The other week a friend texted me a link to a video of Pastor Steven Furtick* running around the sanctuary of his church sharing, “ME, TOO!!!!” moments.
I lose my temper…me, too!!!
You wanted to cuss somebody out in traffic this week…me, too!!!!
You’re NOT crazy! ME, TOO!!!!!!!
I WANT THIS TO BE A “ME, TOO!!!!” CHURCH!
I had a little “AMEN!” moment, a solid chuckle at Pastor Furtick climbing around on his congregation members (bless…), and may have even clapped at one or two confessions. We’ve all been there. You bet. Hallelujah.
But then I realized that the video left a bad taste in my mouth.
Now listen, I get that Pastor Furtick is a bit of a controversial guy. He looks much more like a cast member from Jersey Shore than the pastor of a church and has been accused of lots of things far worse than eating a whole bag of Doritos in one sitting (ME, TOO!!!). This post is not about that and not about him so let’s clear that up before we continue.
My concern is that we’re creating Me Too Churches when what we really should be doing is building a Me Too So Now What culture.
According to the Pew Research Center, the number of people in America who attend church continues it’s slow and steady decline year after year with the growth of the Religious None – those who don’t affiliate with a religion or say it’s important to them – increasing at an incredible pace with 15 million U.S. adults joining this group between 2007 and 2014. That’s million, ya’ll.
Somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000 churches close their doors permanently every year. Every year.
Only about 20% of Americans are in church on any given Sunday.
Certainly there are scores of reasons, many of them layered with nuance, as to why the golden age of church attendance in America has passed. But this Huffington Post writer sums up one powerful reason clearly and boldly: “I’ve got news for you, Mr. Stetzer (of Christianity Today), there are scores of people who have left the church, not because they possess some phony or inferior faith, as you would like to believe, but precisely because they do not want to be around judgmental people like you. They have left, not to abandon their faith, but precisely because they wish to preserve it. You would be much better off to leave the judgment-making to Someone infinitely more qualified to do so (Matt. 7:1).”
Well, that was brutal.
Have you ever tried to drive one of those amusement park cars? You know, the ones that are on a track with a metal guide rail between your left and right tires. You hit on one side and try to move ever-so-slightly, only to immediately smack the other side. Your entire ride is a bumpy back and forth as you over-correct, crash, rinse, repeat.
I can’t help but wonder if the church is over-correcting to the detriment of the people in the pews.
When I hear a “Me, too!” sermon, I feel a focus on counteracting the church attendance decline, of making amends to those who have left – no, run – from the church because of a judgmental culture. Telling everyone listening on a Sunday morning that we’re all in the same messy boat is welcoming and inclusive, totally free of judgment. For those who feel like they might burst into flames if they ever walked through the doors of a sanctuary again, the message of a pastor climbing around from chair to chair, yelling into a microphone that he’s just as torn and tempted as the next guy, must be pretty comforting. No Pharisees glaring down their noses at everyone in this church! We’re a big ol’ heap of brokenness, but thank God for Grace! Want some Grace? Come on in!
Here’s the problem. This view of grace cheapens the very meaning of the word. It acknowledges that Jesus died a horrible death on the cross so that we are forgiven for our sins without also acknowledging those sins.
Charles Swindoll writes: “At this very moment, there are some in the family of God who have truly believed in Christ and, as a result, have been justified by faith, yet they have chosen lifestyles that do not square with Scripture. If and when those believers are asked, “Why do you . . .?” and “How can you . . .?” they usually use the word grace somewhere in their answers. Such rationalization cheapens the correct meaning of grace. God never extended His favor toward us so we might misappropriate the freedom it brings.”
What many “me, too” sermons are missing is the connection between the we’ve-all-sinned-and-fallen-short comradery and the offer we’ve been given to accept grace and then live into the righteousness we’ve been given.
What we really need is not just the “me, too” but also the “now what?”
When we add the second part to the message of judgment-free acceptance, we’re providing an invitation for growth. This invitation moves us to seeing grace as an opportunity to get up and start again, doing the next right thing each day, rather than making grace seem like a free pass to stay in the muck and filth of sin. The Me Too Church leans heavily on the fact that we’re forgiven no matter what AND oh by the way, we’re all in the muck and filth so we’re in good company. The unexpected byproduct of drawing in the unchurched or the rechurched or the previously dechurched with a message of acceptance is that we all begin to get used to that muck and filth and after awhile, the church starts to look like the world. The human condition after the fall no longer only explains why we needed grace in the first place. It begins instead to excuse why we will always need grace. Like a home built too close to the sewage processing plant, we begin to become immune to our own stink. After all, we’ve got a Get Out of Jail Free card, reserved seats at the big showing in the sky. We can take our time and get there when we get there.
Grace is not about living the way we’ve been living and still having eternal life. Grace is a gift given to us so that we can get up and move on, free of shame, free of chains, free of condemnation. By forgetting to preach the now what layer of grace, we’re in danger of creating a sinful culture inside the church. Suddenly we find ourselves – the members of the church – surrounded by forgiveness but not accountability.
Take a moment with that one. Are the members of a Me Too Church surrounded by the gift of forgiveness but left lying in the muck because of a lack of accountability?
Don’t we want more for each other? Don’t we want more for ourselves?
Instead of finding a sense of peace and acceptance from feeling as though we’re in good company on a Sunday morning, we can receive the peace that comes from living in step with God’s plan for us. A peace that surpasses understanding. A peace given not as the world gives, that can not be taken away.
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
– Abide with Me
Some scripture in case you were wondering where I got the bee that’s clearly buzzing around in my bonnet:
…Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. – Romans 1:4-6
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin….This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through redemption that came by Jesus Christ…For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. – Romans 3:20, 22-24, 28, 31
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. – Galatians 6:7
*The video clip was taken from Pastor Furtick’s sermon titled, “The Struggle is the Same (Me, too)”.