I found this picture over on J.R. Briggs’ site. He asked, “This brings up a whole series of questions, doesn’t it?”
This is one of those quotes that “stopped me in my tracks” yesterday. While it comes as a picture, the text for me painted a picture of a town meeting where the local prostitutes have gathered to protest the plans to bring a church into their neighborhood–not unlike the many churches who have protested the sale of land for liquor stores, tobacco shops, and the like. And one can almost hear the complaints: “They’ll picket us. They’ll come in here and try to change us. They’ll hurt our business, scaring away customers.” One can see why church might attract “the wrong kind of people” if you’re running a brothel.
And Briggs is right that it “brings up a whole series of questions:”
- What is “the wrong sort of people” for a brothel and are these people actually in our churches?
- What’s the worst that could happen with a church moving in?
- Would the church have different people than are already in the community at large? Would they be different from the people who already come to the brothel?
- What parts of society are threatened by the church…really?
I struggle with the notion that anyone would ever think that church folks were a threat of any kind. What David Kinnamon’s book, Unchristian showed us is that there is very little substantive difference between those inside the church and those on the outside; and that’s even using a more conservative, “born again” understanding of those inside the church. I find it odd that the surrounding culture would be fearful of the arrival of Christians because Christians, more often than not, look like the surrounding culture. Our musical tastes are the same. We are just as consumeristic. We eat the same. We watch the same TV, browse the same websites, and relate to our families in similar ways.
Why should the culture around us be scared? What kind of poeple does the brothel in the newspaper clipping above think are going to be headed to this church? Hasn’t the church, with its political involvement, our social stances, with its very low threshold for “discipleship” shown itself to be relatively non-threatening – to pretty much everything. We’ve relegated following Jesus to “being nice.” And I’m not just talking about mainline folks here. It goes across the board.
I’m reminded of a quote from John Stott. It’s from his book Through the Bible through the Year: Daily Reflections from Genesis to Revelation (334):
It is the comprehensiveness of Paul’s message that is impressive. He proclaimed God in his fullness as Creator, Sustainer, Ruler, Father, and Judge. All this was part of the gospel, or, at least, the necessary prolegomena to the gospel. Many people are rejecting our gospel today, not because they perceive it to be false, but because they perceive it to be trivial. They are looking for an integrated worldview that makes sense of all their experience. We learn from Paul that we cannot preach the gospel of Jesus without the doctrine of God, or the cross without creation, or salvation without judgment, or vice versa. Today’s world needs a bigger gospel, the full gospel of Scripture, what Paul later in Ephesus was to call “the entire plan of God” (Acts 20:27 NAB).
And I think there are two main ways we’ve made our gospel “trivial” (in the words of John Stott) or “unthreatening”:
- From, perhaps, a more “liberal” standpoint, we’ve made our faith about being productive members of society, of doing good deeds to others, and being nice. So, there’s little difference between our churches and the local Lions Club – although we have more singing at our gatherings. A faith like this makes little difference in how one is living in the world.
- From, perhaps, a more “conservative” standpoint we’ve taken folks on a journey to the cross, where they (in traditional language) accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior but fail to have a faith that is lived out in the world – all JUSTIFICATION and no SANCTIFICATION. A faith that is merely internal and merely focused on the “Sweet By and By” is no threat to daily life.
So, part of my goal is to lead persons to a faith that is not trivial…that is not unthreatening. And it’s not easy. It really isn’t. The pull of entropy is great…both in the life of the church and in my own personal journey of faith. It is much easier to go through the motions. It is much easier to “sit on the premises” rather than “stand on the promises.” It is easier to set the discipleship bar low where Jesus doesn’t call us to change what we do in our free time or change our relationship with money or change how we relate to those around us…whether immigrants, or businesses, or schools,…or brothels.
I really think that the biggest concern a brothel would have about a church coming to their neighborhood would be a matter of traffic flow. I think, in most cases, being concerned about a substantive change to the neighborhood may be giving the church too much credit.
Perhaps that’s something that should change.