Church People Play Some Dangerous Games
“The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.” Mark 8:11-13 NIV
Remember, I told you that I did not grow up in church, and had no context to draw from as it relates to the experience of church; but, what I did not tell you is that I know street games and culture really well. I know ballers and shot callers, the OG’s,* and the New G’s* who traded goods and services on the corner, and offered pharmaceuticals for the right price. The con artist who came to the community with in a suit, and tie looking to swindle the innocent. I grew up in city public housing in a neighborhood that got pretty rough at times. I saw a lot in this community. It was one of those communities where one had better know how to handle oneself to keep people out of your face. Let me just tell it like it was: Sometimes going a little mental was critical for survival, I am here to tell you.
I did not start fights; but, if you rolled up on me, when it was all said and done you were going to know that you had been in a fight. I did not run from a fight. Oh, I take that back — I ran from one. The girl weighed about 300 pounds and I was about 105 pounds. No, thanks. I will let this one go! Where was I?
I was not afraid of a fight. What I knew about the people in this community and on the street was that they did not play a lot of games. They came to you straight up in their communication, like it or not, and they had no filters. Whatever needed to be said, however it needed to be said, that was it. Sometimes we did not know if we were going to have to take off running or go to the ground if the bullets started flying. It was rough sometimes.
The drug culture became so bad that Housing and Redevelopment moved to demolish this community in order to build a new one with affordable housing to weed out the old culture. This community is now a new and aesthetically beautiful place to witness today, but I will never regret the experiences of this community. There were a lot of good people who lived there who looked out for each other. Many of us made it out, and we are living to tell about it. Every day I tell God thank you for bringing me through those days. This neighborhood had a culture, and all of us who lived in it understood it and we adapted to it for survival.
By the time I came to experience church, I was somewhat naive about what was expected regarding church culture; but, I had an internal knowing that I could trust God to help to connect me with the right people, and he did. Those early years of spiritual development were critical for what I ultimately was being called to do in bringing the light of Jesus to dark places.
There are times when I study the Word of God and examine the life of Jesus and His dealing with the ways of people. I want to put some modern-day stuff in the narratives, and have Jesus to go mental on some of these people, but that was not his nature. Some of these people played some dark games. Like these Pharisees who did not really support Jesus’ ministry. They had no desire to change their old patterns of reactiveness, thinking, behaving and living. Jesus had completed a major community project of feeding 4,000 people with his disciples, and here they come with a question that had nothing to do with the spirit of the moment: “Can you give us a sign?” What sign? Jesus “sighed deeply” and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” The Pharisees dominant mind intent and motivation was always to look for a way to destroy Jesus because they were intimidated by his leadership and spirit. ( Matthew 27:18) Jesus would not engage in dark dealings; he was the pure personification of the presence on God in human flesh as a sign before them, and they were too blind to see it because they were busy playing dangerous church games.
The Christian church says that it believes that Jesus is the living Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world. Yet, it is blinded to the sins that are being committed against God. There are times that I sigh deeply when I see some of the dangerous games and behaviors of church people. It is challenging to watch people tearing each other down. They have no control over their moods and reactiveness. They hold secret meetings before the meeting. Meetings are more like fighting matches than planning sessions. Individuals and families seeking a coup d’etat of the church so that they or their family can be the next controllers. Parishioners dishonoring and disrespecting their spiritual authority rather than seeing them as the ones whom God has sent to feed them righteousness. The spirit of jealousy corroding each other’s gifts in a ball of competition when all have been blessed with gifts, but all don’t use them to bless the church. Many sit back and complain and will not put their hands to the plow to reach people for the Kingdom of God.
Carnality is now the accepted culture. Excuses are made and received for living foul and low. No matter, just keep bringing the cash. Overseers and their families being sliced up over lunch and dinner. Women being treated like slaves. Public shaming and embarrassing comments being made in major gatherings with no thought of the wound that it will leave behind. Nasty behavior in the parking lot, pulpit and at the door. Unhealthy in body and spirit with no desire to get well. Pastors ignoring pastoral ethics by making back door phone calls in another pastor’s field of ministry to pull out the sheep. Favoritism being displayed with no conviction regarding the impact that it will bring in the community. Plotting on who is going to take over and really be the pastor of the church behind the scenes, and all the while the Word of God and prayer are being treated like an inconvenience.
It is equally disturbing when I see these mindsets, moods and behaviors starting to bud in young people. Where did they learn how to play dangerous church games? One of the most challenging things to do in leadership is to undo an unhealthy church culture/psychology. Honestly, I believe that some churches are going to have to be demolished in spirit and rebuild a new culture/psychology. Some leaders spend years going along with an old culture/psychology that is no longer beneficial for growth. They don’t even like going to the churches they pastor, but they keep going to maintain their livelihood. That old drug infested project that I grew up in could not be rehabilitated. It was dead with infestation. It had to be demolished to bring forth a new community.
Dark church games have to be demolished. There is a need for more intentionality to bring awareness of unchecked reacting, thinking, living and behaving in order to develop a new culture/psychology in the church that is built on trust, respect, transparency, love, faith, commitment, prayer, teaching, healthy fellowship and ethical leadership.
I contend that the people of the church must open up their eyes and become more aware that there are some critical matters before the church in order to bring forth real healing, and deliverance in people’s lives. Let’s put in the work so that another generation will not be raised up to continue playing dangerous church games. This is ungodly!
I offer ideas that can help the church to begin thinking about ways that we can progress to change church culture/psychology that will lead into new communities of fellowship and get rid of the old infestations.
- Get back to teaching Jesus. It is time to uncover his nature, character and true ministry in the world.
- Have development workshops and seminars that deal with church culture/psychology and how to break old patterns.
- Structure training sessions on pastoral ethics. Teach how ministry colleagues at every level need to engage in mutual respect for each other’s ministry assignments.
- Expose corrupt thinking and behavior patterns in congregations that lead them to become unhealthy.
- Name the dangerous games that people play without operating in fear. Don’t forget that Jesus came to destroy the devils works.
- Develop small prayer groups that will focus on these particular issues of the church.
- Provide teaching on the spiritual role of a pastor and other leadership positions in the church.
*OG’s is urban slang for Original Gangster
*New G’s is contemporary urban slang for Young Gangsters