I like chicken. As a matter of fact, it could be said that I love chicken. It is by far my “meat of choice”. Growing up in the Richmond household, my mom fried everything. She fried squash. She fried okra. She fried potatoes. And…..she fried chicken. Nothing better tasting than a fresh batch dripping with oil and the Richmond family ate its fair share.
Now that I’m married and away from momma, my family tends to steer away from fried fodder. With my increase in age and wisdom (don’t laugh), I’ve come to realize that although fried chicken “ain’t” evil, it also “ain’t” that great for you. This is especially true if you decide to make it a regular part of your diet. Yes, it does provide life sustaining nourishment (sort of), but unfortunately there are about a million other foods out there that do a far better job of keeping you alive. Yes, you can eat all the fried chicken you want, but sooner or later you will begin reaping some of the negative aspects of eating that delicious oil soaked bird. These “blessings” include getting fat and probably increasing your chance for clogged arteries which leads to heart attacks and stroke. In other words too much of a “good thing”, might not be so good! Now your probably wondering where I’m going with this. Well. I can assure you I’m no health nut and although I deem what I’ve written to be good advice, this blog “ain’t” just about chicken!
Over the last few months, I have posted many thoughts on the glorious social experiment known as Facebook. With these posts have come a variety of replies questioning everything from my sanity to my devotion to the Lord Himself. Well, despite others best attempts to paint me as being a bitter, cynical, and terribly wounded Christian in need of intervention, I must refute these musings and their validity. Believe it or not folks, I still love Jesus and I’m still doing my best to find His heart for my life.
Regardless of that fact, I do understand why so many folks would believe these things to be true. Like I shared with a gentleman the other day. Facebook is great, but it only presents a snippet of the totality of any given situation. So, with that, I have decided to share my thoughts in a little more detail.
Brace yourself, because I’m not going to sugar coat it. The following statement may not be to your liking, but it represents my heart. I truly believe that the modern day, institutionalized church is a killer of biblical Christianity and does far more harm to the body of Christ than people realize. There I said it! Please note that I did not say, "being a part of the church is a killer". The two are very different!
Now, does making such a statement make me a negative person? Does having a different take on what the word says make me less committed to God or biblical truth? I think not. To have a different opinion based on experience (lots of it), prayer (lots of it), and the study of Gods word (yes….lots of that too), shouldn’t be a cause for labeling me a hypocrite, confused, or “back slidden”. Yet, I’ve found that the moment you dare to question tradition, or step outside of the bible belt’s box of comfort, you immediately become.....questionable.
Now, back to the chicken. What does fried chicken have to do with all this? You see, fried chicken is is not evil. It tastes great and is enjoyed by many. But, is it really good for you? Is it the best thing you can put in your mouth? No. Ask any doctor and they’ll tell you that fried chicken should not be a consistent part of your diet. Baked chicken? Yes. Grilled or steamed? Fine. But not fried! Why, because your body wasn’t designed to function well on the stuff. Yes, it will for a while. You can even eat it with friends celebrating wonderful times of joy, but sooner or later eating such things will cost you. The crash in your health will come and all those “great meals” will seem so foolish.
For me, the modern church is much the same way. For twenty years, I’ve pulled up to the table and eaten every thing our religious system had to offer. I was certainly part of the famed “twenty percent” that does all the work in the church and proud of it. I did everything I was told a good Christian man should do and listened carefully to the “spiritual leaders” God had put over me. I went to visitation, volunteered for projects and committees, taught, preached, and sang. Yet, in the end I realized that what I had was a lap full of religion and an anemic faith that was built on the shoulders of some good guys trying to be far more than God ever intended. Was I saved? Absolutely! But, for some reason after years of doing everything I could, I was not growing much at all. My fault? Maybe, but I can assure you no one especially the “shepherds” of the church ever took the time to investigate if the poor little sheep were actually growing up. They were more than content to feed us our weekly dose of milk and remind us that we could get more next week. On the outside we all looked good, and unfortunately for our leaders that seemed to be good enough. The church was growing, people were being saved, people shouted amen and put their money in the plate, but no one was growing up!
Just like that plate of chicken that tasted so good for so long, I eventually had to come to terms with the fact that maybe this “stuff” was actually doing more harm than good. You see that’s really it for me. It’s not that it’s all bad, because it isn’t. There are lots of good things going on in some "churches", but what about the “stuff” that is so often ignored. You know, the “stuff”. Stuff like “services”, “sermons”, professional “clergy”, dress codes, denominations, unbiblical leadership (boards, committees, etc.), fancy buildings that are only used a few times a week, church covenants, and an endless list of other man contrived religious practices that aren’t even found in the book. None of those things really help you grow up spiritually or foster a true relationship with God, yet realistically these are the very “things” we esteem to be vital to church life. The truth is these “necessities” are not only not necessary or very biblical, but also tend to keep the body of Christ in an apathetic state. Adherence to such practices has caused Christ’s body to become dependant upon a system and its leaders to spoon feed us because we lack the strength or maturity to eat the solid food God offers. No one ever "grows" up because the system is set up to keep everyone in a perpetual state of infancy. Is it done intentionally? No, at least not in most situations, but that is the end result none the less. Say what you like, but many of today’s “churches” look more like a corporation than a living body of family members sharing life.
Again, let me make it clear, I KNOW THERE ARE GOOD THINGS GOING ON IN SOME CHURCHES, but that doesn’t mean this thing we call “church” is actually making disciples or represents God’s heart for His kids. It may satisfy our emotional needs and provide some of what we feel we need spiritually, but does it really represent God’s best for His kids?
Again, eating fried chicken isn’t evil, but is it really helping us to become healthier individuals, or the opposite. Just because it tastes good and is appealing to the senses does not mean we are gaining true benefits from eating it. It will keep you alive, but is that really the goal? I can tell you it’s not mine.
So who should I blame for leading me astray all these years? Was it the “preachers” fault? No. Was it my fellow church member’s fault? No. Was it God’s fault? Of course not. It really was not anyone’s fault. Rather I believe it was simply the natural progression that takes place in the human heart when it continues to look for God in a system that is in many ways unbiblical and foreign to the heart of God. It seemed to be working for years. It seemed to be doing the job, but in the end I realized I had become a part of a man contrived religious business. A business carried out in the name of God by some really good people who thought they were doing the right thing.
I could go on, but I need to end this (for now). Friends, the modern institutionalized church does help people. It works on many levels, but is lacking on many others and in the end will always fail us. Searching for God our way will always leave us empty and hungry. By the way, please don’t say, “There’s no such thing as a perfect church”. That is a really weak argument for the defense of a system that is not even found in the bible.
In the end, for me it’s not about finding “a system” that works, but rather a living relationship with a Savior that wants to be the head of my life and His body. Systems can mimic that successfully for a season, but eventually they fail you.
In conclusion, let me say that I love God’s people and do not wish to be divisive. Unfortunately, if you hold a view contrary to my own you will most likely view me as such. I realize it is not my job to change anyone. Only the Holy spirit can do that. If you are happy eating “fried chicken” have at it. For me, it’s just not something I desire, nor do I feel I need (or you need). Of course it could be that I’m the one who’s “diet” is out of whack. I’ll just have to let the Lord be the judge of that.
I am a Christian. I am a part of God’s church, and I love my brothers and sisters. I do not hate anyone nor am I angry, but let me be clear. I will not pretend to support something I feel is so very destructive to my brothers and sisters. If you disagree, and going to a “church” works for you, great! But know this, there are hundreds of hurting family members out there who have been left bleeding in the ditches so that the “church” could continue on, business as usual. If that’s happening (and it is), how could that really represent God’s best for His children?