The Message for the Broken

This blog post was published on Monday 22 February 2010.

Jesus’ teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsider Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can mean only one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did. If our churches aren’t appealing to younger brothers, they must be more full of elder brothers than we’d like to think.

Tim Keller, The Prodigal God, p.16

Thanks to Custard for the great quotation.  I suppose this question has haunted me for quite a long time.  We are quite convinced that our preaching is faithful, that we are saying the right things, encouraging the right things, but the churches I have known have almost universally been precisely not irreligious.

Is it that we don’t know how to encourage the right kind of practice?  Or is it more that there is a tendency to want to think the ‘correct’ things, rather than go out of our way to do the hard, un-selfish, loving and caring things?

I love things to be in order, to be just so, but that is precisely not how Jesus operated, and it can so easily lead to the kind of situation Tim Keller describes.  I find Keller’s words hugely challenging.  They seem to me to be to be vital for the church’s mission, yet at the same time almost impossible to put into practice.

Because, to me, I want a church for the broken, not a church for the religious.  I feel like a broken man, not a religious man, and somehow that means I don’t feel like I belong in the church - the very place I should belong, in the arms of God.