An Open Letter to the Christian Churches

I was avoiding work going through some old documents, and I came across this letter I wrote over a year ago.  I hadn’t seen it in a while, and I was impressed by how passionate I was when I wrote it.  Obviously, as the title says, it’s a letter that I sent out to a number of churches in the area – mainly larger ones.  The sad thing is that not a single pastor replied.  The only person I heard back from was someone’s secretary who thought it was a great letter and she wanted to make sure that the pastor had read it.  That was it, however.

I thought, though, on this Sunday morning, I’d share it with all of you.  It’s a lengthy bugger, so it’s in its entirety below, but you may also get the PDF HERE.  If you’re a fellow Christian, especially, I hope you find the merit in what I have to say.

An Open Letter to the Christian Churches of Orange County:

I am a Christian.  I say this first so
that nothing in this letter may be taken out of its context.  I am a
Christian in the purest and simplest meaning of the word.  I do not
associate myself with any denomination, I simply believe in every
word of the Bible as literal fact, and that by Jesus’ crucifixion I
will be in Heaven when I die.  I tell you of this belief, again, so
that you may know that what I say comes from an honest heart of
strong conviction and love.

Quite bluntly, what is wrong with you?
Really, though, what is wrong with all of us?  I have become so
disillusioned by church that for years I have not been able to find a
place I call home.  So many churches are filled with honest,
well-meaning people, that to assume I’m judging on generalizations
alone would be horribly incorrect.  I realize that I am not God who
can see the heart’s of men; I would never claim so.  But I have
visited so many churches that are nothing more than a show – a
moment in the week for people to stop and feel good about themselves.
I was raised in church, my dad a pastor for many years, and I have
seen firsthand that so many modern churches are run as a business –
as a regular, cold, and routine corporation. Where is the fire?

First is the presentation of church.  I
can only write about my own experiences, but it seems to be more and
more commonplace that to attend church now is like attending a show –
it’s entertainment.  I enjoy many types of music, and personally I do
prefer the worship session to include a band.  That is my own
personal taste and nothing more.  The issue is that it has become a
production that reeks of a lack of genuine heart.  The lights are
dimmed – for what purpose?  To create a more intimate feel, to
allow for possible distractions in the room to be less visible?  It
is a tactic of mood manipulation – of creating a moment.  When
Jesus taught his disciples, and if they sang a song together, do you
imagine that Jesus asked to turn down the candles so as to create an
atmosphere?  Another aspect that has prompted this letter is what I
call the Magical Disappearing Band.  After the opening worship
session, a pastor often comes to the stage to deliver a prayer, a
prayer that must last long enough for the band to leave the stage.  I
do not believe that these prayers are ALWAYS completely genuine in
their intent and emotion.  It is simply too convenient –
because quite often at the end of the sermon, the same thing happens
for the band to appear back on stage, possibly even beginning some
light mood music as the speaker finishes their prayer.  I was told
something very wise by a friend of mine years ago; something that was
passed along to her from her mother, and to her from elsewhere –
that emotion is deceptive.  How many tears may be shed in these
situations of intense mood, only to be brushed off on the drive home
from church.  Again, I am not saying that there is nothing genuine
there – I myself have been touched and guided by God in times
like this, but it is so momentary, like an emotionally manipulative
movie.  I fear getting off onto a tangent, so I will simply reiterate
my point that so often, your churches have become a show, a spectacle
of entertainment and presentation that may put the audience in a
mood, but that is easily forgotten.  If every single one of these
things happens in your church, and if every single one of these
things is done with a genuine heart and with pure intentions, not
simply to follow routine or create a more pleasing atmosphere, then
God bless you.  If there is any hint of showmanship or dishonesty in
anything that is done, though, I hope you will truly take change into
consideration.

This leads to my second point, and that
is the messages themselves.  I, myself, am a quiet person.  When in
school, I rarely raise my hand or shout out the answers –
however if I have a question, I will dutifully raise my hand to ask
the teacher.  Why is church different?  Again, I believe it’s become
a factor of comfortability.  When Jesus taught, his listeners would
often interrupt with questions, “But Teacher…” and He
would answer them.  I love the intimacy of that relationship, “But
Teacher…”  It is reminiscent of the children running to
Jesus, and his welcoming them, “Let the little children come
unto me.”  When has teaching a congregation turned from an
intimate relationship of learning and questions, to dynamic speech
giving?  Why must our churches be so afraid of disrupting levels of
comfortability, that we can not deviate from the norm: A pastor
stands on a stage in front of the seated people, where he speaks and
they listen quietly.  I myself have had questions or rebuttals to
something a pastor says, but by social norm and etiquette, the
general church service is not the time or place for that.  Not the
time or place?  I have heard every excuse and reason there is for
this setup, but I simply do not buy any of it, nor can I as a
follower of Jesus.  With the sizes of some of today’s congregations
is it logical for the pastor to sit eye level with his people and
speak without microphone assistance?  No, of course not, I wouldn’t
expect it.  However, the very nature of this setup is so distanced,
that I implore you to at least challenge your congregation to speak
up.  Do not line the chairs in rows, do not create an atmosphere that
puts the people into a place where they are comfortable enough to
mentally zone out.  Revolutionize your churches physically, so that
you can revolutionize your churches spiritually.  Not only do I feel
you should take a look at how things are taught, but also what is
taught.  When I hear a sermon that “challenges” the
congregation, it is never more than a haphazard and relaxed
challenge.  Where is the passion?  Where is the anger?  Yes, anger.
Do not shout and condemn your congregation from a position of pious
perfection, that is not what I implore, but when you see what you do
not like, reprimand your people.  Jesus saw sellers in the temple,
defiling what he believed and loved, and he became passionate –
he was angry.  Likewise, Paul in his letters also expressed
passionate anger.  I challenge you to stand and do the same.  Do not
be angry for anger’s sake, but truly look at your congregation, and
do not fear disturbing their comfort to call out their mistakes.
Jesus taught grace and compassion, the two things I base my life on
the most, but if my friend is doing something foolish, I come to him
with great love and tell him.  If you see the young women of your
church dressing in ways that are not becoming of a Christian, I hope
that you would say something.  Of course, we all know that to judge a
person on how they appear wrong, but these people are looking to you
for guidance as their teacher.  I do not want to walk that fine line
in your mind of being judgmental, either.  I have my personal tastes
and opinions on matters of dress or style or anything else, and I do
not pass those restrictions onto others.  But if my child were to do
something that I felt was inappropriate or not becoming of a
Christian, I would tell them so – as should you to your
congregation.  I have heard pastors that yell at their people, but I
can honestly say that in my lifetime, I have never heard a pastor
come to his congregation in passionate love and implore them to
consider their actions.

I write this letter to you with all the
love in my heart.  I am a man of great compassion, one who cherishes
grace as the greatest equity in this world, and the intention of my
letter is simply a call to your hearts.  I ask that you and those
around you, people who I can only assume God has placed into your
positions, consider what I say.  Do not take this letter as fact, I
can only share what I feel, what I have come to know of God, and what
I believe is lacking in many of our Christian churches today.  I do
not want you to feel resentment or disgust by anything I say, but
understand that I am beseeching you as the Christian leaders of
Orange County, my home, and as the leaders of congregations that are
ever-growing in number, to truly put a challenge to the Christians of
this area.  Do not let your churches be routine or safe any longer –
but be revolutionary, as Jesus was.  I remember hearing stories of
the beginning days of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa – of the
acceptance of anyone who cared to enter, of a true revolution of
social norm in the Christian community.  I am calling on you to now
do the same for MY generation, and create a new revolution.  I am one
young man, I do not have the outlet that you do – and so I
encourage you, with all of my heart, to do more than use a clever
catchphrase to encourage your
congregations, to do more than create visually interesting videos
that entertain the mass populace, to turn and run from any signs of
comfortable, convenient, and lazy Christianity – and to be
TRULY rebellious, passionate, and full of love and grace… because
that is what being a Christian should be.

With all of my heart,

Mark Mushakian

 

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About Mark Mushakian

Just a man who loves God, women, kids, dogs, movies, and every other lovely thing in life :)
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