Clayton Jennings has created an emotionally stirring video that condemns the church in several ways. I invite you to watch the video, and then read my response.
Here is the video. Go watch and then come back. I’ll wait.
First of all, he misunderstands the purpose of “church.” Church is not a Dairy Queen that hopes people come in so they can make them feel good. The New Testament church is the “Ekklesia” or “called out assembly.” This means it is a group of people who have been called OUT of the world to assemble together as believers for the purpose of worshiping God together, encouraging each other, educating each other, and helping one another become more like Christ. Church is not a place for unsaved people to go to feel like they are a better person. And the unbelievers that DO come to church should totally feel like there is something missing in their lives, because there is. They should feel WORSE about themselves because they should have just been confronted with the knowledge that they are a sinner who will one day answer to God for their sin, and unless they accept the sacrifice Christ made for them, they will pay the full penalty for that sin. Without Christ, they should leave church terrified. If unbelievers are going to church and leaving with a “feel-good” attitude, they’re going to the wrong church. They’re going to a church that is being nice to them all the way to Hell.
Secondly, this man went to ONE church in his life and left unsatisfied from that one encounter based on his perception of people’s reaction to him going to church smelling like booze. He didn’t even get verbal condemnation, he based his entire perspective on his own perception of other people’s looks. I challenge you to go to a gathering anywhere (except a bar obviously) reeking of booze and get a better reaction than that. Walk into a family style restaurant smelling like pig barn and see if you get looks of disgust. I bet you do, and I bet the people there aren’t actually judging you, they just don’t like the smell.
But back to my main point here: he went to ONE church ONCE in his whole life, and has decided he’s never going back. That’s dumb. That’s like saying, “Well, I went to Taco Bell and didn’t like it, so I’m never eating Mexican food again.” No, actually that’s more like saying, “Well, I went to Taco Bell and didn’t like it, so I’m never eating at a restaurant again. They have bad food at restaurants.” Try a different church, dude. Try going when you don’t reek of booze.
Then Mr. Jennings says, “He felt more love and acceptance on a bar stool than he did in a church pew.” Of course he did. That’s because sinners love being around other people who are doing the same sins. They don’t like being around people who don’t have the same sins. If you are a Colts fan are you going to be more comfortable in a room of Colts fans or a room of people who dislike Colts fans (say…Patriots fans)? If you’re a drunk are you going to be more comfortable with other drunks or with people who traditionally believe that being drunk is wrong? Of COURSE he felt more acceptance in the bar. But we don’t go to church to have our sins endorsed, but pointed out. And that brings me to my next point.
Yes, Jesus hung out with drunkards, but by doing so He wasn’t ENDORSING their drunkenness. When asked why He hung out with drunks and not with “good” people, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” He called the drunks “sick” because they needed to stop getting drunk and follow Him. I’m tired of this idea (Jesus hung out with sinners) being used as a blanket statement that Jesus somehow endorsed the sins they were committing. That somehow He was OK with their sin. The adulterous woman is a frequent example. People say, “Jesus didn’t condemn that woman!” To which I say, “You’re right, He didn’t. But what did He say? Go and sin no more.” He said (in effect), “I’m not going to condemn you for your sin, but knock it off. Stop doing it.” He didn’t condemn her because He loves her, but He pointed out the fact that she WAS INDEED sinning because He loved her. See? Pointing out sin does not mean we aren’t being loving.
“Showing love to the rest of the world” does not mean “being nice to people.” Love is sometimes hard. Love hurts sometimes, because love means doing what is best for someone else, and when I see someone behaving in a self-destructive way, the loving thing to do is point it out to them. If my sister became a heroin addict, I would do everything in my power to convince her to stop, even if that meant doing things that were not “nice” like holding an intervention, putting her in rehab, etc. Love is doing what is best, not what is nicest.
Jesus said, “They will know you are my disciples by your love FOR ONE ANOTHER.” He was talking to His disciples there. In other words, our love for our fellow believers. To leave off those three words is to change the words of Christ into a statement that seems to mean “they will know you are Christians because you are nice to everybody” which is NOT what Christ was saying.
Mr Jennings twice used the phrase “beating people over the head with a Bible.” What exactly does this mean? Not once in my life have I ever beat someone with a Bible. I have quoted verses appropriate to the situation (as he did in this video), as Christ has given me the example that I should do, and maybe to someone who is not right with God that feels like “beating over the head” but I give them the Word out of love, not to “beat them over the head.”
Now, what I thing Mr. Jennings was trying to say is that people in church need to stop looking at newcomers with scorn, disgust, etc. I understand that point. But I can tell you that the first church I ever joined (at the age of 16) welcomed me in when I was NOT like them. I had long hair. I wore inappropriate clothes to church (usually jeans, a jean jacket, tennis shoes, t-shirt). My parents smoked, so I usually reeked of cigarette smoke. And yet the people in that little fundamentalist Baptist church loved me and accepted me. They pointed out the areas where I was wrong, and with God’s help, eventually my inside became more like Christ. And when my inside cleaned up, eventually I cleaned up on the outside too.
But twisting the Word of God and throwing a blanket condemnation over the church of Jesus Christ is not the way to do that. The video leaves you with the feeling that the problem is NOT that the man is rejecting God, that he is basing his entire view of God on ONE HOUR with a room full of people who claim to know God, that he didn’t even give God’s people a fair chance by even cleaning up before showing up (like you would if you were going anywhere in public that wasn’t Wal Mart).
Church people, we should be kind to visitors, no matter what they look like. We should welcome them in and help them. But our goal should NOT be to make them feel good about themselves and their personal choices, as Mr. Jennings seems to indicate. Our goal is to help them see the fact that they are lost and headed for an eternity of punishment unless they ask God to forgive their sins. Only THEN will they feel acceptance from God and peace with God.