Incestuous Relationships in the Church

Incestuous Relationships in the Church
by Paul Donnan

(This and other blogs by Paul can be found at

Sound like a tabloid expose’ on yet another church scandal?  This one is even more rampant than our Catholic brothers’ troubles.  However this insidious problem is flying below the radar and hasn’t even been detected by most involved.  Let me explain.

When Jesus prepared to leave His disciples, He commissioned them to reproduce, to make other disciples (followers) by teaching the way that leads to everlasting life that Jesus came to secure.  The pattern set forth was relational.

Now think of what is commonly practiced in church settings of all varieties in our day.  We have perfected the art of program driven relationships.  Members are minimally expected to gather once or twice a week at corporate events. It’s not uncommon for more high-impact congregations to expect their followers to additionally attend a small group once or twice a week. 

Evangelism has morphed to an event planned for a Saturday outreach into a targeted neighborhood. A“witness” is something you “do” (or feel inferior if you don’t do).  That’s not at all what Jesus had in mind.  He said in Acts 1:8 that we are to “be” witnesses.  Our everyday life brings Jesus in very close proximity to people who desperately need the savior.  In our lifetime, some have fought to keep the Ten Commandments out of our public schools and buildings.  No one is stopping us from bringing Jesus in to those places, they can’t.  Where we go He goes.

Typical believers are busy gathering with other believers to “do” religious things.  That’s program-driven community.  Who’s reaching out to the lost neighbors on our own street?  The church at large is preoccupied with an incestuous relationship with each other while lost outsiders are entering a Christ-less eternity right before our eyes.  Friends “these things ought not to be so.”

Most people I meet are busy; they’re not looking for one more demand to be put on their plate.  Many people I see do know the loneliness of wondering if anybody cares they exist.  The masses that followed Jesus didn’t do so because there was nothing better to do.  He touched them, spoke life into them, it felt hopeful and they followed Him.  Do you think His approach just may have been intentional?

Sunday morning is the most segregated time in America.  Insiders separated from outsiders, believers from unbelievers.  For those who venture inside the church doors, parents go one way, youth another (sometimes split again by gender) and the littlest children yet somewhere else.  I understand the concept to deliver truth that’s age-appropriate, but that doesn’t exempt the church from taking that same truth outside wherever hurting people are.

When I brought our core team to Crystal Lake last summer to survey the city, we went 2×2 on that Sunday morning to as many churches as we could, to get a pulse for the spiritual climate of the area.  We experienced a lot that morning.  Two of our young gals attended a small church meeting in a hotel setting.  After the service there were cookies set out, it was a great opportunity to meet people.  These gals were hoping to make a connection.  What they experienced was not only silence, but as the church goers talked with each other, they rotated their backs to these obvious “new people” so they could enjoy each other’s company.  The “norm”?  I hope not.  The “exception”?  I fear not.  Why?  “Because it’s Sunday, I already went out evangelizing with the church Saturday.”

“Christianity is not a religion it’s a relationship”.  Heard that one?  Oh, you mean with “other people” too?  What a concept, “be witnesses unto me”.  You are bringing Jesus in very close proximity with people every day.  Can they tell?  Are you wetting their appetite for the savior?  Or are you presenting a cloistered community called church, which they hope to avoid?

I double dog dare you to go visit a new church Sunday.  See what it feels like to be an “outsider”.  Maybe it will change the way you see and relate to people you don’t yet know.

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