An Open Apology for the Church (by Joe Boyd)
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I am a pastor. But I am also a movie producer, actor and comedian. It is the latter that opens the door for spiritual conversations much more than the former. I have many friends who are not the sort of people one might expect a pastor to associate with – militant atheists, genuine agnostics, outspoken anti-Christian homosexuals, etc. I don’t just call them those things. They like to assign those labels to themselves. All of them became my friends through our mutual respect for filmmaking, comedy or theater. Generally speaking, they remain my friends in spite of my involvement with the church. None of them are my friends because I am a pastor.
Many of my friends genuinely hate the church. Most of them have good reasons. Since 1998 I have kept a working document on my notebook called, “An Open Apology.” I update it from time to time. Sometimes I forward it onto my friends who have been hurt by Christianity. Sometimes I just share part of it with them.
I ask your forgiveness for the ongoing corruption of the church at large since the early days of the church, for I believe that it is a sin to use the church for personal or political gain.
I ask your forgiveness for every boring church event, church service, or sermon since the creation of the world, for I believe that it is a sin to bore people with really good news.
I ask your forgiveness for the silence of a significant percentage of the European church during the Jewish holocaust and of the American church during the years of slavery, for I believe that it is a sin for the church of God to stand by while innocent people die.
I ask your forgiveness for the unimaginable violence done in and through and with the blessing of the church throughout history, for I believe Jesus died once for all of us to put an end to violence.
I ask your forgiveness for the weight of rules and legalism that has shackled the church, making it oppressively fear-based and guilt-centered, for I believe that it is a sin to deny people their freedom in Christ.
I ask your forgiveness for every power-crazed political zealot who has ever advocated hatred against people in the name of Christ, for I believe that it is a sin to judge in the place of God.
I ask your forgiveness for every sidewalk and soap-box preacher who has so much as cracked upon a Bible with anger or pride in his heart, for I believe that it is a sin to misrepresent the character of a loving God.
I ask your forgiveness for every cult leader and extremist group leader who has ever led people astray in the name of Jesus, for I believe that it is a sin to desire the position of Jesus as the head of the church.
I ask your forgiveness for every pastor or priest who has ever served the church to get money, fame or sex because I believe the church is Jesus’ Bride, not some random guy’s mistress.
I ask your forgiveness for the millions of men in the church who have somehow stretched the Bible to validate their own sexist views, for I believe that it is a sin to dishonor a woman.
I ask your forgiveness for the thousands of church splits and denominational factions that have ripped the body of Christ in every direction except heavenward, for I believe that Christians loving and forgiving each other is the best way to show people who God is.
I ask your forgiveness for the thousands of churches who are set up as extravagant social clubs, for I believe that it is a sin to ignore the poor among you.
I ask your forgiveness for every misspent dime that was ever placed in an offering plate, for I believe that it is a sin to waste an old lady’s tithe.
I ask your forgiveness for the prostituting of the American church and the American church leader to the American dream, for I believe that it is a sin for the church or her leaders to love money more than God.
I ask your forgiveness for every self-centered, self-proclaimed “miracle worker” who has sold people counterfeit hope and light and fluffy theology for $19.95 plus shipping and handling, for I believe that it is a sin to spit in the face of God.
I ask your forgiveness for every sin of every priest, pastor, minister, reverend, teacher, elder, deacon, pope, nun, monk, missionary, Sunday school teacher, worship leader, and for every Christian who has ever come into your life for any other reason than to love you. If any of us came to you and hurt you, we are the ones at fault. On our behalf, let me say that I am very sorry. It’s not who we are supposed to be.
And lastly for me. I am no better than the rest. I am no role model. I’m misguided. I get confused a lot and I have hurt people in my misguided attempts to be “Christian.” I have not always loved God or the people around me. I am ashamed of me much of the time. I am ashamed of my people who have hurt you.
But I am not ashamed of the gospel. I am not ashamed of the good news that God has come near to you and is right now available to you through Jesus. I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is power from a loving God who can save you. He can save us all, even us Christians.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Discuss this article over on TheOOZE Forum.
Joe Boyd is the Teaching Pastor at the 6,000-member Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Joe has produced five movies through his production company, Rebel Pilgrim Productions including the multi-award winning comedy, Hitting the Nuts. As a performer, Joe has appeared in multiple stage productions, movies and network TV shows including a recurring role on ABC’s General Hospital and a 500-show run in the Las Vegas/Broadway Company of Tony n Tina’s Wedding.
Joe is also the author of the allegorical fantasy novel, Between Two Kingdoms (Standard Publishing). He lives in Cincinnati with wife and two sons. Read his blog at http://rebelpilgrim.blogspot.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoeBoyd.