To Recap….In an article by a Pastor Lillian Daniel in the Huffington Post, written a year and a half ago and recently expanded into a book, Daniel labeled those who have fled the church and begun calling themselves Spiritual but Not Religious (SBNR’s), lazy, boring, bland, and dull.
Of course, defining groups who do not believe as you do as lazy, boring, bland, and dull, is itself…..well…..lazy. Once I’ve done that I’ve relieved myself of the responsibility to listen with an open mind, to take seriously the complaints being lodged against my beliefs and rituals, and I’ve closed any opportunity that might exist to seek common ground, to persuade.
I’m not going to waste my time listening to a lazy neer-do-well, and if that man or woman I’ve just labeled as lazy happens to be a hard working single parent, or a victim of sex abuse by a pastor or priest, or simply someone appalled at the hypocrisy they too often see in the pulpit, I’ve just confirmed their already low opinion of religion with my self righteous condemnation. Might I have just “shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces?” Mathew 23:13
When I see attitudes like those expressed by self-important religious elites like Pastor Daniel I wonder, “Have you ever sat down with one of those so called “Spiritual But Not Religious” people for a heart to heart talk about matters of faith? Have you ever sincerely asked them why they feel the way they feel about religion, not to start a debate, but just to listen to what they have to say?
I have, and the experience is extraordinary.
Turns out, many of them have a deep yearning for a close relationship with God, and an even deeper belief that God needs to be a central part of their life. And they’re not at all convinced they need to be in church to achieve that. Now the issue for a guy like me isn’t whether they’re right or wrong, but rather the incredible opportunity they represent for the Harvest. They, by a vast majority, have a high opinion of Jesus, they spend a lot of their time thinking about their relationship with God, and they love talking openly and acceptingly with others with similar goals. They’re perfect for us.
So why do we insult them? What deep flaw in our souls causes us to condemn them instead of engage with them? Mathew 23 might be a chapter many of our leaders need to read.