Sunday, March 22, 2020

SANCTUARY: A Place of Refuge for Spiritual Refugees

Sunday Night Sanctuary
March 22, 2020

I’ve been painfully aware of the dwindling population among USA churches for the past 2 decades. Prior to that, I lived in a church fantasy world of believing the notion that if we would just, “win the lost at any cost” our pews would always be packed. Well Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore…

To be perfectly blunt right off the bat…the whole approach I just referenced is a value statement related to our decline. “They” versus “us” rather than the collective family of humankind in search of the Sacred, the Divine, the Beauty of God. Winning the lost often looked like counting how many people we could BS into saying the “sinner’s prayer” and receiving Jesus. I’m through with the bait and switch…as well as the other definition of BS.

A professional counselor friend of mine shared a parable fitting for this challenge: “If I’m strolling along a city sidewalk and suddenly I’m confronted with a scene of person after person leaping from a 3rd floor window, falling to certain injury or even death, I do not shame them angrily for being stupid enough to jump…NO! I quickly seek to determine what could be so bad on the 3rd floor of that building that makes jumping seem  preferential over staying up there! 

The church of the west continues to witness a steady “run for your lives” stampede from our once solid sanctuaries. Even a casual internet search bears out my point. Estimates range from 25% to 50% of the next 2 generations have exited organized Christianity. As a pastor of over 45 years, I admit the reality of my own participation in failing to seriously carry out and gather a collective healthy assessment of what could be so bad about who we are that would make a 3rd floor leap seem better than staying… 

As of January 2019 my wife and I left the church we pastored for 30 years and began a journey of discovery. We went out in search of “spiritual refugees”, or the “one sheep”, as described by Jesus. Our promise to any we would find was to “listen and love” as best as we could. No BS and no attempt to shame anyone back to the 3rd floor. Did we find dysfunctional excuses or blame without appropriate self evaluation? Of course! But I’d propose we are ALL  guilty of that, now and then. 

However, the great majority of those we have found represent a very real demand for an authentic renewal in the western Church. In ways great and small, multitudes are isolated within the church walls or simply walking away. They aren’t rebels flicking the bird at a steeple…they’re treasures with stories too compelling to ignore any longer. 

We were always supposed to be a “city of refuge” and a sanctuary for the pursuit of a beautiful spirituality. Many of them (myself included) believed the church would be a beautiful sanctuary for restoration but found too many sad compromises from that purpose to tolerate any longer. 

What compromises? Here’s a partial list of what my wife and I have discovered:

  1. Commitments to purity, culture wars, righteousness, and a determination to change everyone else to make them look like us. For instance, the “LGBTQ agenda” became our war cry against human beings made in the image of God rather than a construct for the potential of healthy, adult conversations. Think about it; the woman at the well (John 5) represented everything a good Jewish boy should shun! But Jesus took the risk of a healthy adult conversation that demonstrated his genuine interest in her life’s journey. I’ve learned to listen to ONE person sitting in front of me rather than fighting a group and their agenda. The more I fight a group, the less I’ll be trusted with one person coming to me with a trust for love. More to unpack about this at another time…
  2. Political marriage for the purpose of national influence. I do not care which side of the spectrum we’ve married, it was not a marriage made in heaven. “No one can serve 2 masters” according to Jesus, yet we’ve been determined to prove Him wrong. The Kingdom of God introduced by King Jesus can certainly participate and influence systems around us with salt and light…but we can only serve one higher power at a time. To hear some preach, you’d think the call to follow Jesus is stone cold equal to becoming a card carrying Republican. No! Two masters is one too many. More to unpack about this at a later time…
  3. Pure and simple ~ a failure to grow in an honest pursuit of LOVE. Loving our neighbor, our enemy, ourselves and God. Love; the final reality. Love alone is credible. Love; the ONE value Jesus proclaimed as THE value of His people. MUCH more to unpack about this at another time… 
In order to unpack the above (and more) we are offering Sunday Night Sanctuary. Stop by beginning Sunday March 22, 2020 at my Facebook page from 6pm to 7pm CST.

The definition of sanctuary is simply this; a sacred refuge and a space to become a whole spiritual human being. My wife and I want to do our best to provide that kind of space. A sacred place for becoming, belonging, and loving toward a dynamic of living beautifully and powerfully. During this time very Sunday night we’ll offer prayers, confessions, messages, and Communion toward that end. A brief Sanctuary to build upon for a lifetime of sanctuary Love. 

1 comment:

Mel Wild said...

Great word, Randy. I couldn't agree more on your three points. These are very things our local church is grappling with, too. We've spent a lot of time unlearning the whole "us vs. them" mindset.

I think this social-distancing is a great time for the church that Jesus loves to draw near to Him and get hopelessly infected with His love, and then spread the Love virus!