A Parched Church

He said “church sucks.” The surprise isn’t the off-color phrase he used; no doubt, many others have said it before. The surprise is who said it. He’s the pastor of the One Love Church in Eugene. He and his church are in the midst of their “Church Sucks” campaign, sending out mailers to hundreds of homes promising they are a different kind of church. They are that.

Their “worship” services are about 30 minutes long and use music by Katy Perry and Maroon 5. Feel free to Google but trust me, Perry and the Maroon’s are no Newton and Wesley. The pastor (who says he doesn’t want to be known as a preacher) says this of his sermon style: “I just like to have a conversation with everyone, just like I do at the coffee shop if we were talking one on one.”

Why did One Love come up with their campaign? How did their pastor arrive at such a position? Here’s his explanation: “Some churches have become the kind of place where you point the finger, and you condemn and rebuke, and you’re really quick to do it, and so I think that is definitely lending itself to people not wanting anything to do with church and thinking church sucks!”

Really? Do people feel that way? I know people who have been hurt in the church; relationships that have gone bad. I know people angry with the church (and me) for saying, “God calls your behavior sin so we must as well.” But I also know those conversations have been few and only after months and months of talking, listening, and imploring individuals to heed God’s Word and not their own.

So what’s up with this church and pastor in Eugene? After the news coverage goes away what is left? You have a bunch of people gathering for half an hour singing songs having nothing to do with God and participating in a conversation with someone who thinks he’s at Starbucks. Whose church sucks?

Sorry; low blow. OK—I’m not sorry.

At the end of the day, what you have is a cool “church” with an entrepreneur “pastor” who believes he’s reaching the hurting masses. But what the hurting masses need is not worldly wisdom from Katy Perry or a back-and-forth dialogue with someone who apparently doesn’t have confidence in the authority or sufficiency of God’s Word. What the hurting people of Eugene (and everywhere else) need is a church who will tell them they need to be more concerned about God’s judgment and condemnation. And when that concern is realized, the glorious Gospel is preached and people are saved.

So old school, I know.

I was hesitant to quote the pastor’s description of church. But he did provide a nice segue for us. When I hear his coarse word, I think of a straw—drawing up a small amount of water to your mouth. The last two chapters of Revelation come to mind, Jesus telling us that the thirsty will be given “from the spring of the water of life” (21:6) and that the “river of the water of life, bright as crystal, [flows] from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (22:1). When I hear that, I envision mouthfuls and gulps of water—throw away the straws.

Our God, our Savior, His Gospel, and His bride the church is much bigger, grander, and more holy than the one in Eugene is currently experiencing. I hope One Love, their pastor, and the people who attend realize soon how parched they are becoming.

Pastor Rich Hamlin

September 26, 2013

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