about the Gospel. Not one. Not one mention of Jesus. Not one drop of hope or grace or love. We blew it.
This is not the first time. It won't be the last. But yesterday, we talked about the message of the church in a post-Christian age, and this is it, folks. This is why we have to be so mindful about what we're saying and how we're saying it. Because more and more and more, the world isn't listening to us. They aren't turning to us to see what we have to say. They don't even expect us any more to be fundamentally different than they are. And when we take our moments and throw them away, we're not only failing our communities, but we're hurting ourselves. The time is coming when they will just stop asking altogether.
The world has been trying for 2,000 years to show that our Jesus is powerless. Why, oh why, do we keep agreeing with them?