This Guy Needs to Read Bonhoeffer Again

OK, enough already: “I’m a follower of Jesus. I just don’t like church and so I’m not committed to the church but to Jesus.” This post, by Stephen Mattson, needs a good dose of Bonhoeffer’s famous observation that we must, must, must surrender our ideals of the church and learn to live with its brokenness and the brokenness of all those connected to it. The fundamental problem is that the person who thinks this way thinks more highly of himself or herself than of others, sets himself or herself apart, and acts if he or she is superior. There is a communion table at the front of the church for a reason — because that’s what brings us together, not our competence in Christian living.

Sentiments of frustration are growing among many followers of Jesus who admire Christ but despise certain things associated with him.

They look at the New Testament and are attracted to Jesus’s selfless acts of generosity, service, and love, but don’t see the same spirit in today’s “Christian” institutions, churches, communities, and faith leaders.

Modern faith is often a complex minefield of theologies, doctrines, practices, and expectations, where individuals carefully walk on eggshells to avoid a litany of “sins” and “heresies” that will inevitably attract the wrath from religious friends, strangers, and authorities.

Christians are tired of having Jesus defined and judged by the political views, denominational affiliations, legalistic theological beliefs, strict traditions, social networks, and attitudes of others. They’re sick of the hypocrisy, judgment, infighting, fear, and shame associated with institutionalized “Christianity.”

It doesn’t take much to get burned out on the Christian faith when churches are filled with stern rules, authoritarian doctrines, and manipulative propaganda — promoting a wide variety of agendas that have nothing to do with Jesus.

Surprisingly, many people aren’t abandoning God. They’re simply disassociating themselves with things that falsely represent him.

This is what many churches get wrong: They mistakenly believe that people who stop attending services have given up on God. They haven’t.

For those facing discontentment, take heart and realize that you’re not alone. Nearly all believers eventually face trials related to this at some point in their lives. Try not to become cynical.

Instead, put your hope in Christ, be patient with others, offer forgiveness, communicate openly, and don’t withhold your suffering. Ask for help!

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.


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