If you are a fan of baseball, then you understand that there are two sets of rules in baseball: the official rules and the unwritten rules. For instance, here are a few official rules of baseball:
- Three strikes and you’re out.
- There are three outs per half-inning.
- You can have nine players on the field at one time.
Those are the official rules. But if you follow baseball, you know there are some equally important rules, rules understood by the players but aren’t written down. They are the unwritten rules of baseball. Here are a few:
- Don’t talk about a no-hitter during a no-hitter.
- Never bunt to break up a no-hitter.
- Don’t over celebrate a home run.
- If their pitcher hits one of your players, retaliate.
In the same way, I would argue that most churches have two sets of rules: the official rules (the Bible), and an unwritten (but sometimes just as important) set of rules. When people run afoul of the church, it’s usually not by breaking one of the official rules, but one of the unwritten rules. Here are six unwritten rules of today’s church:
You will accepted and welcomed in our church if you trust in Jesus and . . .
1. Look like us. Most churches are homogenous and are segregated by race, generation, and socio-economic status.
2. Dress like us. If you want to be accepted in most churches, you need to look the part. Are you going to a buttoned-up church, a casual church? You need to know beforehand, so you don’t get the stinkeye on the way in.
3. Talk like us. You need to know the insider lingo, acronyms like “VBS,” “WMU,” and odd names like “Fellowship Hall.” You also need to know all of the Bible stories beforehand as most preachers will make only passing reference to them, assuming that everyone has already done their homework.
4. Vote like us. That’s becoming an increasing expectation in today’s churches with the infusion of politics with religion. It’s no longer enough to believe the same, you must vote the same as well to be accepted.
5. Don’t bring your mess into the church and stain the carpet. Some sins are socially acceptable in the church and will get nothing more than a wink and a slap on the wrist. Others will get you shamed to the door, for having the audacity to bring your public mess into the church house. You have to navigate which sins you can publicly struggle with at which churches.
6. Conform to our narrow interpretation of our favorite Scripture. Most churches have a bully pulpit when it comes to their favorite Scripture, whether it’s their interpretation on the end times, predestination or baptism. As long as you conform to their narrow interpretation, you should be good to go.
If you break one of these unwritten rules, you might suddenly find yourself being good enough for Jesus, but not good enough for the church. It’s the unwritten rules of church that drive so many people away from the faith. Oh and by the way, the unwritten rules are not the true gospel, not in the least.
Here are some other blog posts I’ve written recently about the church today: