I guess this is get-out-in-the-community week. Yesterday I traveled to Pasadena to record a podcast and meet with the folks at The Plain Truth, the former publishing arm of the Worldwide Church of God. They are on an interesting journey of thinking outside the box and they wanted to do an interview with me as well as talk about some other things. (Sorry, the interview won’t air until April some time. These folks really plan ahead!)
Today Iâ€™m off to a one-day conference with Brian McLaren of the movement known as emergent, and you all know how I feel about movements. Nonetheless I like hearing from the horseâ€™s mouth, so Iâ€™ll be hanging out with those folks today. Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™ll have more to report on it when I have some time.
Recently I finally got to see a copy of Religiously Transmitted Diseases by Ed Gungor at a home I stayed in New York. I had heard about this title years ago and though it was one of the best book titles Iâ€™d ever heard of. I wish Iâ€™d thought of it. Anyway, I didnâ€™t get a chance to read through the book, so Iâ€™m really to recommending it at this point, but I did thumb through the chapter on the Prodigal son, entitled â€œElder brother Disease: Whoâ€™s Your Daddy.â€
Many of you know thatâ€™s one of my favorite parables and I am deeply moved by the contrast between the Fatherâ€™s joy at his brotherâ€™s return and the rage it provokes in the older brother. He, too, is hiding from his Father, isnâ€™t he? But this one looks better because heâ€™s hiding on the farm instead of in a pig pen in some far off country. Obviously religion makes as good a hiding place as rebelling in sin.
Hereâ€™s what Gungor says about the â€˜older brothers and sistersâ€™ among usâ€¦
There are millions of failed believers still in the pigpen because the elder brothers have positioned themselves at the doorposts of the church. These self-righteous boys and girls are keeping prodigals away. The protective, performance-based view of the elder brother is a spiritual disease and it is the biggest cause of the â€˜de-churched of Americaâ€”those who love God but hate church.
Let me leave you with a scary thought: the elder brother still runs most religious organizations and institutions. Perhaps that is why the most organized churches are losing their voice in our culture.
O.K, his use of â€˜churchâ€™ and â€˜de-churchedâ€™ really misses the point, but I wholeheartedly agree with his premise that most of our religious institutions are run by â€˜older brotherâ€™ types who donâ€™t know Father well enough to extend grace to those finding their way home from all the places they have wandered. When conformity is the goal, grace gets trampled underfoot, and we find ourselves warring with Father in the moments of his greatest joy.