Last week I reviewed the new album from the Gatlin Brothers; The Gospel According To Gatlin. There was a particular song on the recording, “What Would Jesus Do”, that has become a regular in my musical playlists.
The song poses the question; if Jesus decided to visit Nashville on a Sunday, what church would he attend, if he decided to go at all. Would he go to mass in Madison, Brentwood Baptist, the Jefferson Street holy rollers or to the synagogue with the other jews.
Some religious folk listening to this song would probably be offended because the second verse talks about nudity and being a prude and the third verse Larry goes on to ask if Jesus would stay home in his recliner and smoke a cigar; just like Larry himself.
Considering the condition of the modern-day American Christian church, this song, while fun, does pose a serious question. Before you think I am painting a broad stroke with this story, I am telling you of my personal experience.
When I moved to North Carolina nearly ten years ago now, I wanted to find a church. I decided to check out the same denominational church I had attended when I lived in Maryland. I went in the first Sunday and was greeted by folks during the little meet and greet moment of the service. The preacher had a nice message, so I decided I would return the following Sunday.
I returned several Sundays and the meet and greets became less and less. I remember seeing the same individuals week after week, sitting in the same pew, sticking together in their tight-knit group. I would see other new folks walk in and in a few weeks they would be gone, never to be seen again.
An entire year passed and I was still attending Sunday morning services. On one particular Sunday, a person that sat near the front, that I had seen from a distance every Sunday for the last year decided to walk to the back of the church and greet me. They said, thanks for visiting this week, I hope you come back. I kindly responded, I have been coming here for a year now.
When I left that Sunday, I never went back. The only calls I received from the church after that was from someone asking if I would like to send my tithe in through the mail. Really. Not three months after, the pastor left the church and another three months after the church folded.
How many people experience this same kind of reception at church? Several months ago, I talked about the number of those who identify as religious in the United States. It was quite dismal and those numbers continue to decline every year. Once the baby boomer generation passes, how different will the religious landscape in America look?
Many within the church will look around and blame everything around them for destroying the religious landscape that used to dominate the culture of this country. One only has to look at the so-called religious presidential candidates in this year’s election to see how far America’s religious culture has fallen. While these candidates try to out-Jesus each other (for nothing else other than your vote), they are only degrading Christ to the point of driving more people away.
These same blowhards would most likely ask Jesus to leave if he came in and sat beside them in Church. His ethnicity would probably paint him muslim to these individuals, because you know all muslims look the same. This same subset of the American Christian will argue that Jesus was white when anyone with a little geography knowledge would know that Jesus’ familial lineage can be traced to Bethlehem, which is located in the middle east. I don’t know, but the last time I checked, folks born in the middle east are definitely not white.
Instead of looking outside the church, American Christians need to start looking inward. They have no one but themselves to blame for this continued decline. If Jesus were to visit Nashville on a Sunday morning, what church would he attend? I would venture to say, not a single one.