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Is Christianity Too Narrow?

Is Christianity too narrow?

Every world religion has its own set of things that look weird or strange to people outside of the system. As a pastor, I often will have people express uncertainty at coming to visit our weekly gathering because they aren’t sure “when to stand or sit” or what to wear. These types of ritualistic behaviors create an environment that seems to suggest that a person must know the rules before they can participate in some kind of secret club.

People feel as though if you want to come to Christianity you need to DO a whole lot of random things. You need to go to church, you need to dress in nicer clothes, you need to pray so many times a day, go to this meeting, stop smoking, start doing X and stop doing Y.

This type of Christianity, the type that says, “If you want to become a Christian this is what you have to do before you come to God or this church” is exclusive, narrow, and very condemning.

The problem is that what I described, even if it is your Christian experience, isn’t Christianity. It’s Churchianity.

Churchianity is a term we use at Revolve to describe Christian culture - American Jesus - instead of biblical Christianity. Churchianity is a combining of the Christian worldview (Judeo-Christian ethics) with American culture. When you combine these two things, you don’t get an accurate picture of Jesus or of the Scriptures. You get legalism, judgment, hypocrisy, tradition, and man made rules welded to the American dream.

The Pharisees - the religious leaders - in Jesus’ day did the same thing. Rather than pursue a true understanding of God’s Word, they established rules that were never in the Scriptures and then set those rules up as more important that God’s law. This is why Jesus condemned them and said, “You set the traditions of man as more important than the law of God!”

Churchianity does the same thing, and in so doing becomes excessively narrow and exclusive. It waves its bony finger at the world and says, “Get cleaned up. Do better. Be better.” This isn’t freeing. This is crushing.

The reality is that true Christianity - following Jesus and not Churchianity - is an open invitation. Jesus’ invitation is to everyone. The Scriptures use inclusive language like:

  • Whosoever will may come!
  • Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters! Also, you that have no money, come, buy, and eat! Come! Buy wine and milk without money and without price.
  • Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.
  • The Lord does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Still, following Jesus is a narrow path. The path isn’t narrow because God is purposefully pushing people away or doesn’t desire certain types of people. The path isn’t narrow because only some people can afford the clothes, find time in their schedule for the ritual or only the select have been good enough. The path is narrow because few will follow it.

True Christianity is all about grace and mercy - God giving you what you don’t deserve and not giving you what you do deserve. Christianity is about coming to Christ with nothing but your horrible baggage, dropping it at his feet and walking in true freedom. Christianity is about placing your trust in Jesus rather than doing enough stuff to earn his favor. True Christianity isn’t exclusive bad news. It is inclusive good news.

The reality, however, is that it is news that most don’t want to hear. In order to accept good news, we need to acknowledge the bad news. What is the bad news? I am not as strong as I think I am, okay as I think I am, smart as I think I am, good as I think I am. I need to be rescued. I need to be helped. I need to be saved.

To admit those things requires me to swallow my pride, and swallowing my pride is a narrow path. It’s a lot easier to live my life in ignorance than to be honest with my own state.

So is Christianity narrow? Yes, in that the minority will ever walk in true Christianity, but no, in that all are invited. Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and Atheists alike are invited to come to the way of Jesus.

But is American Jesus, Churchianity, narrow? Absolutely. Churchianity culture is narrow, oppressive, and crushing. It sells snake oil instead of truth. It convinces countless people that they just need to try a little harder, give a little more, or attend one more service and then, maybe, they’ll be good enough.

There’s no freedom in Churchianity, but in truly following Jesus there is freedom beyond words.

Want to learn more? Come to Revolve Church or any of the other churches participating in the Explore God sermon series this coming Sunday. For more information, including more articles and videos like this, check out www.exploregod.com.