The Call of Christ to the Smugness of Churches

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When I visited a prominent church in a big city, I was told by a member how many prominent persons belonged to the church, how many old families belonged to the church, how many well paid professional people were members.
I asked how many members there were who had been in jail? She looked at me as if I had slapped her. Of course none were on their roll. “Those,” she said,” are not our kind of people.” Then I asked her how many poor were on roll? She said proudly,” very few.” I asked her if any black people attended. Again she said,” very few. “I asked how many illegitimate children were in Sunday school. She said, “We have no bastards.” I said,” I disagree. To me it looks like your church is full of them.”
The churches have a very serious problem in often being made of the same types admiring each other. Of course this makes a good social club. It is the type of social club one might want too. It is pleasant but hypocritical on morality. It is mindless and relaxing and an unthinking way to pass your time on Sunday, a day off. The church often seems a one class self-congratulatory group of the like minded who enjoy seeing each other.
The church today seems to have very little conviction of sin. But how do you have a conviction of sin when everybody you see is usually very much like you are? You meet yourself again and again in the other members for they are you in a mirror. But in this church mirror of narcissism you see yourself not darkly but very clearly. And what you see in others is what you get in yourself. And since like is drawn to like, you like it.
It is certainly all right to belong to a club where like meets like. That’s normal and okay. But that is not the way of Jesus Christ. He came preaching the Kingdom of God. He certainly had much more than a club in mind. He was founding a church. A church is a special place with special values to serve special people, sinners. It is different.
Now I don’t think for a minute I am going to be able to smash the mould of narcissism the church has a tendency to jell in. But it is my intention to call the elect, the creative minority, the holy few, the real church members, the possible yeast in the deadened lump now termed the church, to try to become a minority of real and faithful church members among a majority of churches and church members whose souls are deeply sleeping and who are largely numb to any feelings or impulses from Christ.
You will know you are called to be a live church member in the middle of a Sleeping Club if you recognize that what I am saying is true. If what I say Is true and you recognize it, then you are of the ones of whom Jesus said “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” The call is to recognize knowledge. If you do not act on the knowledge that speaks clearly to your heart, and mind, then you are in sin. You are sinning against God, against yourself, and against the coming of the Kingdom of God.
Higher knowledge is more than obligation. It commands.. When Providence has called you to recognize a higher truth, you must then act on it. if you do not understand what is being talked of or recognize no higher awareness in the truth, then you have no obligation to remain in any way other than you are because you do not see the truth of the higher knowledge. Nobody expects a sightless man to talk on color or a deaf man to dance to music. But if you recognize within your heart it is true, then you must accept the calling Providence has ordained for you or, in other words, arranged for you through grace to be shown and understand.
There is no recanting a call from God. We learn that from the Great Reformers. Martin Luther after he had his recognition of higher truth could not gainsay it. This was not a matter of would not, but could not, violate the integrity of a truth he saw as coming ultimately from Christ through the Apostle to him. To violate the call would have been to deny his integrity. St. Paul said, “By the grace of God, I am what I am.” The divine knowledge he had was part of him, a gift of grace from God. Paul could not deny those truths given him through God. They were a part of him. He held fast. So did Luther. "Ich kann nicht anders", said Luther. (I can do no other)
I transmit to you a call to put Christ back into our churches. Many will not hear this call or accept it. If you do, then your recognition of this holy knowledge means you are meant to be one of a new breed in Christ who must awake to lead the church back to spirit and service in the Kingdom of God. As for me I received the imprint of this call under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit from reading scripture plus the writings of Martin Luther who received his call under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit while reading from the Apostle, Paul, who got received his call on the road to Damascus where he was met by Christ Jesus. Now I give to you this call also.
This call does not mean that you must leave your church or fight with the preacher over theology. It means you must be a light in your congregation to redeem the church. A few lights may form a rainbow that will be a sign as in the Old Testament of a covenant of grace made with God casting moral splendor over an otherwise dormant church. The Old Testament shows how God may save a city because of the sincere efforts of a few.
The actions ought to be those that serve others. Help the poor, not just those in poverty but the poor in intelligence, the poor In health, the poor in response to life. Teach the ignorant. Be there for the half orphans caused by mass divorce. Bring justice to corrupt systems. Give intelligent compassion. Visit the criminal. Have feeling for the unfeeling. Supply sensitivity and consideration missing in bureaucracies. Do not leave education to the schools. Teach the children sacred higher knowledge. Revive the churches. If you are puzzled, pray and the Holy Spirit will find you a way if there is one. Show that God is everywhere and everywhere God is, the church goes and is imperfect but endeavoring. Make no secret of mistakes, only show the churches are trying and suffering that Brother Christ be not shamed by the smugness of so many of His churches as He is now. The denomination or nationality or race of the people served does not matter. Everyone belongs to God. Will you hear this? This is the World of the Lord.
It would be unfair for me not to say that as you work with people who are lost, forgotten or underfoot, it is far from easy. Things rarely meet any sentimental expectations. There are curious differences. The work of the Kingdom of God demands infinite patience and dogged persistence. You may suffer from some you help, but you can know your suffering has meaning, because you are suffering with Christ redemptively.
Some of the forgotten, the angry and confused, are as wild dogs. They will bite the hand that feeds them. Others resent help. Who blames them? Nobody wants to be patronized. Your attitude must be not that they are lucky to have you, but that you are privileged to help them. Actually you are because Jesus said that as you did it unto the least of them, you did it unto Him. It is a privilege to help Christ. As you try to bring the good news of God’s Kingdom into the churches, you may guess how many of the unconverted Sleepers of the pews are going to feel about the invasion of their social club. They will prefer the old halfway covenant. They may say critical things to you and others about the low people you bring in and try to help. Some of them might be unsaved. I beseech you in Christ to disregard the church monsters. Recall to yourself the verse, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” and go about the work of Jesus. Walk on by. What is wanting for some of the grotesquely smug church members of America is an exorcist.
I hope it is not useless to point out that the sins of the churches, floating icebergs in a sea where people are drowning of varied needs, are just as serious, grave and heinous as the more picturesque sins of the criminal, the doped, and the poor. The sins of the unchurched so despised by many church members usually center around self-control, but the smugness in the heart of too many church members is an icy selfishness, a smug self- satisfied patronage, an over control of the heart that is gravely sinful.
All human sins drop from the same tree. Such is the human nature we share. Until we awake to the fact we are sinners in common and need to help each other, whether our sins be ice or our sins be fire, there is no real hope for much of a future. Only in real cooperation and mutual concern based on spiritual values is there any real hope. Large numbers will not attain these soon as most people seem to exist in a very vulgarized world overconfident of technology but with few spiritual insights and values. Yet I tell you a religious creative minority with true spiritual values, a seriously spiritual few, may and will redeem the somnolent churches in our time and thereby promote the survival of our world in these Apocalyptic Times.
It is my prayer and hope that you have read or heard this message under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit so that you will realize grace and can answer, yes, oh, yes, in your hearts as you find truth in what has been said. The churches are in need of you.
I hope in God’s good time, you are led to a firm conviction planted and growing in you heart to be a true member of Christ’s Church. Then you will not be one of the large number in the pews whose souls are dormant, numbed and sleeping. As you have received your enlightenment from the Holy Spirit, do your distinctive good and follow its inner light.
Now, if you have indeed experienced the Holy Spirit, you will ring in a New Year and attitude in your heart about your church. Try to be a real Christian even if others seem not so. Do Gospel works. Be supportive of your minister, priest or preacher. He is imperfect and he will tell you this, but he is trying. Help others. Build a chapel in your heart.
If you go about your new calling through good works, prayer and study to develop Christ who is in our hearts as a negative is on film, His picture will gradually come forth. He will be seen clearer though our sins may blur perfection. In you, your family, your church and community Christ’s picture will come forth more clearly as you follow your calling.
Through your callings let all see that some in your church and churches are no longer smug, self-satisfied and sleeping but that Christ in you and you all is a living force today. Some of the world may not like this too much. What real difference does it make if the soul-shrunken and secularized are furious? They generally see themselves as posing cutely above the common herd and beyond Christ. Is it not sad to see good minds with little souls?
So if someone dares to ask why you work so diligently as a member of your church to do Gospel works and to put Christ in, to redeem for Him, the smug, sleeping contemporary churches of this time, you may honestly say: I have a call received from reading, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Bible and Dr. MacLeod who received his call from reading, under the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Gospels and the works of Martin Luther who received his call from reading, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the writings of the Apostle, Paul, who received his call on the road to Damascus, where blinded, his eyes were opened by a meeting with Jesus Christ. Such is the line of grace from which my calling comes. Follow it I will. You must trust me on this if you do not understand. On this I am a Luther. I am Protestant and I say as he did of his call, “Ich kann nicht anders.” (I can do no other.).

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Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.

 

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