It used to be that a “confessing church” was a church known for its adherence to the great theological confessions from church history. Not any more. Kensington Community Church, a seeker megachurch in suburban Detroit, is bringing a whole new meaning to “confessing church” by joining the bandwagon of churches who think the time has long past for the church to apologize to the culture for being the church. On Sunday, October 19, 2008 this church began a weekend message series titled, “Confessions of a Sinful Church.”
The very idea of a “sinful church” is oxymoronic. Christ gave Himself for the church so that He might cleanse it with the Word of God and present it to Himself a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27), evidence that market research is defining our own perception of the church rather than the Bible.
It should be noted that this idea of begging the cultures’ pardon didn’t originate with Kensington Church. Google their series title and you’ll be introduced to a dozen or more churches across the country that have discovered the latest fad sure to increase your worship attendance created by the psychologically-driven church growth movement: be sorry—be very sorry—for preaching a gospel that rubs the culture the wrong way.
So just how has the church so offended the culture that it warrants such a public apology? Well, it seems there are variations of seven or eight sins the church is guilty of, but never more than five are ever presented by any of the churches confessing them. Evidently the attention span of today’s seeker isn’t longer than five weekends on any one subject.
In February and March of this year Rolling Hills Community Church in Danville, California confessed that the church has been self-righteous and hypocritical, supported racial segregation, mistreated homosexuals, fought bloody crusades and argued that the earth is flat.
At the end of September, Tillman Road Church of God in Fort Wayne, Indiana began a series confessing the church’s sins of being hypocritical, anti-homosexual, judgmental, sheltered, too focused on getting converts and too political.
As for Kensington, their five confessions focus on being sorry for being self-righteous hypocrites, for judging others, for despising homosexuality and for caring only about converting people.
Whoever created this package of confessions missed the point that most of these so-called “sins” are nothing more than liberal media stereotypes of conservative, evangelical, gospel-preaching churches whose real sin is offending the sensitivities of the culture by maintaining their faithfulness to the Word of God.
I’m not arguing that people who profess to be followers of Jesus have never been self-righteous, hypocritical and judgmental. There may be pockets of such behavior and a minority of local churches who fit that description. But the media has taken these exceptions and made them the standard by which all churches are defined. Kensington, along with these other churches, is encouraging you and me to apologize for a stereotype.
The fact that “research says the majority of people now view Christianity as hypocritical, intolerant and even hateful,” only proves how effective mass media is in creating perceptions. Since when do we shape our ministries in response to the latest survey of pagans by Barna Research rather than by divine revelation as revealed in sacred scripture?
Any church that takes a stand in defense of the unborn and for traditional marriage will be accused of being “too political.” Any church which has homosexuals in a list along with thieves, alcoholics and adulterers (as the word of God does—1 Corinthians 6:9-11) will be accused of mistreating homosexuals. Any church that teaches a literal six-day creation and a young earth will be viewed as archaic and out of touch with the mainstream of scientific research (read: evolutionary theory).
And while I personally don’t know any Christians in any church who do not believe the slave trade was cruel and hideous, I feel no personal responsibility for it, though I am rightly ashamed of any part my ancestors may have played in propagating it. No amount of remorse on my part for their crimes against humanity will erase the history, no matter how politically correct an apology may be.
As for the church being focused on getting converts, I thought that was the whole point (see Matthew 28:19-20).
Truth be told, none of these “confessing” churches believe that they themselves are guilty of these sins. They believe your church is guilty of these sins. This pre-packaged series of sermons is designed to help you and your church see the error of your ways while keeping their church from ever being as offensive to sinners as your church, because from the perspective of these churches, the one sin to be avoided at all costs is the failure to be liked by the culture. And the culture likes them a lot when they point out the speck of dust in your eye.
When the church is the Church, living out her character and calling as mandated by God’s word rather than the whims of a secular culture, it will offend. The gospel we proclaim has its origin in divine revelation. It is foolishness to Gentiles. It is a stumbling block to Jews. The Founder of the Church, the Author and Finisher of our faith, warned that, because of Him, the world would persecute us (John 15:20-21) and hate us (John 15:18) because it hates Him.
More often than not, the church will find itself at odds with the prevailing culture on any number of issues. They can ignore the hard truth we preach by writing us off as judgmental, causing us to ask self-reflectively, “Who, after all, are we to judge?”
This is who we are: we are the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. The church is defined not by the failure of some in living up to this high calling. We have been eternally defined by the infallible, inerrant and perfect Word of God personified in the Word made flesh, the Lord Jesus Christ. Our mandate is to preach the Word, not waste our time apologizing for it to a self-obsessed culture under the guise of “humble orthodoxy.”