Church Attendance and Presidents, part deux

Remember this? Well, now I have some data! I could make many comments here, but allow me simply to amplifiy one point.

I get the frustration with inefficiency in churches (skimmers: the article points out that senior leaders don't attend their local churches because they get frustrated with how they're run). But I have to laugh at myself because God uses what appears to me to be some of the most inefficient methods known to man to get stuff done. Parking Moses in the desert for 40 years, allowing faithful leaders like Daniel to spend their entire lives in captivity, letting David get hunted by his own king, etc. And good ole apostle Paul would sympathize, too, but for different reasons. Look at the moral atrocities found in the early church--sex, lawsuits, divisions, etc.

No, sir, not efficient at all.


Mike, many excellent points. Churches should not be given a pass for poor stewardship, scandal, or any conduct unbecoming the glory of God. That includes Carter/Clinton attendance flaunting. Paul certainly didn't when he took the Corinthians and Galations to task. But, as you well pointed out, show me an insitution that doesn't have all of the above. The church is set apart for Christians as the essential God-ordained institution through which the kingdom of God is corporately manifested. Senior leaders (presidents, celebs, CEOs, etc) who are Christians cannot find any scripture that exempts them from participation just because they're famous or busy not can they point to the messy business of running a church and do "me and Jesus" private church at home. I've seen A- listers (White House, congress, authors, attorneys) in the pews of my church (and no autograph stampedes). There could be difficulties to overcome because of fame and the disruption factor, but God has called all Christians to belong to the body (his church) and use their gifts accordingly.
Personally, I believe that a President that attends church is there more for show that for any personal spiritual benefit. D. M. Lindsay's article mentioned Carter and Clinton as two who did go. Anyone want to defend their spiritual integrity? Clinton went to sit in the center of the choir at a church whose worship service was televised.(I believe he has admitted to just that.) His thoughts, we may suspect, were on any "hot babes" he might see in the audience. And as for Carter, a political biography of Billy Graham seems to have unknowing revealed his motivations. Carter, it noted, was a very secretive man, revealing nothing that really mattered to him. Yet Carter talked constantly about his religion and that Sunday School. The obvious conclusion: His public religion mattered as little to him as being seen in jeans at his brother's gas station. Never forget that a President, a governor and a movie star are enormously disruptive wherever they go. Attend church and they, rather than God, will be the center of attention. That's why Reagan said he didn't attend church. From the late 1930s until his mind left him, he was too famous not to be disruptive. Much the same may be true of our current President. It says something positive about someone's spiritual state that they don't want to take attention away from God. I wouldn't put much stock in politicians who claim they don't attend church because churches are badly run. What institution, please tell me, is run worse than our government and particularly our legislatures? And finally, I wouldn't use the messiness surrounding some people in the Bible to rationalize business as usual in churches. I used to attend a Seattle-area mega-church that went through a 1990s scandal it has yet to recover from. In retrospect, I can't see how the sheer incompetence of how the church's decent, well-meaning elders handled the affair is what God intended. The only time they changed their minds about something was virtually the only thing they got right--hiring an experienced investigator to look into the allegations and issue a public report. They nixed that public report for a rambling, disjointed one they wrote themselves. The reality is that churches get into scandals and botch how they handle them because, on the whole, they have failed to develop the sorts of experienced, well-thought out structures and institutions to anticipate or deal with scandals. And they don't do that for the very simple reason that the great bulk of pastors don't want any genuinely effective system of accountability. Preachers, alas, are a lot like politicians. Perhaps that's why they don't like to mix. The Jim and Tammy Baker scandals led to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, which keeps an eye on church bookkeepers. But scandal after scandal (mostly sexual) has yet to lead to an Evangelical Council for Pastoral Accountability. That is totally inexcusable. Church scandals shouldn't be (mis)handled by church elders who will, at most, face only one scandal if their lifetime. That's a bit like you or I being rushed to a hospital to do brain surgery. Charges of misconduct should be quickly referred to those with the experience and integrity to handle them properly. --Mike Perry, Seattle

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