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The following is an open letter to the Church in general and those who call themselves Christians, not one specific body, congregation, person, or pastor. While the following statements and critiques may not be true for everyone, I’ve seen (or heard) them hold true for enough people that I feel it necessary to address. There are times I fall into some of these categories.

Dear Church,

Let me first say I love you; I really do. You have an incredible purpose here in Earth, but sometimes the way you and your folks do things can crowd out that message and, in fact, turn people away from hearing the valuable, life changing, transforming things you have to say.

You can be so religious sometimes. To be frank with you, you’re actually more religious than you are anything else. And the people who need you don’t want or need religion; they need you to direct them towards a relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s your traditions that keep people stuck in bondage. You’ve always done things one way, and you can’t seem to get out of that tradition. You think that your way is always best — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Well, I’ve got news for you, Church — it’s broken. Badly.

The times are changing and the way you do things should as well. Notice that I didn’t say your message needs to change; your message of healing, hope, restoration and salvation in Jesus Christ is timeless, classic, and uncompromising. The delivery isn’t. It’s important that you stay ahead of, not behind (which is where you’ve always been) the curve. You should be the first one doing things and breaking new ground, not the ones playing catch-up after the rest of the world has moved onto to the next best thing. It’s as if you’re just now getting onto MySpace when everyone has moved on to Twitter.

Often times, you have no spine, no backbone, no gumption. You don’t address the serious issues that are putting people’s lives and eternal destinies at risk. Of course they’re hard to talk about, but there are current societal issues that you really could do a lot to change. For some reason, you’re scared to talk. You know the truth and the very ideas that could fix the situation, but the proverbial cat’s evidently got your tongue. What’s that about? You’re so scared that people won’t like you if you just tell it like it is. You want to tell them what their itching ears want to hear and as a result, you water down, dilute, or just plain ignore the truth, in order to be popular so they’ll come hang out with you and give you money. You fail to realize two things: true friends value the truth above all else and always deliver it with love and compassion. If you would just tell people the very things they need to hear, the truth would set them free and they would want to be a part of what you’re doing. Two, you should never care about what anyone thinks of you. As long as you do what you’re supposed to do, be true to your purpose and calling, the right people will come your way.

Speaking of love and compassion, it seems far too often that you don’t have any. At least not towards those who need it most — those who don’t know Jesus. When one of your friends, someone who hangs out with you every week, loses their job or struggles with an addiction or is dealing with another hardship, you’re all about loving them. But if it’s someone you don’t know, someone who needs your help more than even, you tend to ask 18 questions and give as many reason why they’re in the situation they’re in (and often say they deserve it), when all you should be doing is helping them see the light in the midst of their junk. Show them the way out, by doing what you do (or should be doing) and help them see the light and truth for themselves.

I know more than a few people who feel unwelcome when they come through your doors, desperately needing what you have to offer. You’re constantly judging, critiquing and criticizing the very people who you should be caring for and befriending before you’ve even heard their stories. And if they do come over and hang out with you, of course, you talk about them as soon as they leave as if you’ve never thought about, or struggled with anything remotely similar to their issues. How quickly you forget where you came from. How quickly you judge others by their external, maybe more obvious struggles, when you have your own private sins that you choose to gloss over and ignore as if they don’t exist.

Most of the time people have legitimate reasons why their lives are in need of your help, but you and your friends just turn them away as if they’re meaningless, worthless, and of no value. So what do they do? They curse your name, and the name of everything you stand for, giving even your well meaning friends a bad name. And then they go right back to the very situation they found themselves running from because they couldn’t find any help from you; they only found condemnation and contempt.

See Church, at the end of the day, I believe you do all these things for one simple reason — you’re having an identity crisis. You’ve forgotten who you are, what you stand for, and your true purpose. You’ve tried to become who you think others want you to be instead of being true to your original design.

And it hurts me to see this because I know who you really are; I’ve seen you in action, when you’re truly you. It’s a beautiful thing. I just wish that more people could see it. But they won’t see it until you change your ways and start acting the way you know how to act, talking the way you know how to talk, and caring and loving the way you know you ought to.

So I pray for you, Church. I pray that you would have a change of heart, a change of mind, and a change of anything else that is not in God’s original plans. And when you change, I can’t wait to see you really change the world around you.

Love Always, Stuart

[Written by Stuart McDonald for Elev8.com. For more from Stuart, check out his all NEW personal blog, follow him on Twitter, and connect with him on Facebook.]

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