Many of you may not know about my son, Tinsley. Now 9-months-old he has spent about a third of his life in the hospital and in the emergency department due to difficulties with breathing and swallowing. These problems are further complicated by the fact that Tinsley has a genetic condition call achondroplasia which is the most common form of dwarfism and causes his nose, throat, and lungs to be smaller that than of average-sized people.
Through all the hospital visits, emergency room trips, and two surgeries we have posted regular updates on Facebook, Twitter, and my personal blog. We have had a great outpouring of support in the form of prayers, meals, visits, and messages that have each provided so much security and hope for us.
Yet, as they say, therein squats the toad.
One of the rare days we have been able to leave the house, with thanks to our nurse, my wife and I happened into a bookstore. As we were browsing we ran into a retired staffer and current member of a church where my wife served on staff for 2 years. She and her husband warmly greeted us and asked us about Tinsley. This was odd because we had not been in contact for many months.
My first reaction was surprise that she would have known what was happening in our lives. It is amazing how far social media reaches at times. But as I thought about it on our ride back home I became hurt and frustrated.
The church in question is not 5 minutes from our house. The woman in question lives not 5 minutes from our house. The motto of said church is “Go. Love.”
What is wrong with this picture?
As a Christian who strives to seek out his own sin to mortify it, I am well-aware of my faults and therefore am passionate about the completed work of Christ. When I hear “Go. Love.” my first thought is to ask where Christ is in that. There is no gospel in that statement, only law. Christianity is about what Christ has done, not what we do for him.
Let’s just go with that slogan for a minute (after all when we put Christ first we are called to go and love). If the 1,500 people in the church are told to “Go. Love.” then how quickly are they driving away that they miss us right down the street. To date only 0.2% of the congregation have visited, called, or mealed us, and at least .07% only came by to gloat that he got to see the baby before his wife.
Am I being selfish? Maybe. Am I being self-centered? Perhaps. What bothers me is not that people have not bothered with us, but that they told us that they love us, they threw a party when we left, and have all but completely abandoned us in the most difficult time of our lives (as Homer Simpson would say “the most difficult time of our lives, so far”).
What is the disease that is infesting this congregation and many like it across the nation. I could answer with things like “relevance” and “over-programming” or even that they are too “clique-ish.” It may be fair to say that these are the symptoms of lack-of-Christ-itis.
When a church puts Christ at the center of everything they do, everything is different. Putting Christ front-and-center means having to face our sin in all its tar-baby stickiness. It means not feeling good about myself for the miserable things that not only have I done but for the miserable things that I continue to do.
Once I smother myself in the truth of my wretchedness, when my heart begins to ache for relief, I can faithfully look to the only One who can heal. Christ then overwhelms the sinner with an almost unbearable peace and effectively takes eyes that are prone to focus inwardly and fixes them on Him. When our eyes are on Christ, we also find ourselves gazing back at the Body of Christ, otherwise known as the church.
Contrast this with the Christ-centered congregation at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in downtown Indianapolis. Having never really had the chance to meet people, we shared about what was going on with Tinsley from the night before he was born. We have had visits, prayers, meals, messages, invitations, phone calls, cards, gifts and more from people who we never met, but heard we were in need. There was even a local home group that was praying for a family in the area that they could take care of! It is no coincidence that every week we pray a prayer of confession, hear our vindication by way of the gospel, hear a sermon about how our salvation in Christ directly effects our daily lives, and participate in the remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice for our ransom.
Redeemer Presby folks are not perfect, and in fact as a congregation they have many flaws and weaknesses. Yet, to be firmly planted in our identity as sinners in need of a savior radically qualifies this church as our new home.