Written by cycleguy on May 15th, 2014

In Gandhi’s autobiography, he wrote that during his student years he considered converting to Christianity. After reading through the Gospels, he saw that Christianity could perhaps provide a solution for the caste system which so divided his country.

One Sunday morning he arrived at a church for worship. He hoped to find a pastor there who would be able to answer his questions about salvation and other theological matters. But as Gandhi entered the sanctuary, the usher refused to seat him. He said, “Why don’t you just go worship with your own people?” Gandhi turned around and never came back. He writes, “I determined that if Christianity had its own caste system, I might as well just remain a Hindu.”

I have to admit a twinge, a nasty twinge, when I read that. Certainly not at Gandhi, but toward the usher. How disappointed God must have been when that happened.

In his most excellent book, Dancing Priest, Glynn Young wrote this dialogue:

Michael, the future of our church is in grave doubt. If there is a future, then you and others like you are that future. It will be better for you to be on the periphery than at the center because the center is rotting and collapsing. The future of the church is at the edges, and there you’ll find a willingness to abandon what’s dead, to meet the spiritual need, to fearlessly preach the gospel-that is our way to survive.

Although fiction, Glynn hit a home run with that. Many (maybe most) churches are dying from the inside. Sadly, many have become too enamored with themselves, too busy looking all dressed up (with no place to go), too focused on maintaining a machine than reaching people, because they are in need and not just a number. Churches are often so “dead-eye” on those with influence, power, and money, they lose sight of the woman with a possessed daughter; the lame who can’t get into the water in time; the leper who is an outcast; the condemned “sinful woman;” and others-the periphery. I hope you recognized those illustrations. They came directly from the Gospels and the life of Jesus.

I think it is time for the church to stop rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic and start looking at the periphery. We just might find a world in need and hungry for meaning.

Any thoughts?


21 Comments so far ↓

  1. Daniel says:

    Interesting thoughts here today. I sometimes think that church has become too formulaic, too predictable, too much shine and not enough substance. What keeps it this way? Inertia. Oh, and the need for the almighty … the almighty dollar.

    • cycleguy says:

      Thanks Daniel. I too think it has become to formulaic. I may even be one of those who have contributed to it. Ugh.

  2. I read this week that 30% of people in any given church don’t participate in small groups. The three main reasons is that they are introverted, independent or isolated. The question I am asking is how I can help take those on the periphery and include them.

  3. Dan Erickson says:

    There is an underlying theme in my Cult Trilogy that speaks of this. I see this problem loud and clear. There seems to be several types of churches and Christians. There are some I couldn’t stand to be around and that’s sad. But yes, I agree, those who are on the edges will survive.

  4. floyd says:

    “Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.” Oh man, that sums it up in a heartbeat… The ways of legalism is the ways of the enemy. It is the same form of all other religions in the world that mean nothing, the same thing Christ Himself railed against, and yet here we are; doing the exact thing He warned us not to do. Is not this the definition of insanity?

  5. Rick Dawson says:

    I’d rather be on the edges anyway – that’s where the mission is. The country-club mindset has bothered me for years.

  6. Eileen says:

    I agree great thought right here…”I think it is time for the church to stop rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic and start looking at the periphery.” Unfortunately, what happened to Gandhi, happens way too often.

    • cycleguy says:

      It is tragic it happens way too often. We claim to be for all people and yet we separate the “haves from the have nots.”

  7. What a sad account. Hadn’t heard that before. I am listening to a song right now with the lyrics, “Let them see You in me.” That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? We can do dramas and music and flashy programs, but if they don’t see Jesus in us, we’ve missed the boat (never thought of that expression related to the ark, but it works).

    • cycleguy says:

      You are right Melanie. We are sometimes so into our flash and dash that we forget what really matters is caring about people. Good to hear from you.

  8. Oh that’s terrible!! Argh…

    Jennifer Dougan

  9. Debbie says:

    Really excellent, Pastor Bill . .. much to think and pray about. God bless!

  10. Betty Draper says:

    Great post brother. Nothing has changed since Jesus walked on this earth. Multitudes rearranged their deck chairs, few packed them up and went out into the world to reach the lost. This use to bother me and made me critical of those who rearranged. Until God told me to put my deck chair up and I have been too busy serving Him with joy. It has more affect on others then critizing them.

  11. TC Avey says:

    I didn’t know that about Gandhi. How sad and unfortunate. But I see it happening in today’s churches as well.

    I really like that quote from Young. Sounds like a great book.

  12. Lisa notes says:

    TC pointed me to this post and I’m glad she did. I so agree with you! We need to be out there on the periphery getting our hands dirty instead of staying pristine clean on the inside of our buildings. Great post, Bill. (And I loved Glynn’s book.)