How a war in our churches creates Christian Zombies

What’s the most dangerous and destructive kind of war?

A civil war, of course.  It divides families.  No common ideology can survive.  It is division among division.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise when there’s a war in our churches.

Instead of fighting an outside power trying to destroy our faith this outside power has made its way inside.  Its been like this from very close to the beginning.  Was Judas’ betrayal the first shot in this war?  Maybe so.

We can see the results of that war all around us today.  There are many bodies on the ground around us even if we fail to see it 1 .  We constantly take shots at our own kind – Christians – hating them for their differences as though they’re the most important thing in the world 2.

Its easiest to see in the fractured nature of the Church today.  Thousands of denominations spread across the world each claiming either to be the true faith or at least better with a different understanding of “that church over there.”

We spend more time differentiating ourselves from our neighbors than we do building the kingdom and fighting the enemy.  It should be no surprise, then, that so much of the time it appears that we’re loosing.  We’re not what we were meant to be – what we were when the Church changed the world.

But its not just the denominational battles that mark the civil war in the Church.  It’s the war actually happening in each individual church today.  While the denominational battle can make us despise people we’ve never really gotten to know it’s the battle in our churches that destroy our individual faith.

This battlefield might not have a common plan for everyone but what we do know is that its built on creating disunity among believers.  When the Church is at its best we’re all working together toward a common purpose and with a common belief and mission.  We’re united by a common “why.”  Why we do what we do that goes beyond just the great commission in terms of specificity.  While there might not be many ways to God there are many ways to serve him.

How many churches are there that have this common purpose?  Not many, I suspect.  Those that do might be attacked by outside forces, and maybe even other denominations, but they will hold strong because they’re believers joined through Christ in common purpose.

Of course there’s room for descent in churches.  Not every idea is the right idea and sometimes it takes a while to get to the thing we’re meant to do.  Once that’s established, however, even other good ideas can be the roots of the war in our churches.  If a church is committed to creating a soup kitchen in a poverty stricken neighborhood and someone suggests that they should start a missions training school and begin sending foreign missionaries that person might be spreading disunity.

It’s a very special kind of disunity, though.  It’s the kind that says, “I’m a good thing – you should be doing me instead.”  And the kicker is that sometimes that disunity is from God.  Its saying that the time for the old thing is over and a new thing is here now.  Sometimes a stirring up is necessary.

So how do you know the difference?  It could be that that soup kitchen just got started.  The whole church is behind it with a peace that comes only from God’s assurance.  If the idea of a mission’s school comes in out of the blue and distracts from the mission that’s been established its reasonable to suggest that that idea ought to be dismissed out of hand and with out any consideration – at least at that point.

And what if that person making the suggestion persists?  It ought to be tested and the person with it.  Has the person who made this suggestion been a longstanding member of the church?  Have they actively taken part in the main outreach of the church?

If not, perhaps they should and should be before they’re suggestions are just taken seriously.  Are they uniting the church in common purpose or dividing the church, tempting it with good things?  If its God who has brought that new idea it will stand the test of time and triumph over the old idea.  If it operates on fear and shame and suggests an immediate action then perhaps it deserves to fail.

And of course, the nature of the member suggesting a change ought to be considered.  In fact, this ought to be considered regardless of whether a person is loudly making suggestions or just acting as a member of the body of the church.  One has to consider if they’re acting as a member of the body of Christ.

This is dangerous ground to tread. We risk possibly judging our fellow believers too harshly.  This kind of thing happens in war.  Tensions run high.  We don’t always know who to trust.  Sometimes we put that trust in the wrong places.  There are spies among us most of which have no idea they’re spies but they’re spreading lies and doing damage none the less.

This is the kind of thing Christ warns the church about when he compares a great sinner lamenting his sin with a seemingly clean religious leader in their prayers.  Its tempting to fear that dirty sinner thinking that by bringing his sin into our space he can somehow damage and destroy us.  But what is each one seeking?  To build himself or the kingdom?  To build the kingdom we have to tear ourselves down and all ourselves to be rebuilt.  But we’re not rebuilt in our own image (as the religious leader did) but we’re to be rebuilt in the image of Christ, always seeking him as a plant seeks the son.

And what did Christ do?  He drew others to himself.  Some eventually turned away refusing to allow themselves to be rebuilt.  We ought to be looking for our church members to participate in this kind of selfless service.  They ought to foster unity and be willing to drive out disunity when that’s what’s called for.  Sometimes that means making room for the great sinner at our tables (serving them as Christ did) and allowing their presence to drive away those beautiful, selfish men.

But the war in our churches looks different from the war that Jesus and his disciples fought that we read about in the Bible.  In our world we do judge from appearances.  We are looking for people like us to serve along side us.

And is this such a bad thing?  After all, we can’t function as a body if we are acting alone.  But are we looking for people like us or people like Christ?  Perhaps this is setting the bar to high, but we must be careful not to set it too low.  In our zeal to build our churches and do the work God has given us to do its easy to fall into the trap that we need more people to do the work.  Indeed, we might be bringing in more spies who, instead of pulling with the rest of the church,  pull in every other direction.

We should, instead, be looking for others who can build us up.  Who magnify our existing strengths.  Who do what we can’t (or won’t.)  Leaders in our churches then ought to work to create and foster creativity and unity amongst these different groups who may be coming together with different purposes.

Sometimes these strengths come at a cost for the person who has them.   A person who has struggled with a particular sin might be the only one who can minister to another person (or group of people) with that same struggle.  If we wait until that person is Completely free we may have missed our opportunity to work with them, and, worse, may have pushed them away from the Church family that they needed and who needed them.  We have to be willing to bear those burdens.

Bearing those burdens means being willing to accept them as they are.  Another great war in the church is the invisible one.  It’s the war of expectations and unseen things that keep us apart.  It’s the war of undeserved shame (as opposed to the shame that convicts us of our sins) and feelings of inadequacy.  It’s the war of pride and judgement.

This is the war that creates a church of zombies. 3 Churches that look alive and vibrant on the outside with programs and systems with all the kinds of problems mentioned earlier seemingly taken care of.  But on the inside they’re dead.  That’s the reason they’re allowed to “flourish” and continue unopposed by the forces of evil.

These are the dangerous churches because they can spread the disease and other churches can’t even see it coming.  Unless they have eyes to see.

So how do we develop that spiritual vision?  Some might say that that kind of vision can’t be developed but can only be given from God.  Its certain that this kind of vision can be given from above, but zombies do have a certain kind of shuffle.

They may seem to act together but they’re actually acting in their own special and selfish interest.  They don’t take care of one another.  They don’t care that another member is hurting.  Sometimes they judge that “other” as defective and feast on him, glorying in his downfall.

So, outside of analogy, what does this look like?  How about a man struggling with sexual sin, a hidden, personal struggle he’s afraid he can’t discuss with anyone.  And why can’t he?  Because he hears the judgement from the other members of the church about how those kinds of sinners are evil and erode the fabric of our churches and culture.  He hears the judgement when someone says they can’t understand how someone would do those kinds of things 4 .

The irony of this is there’s a fairly good chance that the very people making these claims struggle with this very same thing.  Deep down they want to be able to overcome it but the zombie inside them would rather keep it hidden, knowing that light and mutual support would be the ultimate disinfectant.  And judging others pushes the judgement away from themselves.

And what about the poor?  We talk about helping the poor but what is our intention when we do it?  Is it to show the light of Christ?  To demonstrate that we’re all in this life together and bear one another’s burdens?  To give when we have no expectation of ever receiving?

Or are we making an investment?  Are we saying, “If I help you someday you’ll become an upstanding member of society and be able to help others.”  And if they don’t what do we do?  Do we keep feeding that dry well or do we move on to another?

These two opposing theories are worth really taking a moment to consider.

Pouring water down a dry well might be considered fruitless if you’re expecting that water to all of a sudden become a spring bur if you’re nourishing something at the bottom of that well who knows what kind of fruit might eventually come forth.  After all what is a person in prison for live, locked in solitary confinement but a person trapped in a well.  If we’re called to console these prisoners there’s no way they can ever repay in this life.

We also have to guard against bringing the ideas of the world into our churches.  What kinds of things does the world value?  Strength?  Wealth?  Intelligence?  There are a whole host of other things that the world values, and while we can say that human strength has no effectiveness in the face of Christ, that wealth has no value compared to our riches in heaven and that no man is wiser than God, it’s the smaller values that really do the damage.

In a culture we value self sufficiency, preparedness and bettering ourselves.  We want people to learn and grow to become more than they are.  If that growth is in Christ then there is victory.  We have judged rightly.  But no man is truly prepared for what tomorrow brings.  Today has enough worries for itself.  And no man is truly self sufficient.  All need Christ.  All need the body 5 .

So what happens when the body rejects a part for not meeting these kinds of expectations?  What happens when there’s a judgement that a person isn’t doing enough to take care of themselves (after all why should we take care of him if he doesn’t take care of himself?)

Worse, what happens to everyone else who watches this happen?  What happens to those who learn the lesson of shame by watching?  They see judgement being cast by the “righteous” upon the lowly who is unprepared or not self sufficient or doesn’t care about finding a way to better themselves.

They learn, instead, to value these things while espousing others, as a minimum entry proposition into the body of these Zombie churches.

So what’s so wrong with these three (and numerous other) things?  They get in the way of allowing God to call us in our lives.  God’s kingdom is upside down and as such we might be called to those things we feel the least prepared for.  The very thing that’s our glory is also our greatest fear.  And why?  Because they’re the kinds of things we can’t do alone.  We need others, even if its just in support.

How about some concrete examples of two different varieties?  First, imagine a person called to be a missionary.  This is a calling  is one that virtually requires a lack of self sufficiency and precludes preparedness.  Missionary stories are virtually defined by a lack of resources end emphasized by victory in circumstances they were completely unprepared for.  So why do we expect missionaries to raise their own funds before they go?  Why do we expect them to come back and regale us with stories to continue to garner our financial support?

Even so, missionaries are understood and accepted.  Perhaps we could make our way to allowing them to be dependent on the charity of others.

So what about a person called to be an artist?  Through this person God is spreading joy, happiness and peace to all who view this person’s art.  Their calling is to spread their art, God’s art, all over the world.  But as so many artist discovers, it doesn’t pay the bills.  Especially when its being given away – as so much of the kingdom of God is called to do.

Instead this artist has some choices to make.  Perhaps she decides to try to become a professional, selling her work and making a living from it and using that living to finance the work of God – on the side.

Or maybe shame makes its way in at this point.  He knows that he’ll never making a living giving away or even selling his art (maybe he feels he’s just not that good.)  He knows, secretly, that the church won’t understand his calling.  That he’ll be judge and never be accepted into this (zombie) body of believers.  So instead he goes to college and gets a job.   Maybe he paints on the side.  A mural at church lets him feel like he’s fulfilling his calling while making the (zombie) church bright and cheerful.

But in both these cases those for whom the art is intended never get to see it.  A missionary expected to raise his own funds will never go and live with people for years.  He’ll have to settle for two weeks a year and those people he was supposed to preach to will never hear his words.

Callings come in all shapes and sizes.  Churches have to be sure not to war directly against God’s call.  Similarly, those people with great calls on their lives can’t value that over all else.  We still have to remember that we have to serve each other and the world with our actions and our messaging.  Sometimes an artist has to help harvest a potato crop.  A great preacher might have to clean toilets.  No man and no calling is greater than any other.

There’s no way to completely avoid the civil wars in our churches.  The closer we get to God the more that the evil one wants to bring us down and the harder the attach will become.  Most of the time that attack won’t come from the outside, especially as we draw nearer to God.  It will come from close to you or maybe from yourself.  We have to guard ourselves and our Church at all times, sacrificing our own desires and expectations and replacing them instead with the judgement of God.

Resisting the evil one happens not only in prayer and fasting but also inside ourselves protecting our hearts and building up the body of believers.  We have to be always on guard that through our own selfish desires that we don’t let him in.

  1. They are our friends and family. They may look fine but they’re like a body in a coffin at a funeral. Their makeup and hair is done, but that image of life is a lie.
  2. And sometimes even denying their Christianity alltogether
  3. This is a theme I follow a lot in my storytelling if you’d like to read a bit of that check out The unNatural –
  4. Never forget that Zombies want to pass on their diease.
  5. In fact, if we’re to continue the Zombie theme you might argue that only Christ is immune to the diesease.  Whenever we spread his gospel, and perhaps take part in his communion, we’re spreading the cure.  This might only be an anaology but I think its an interesting one.