Evangelical Christianity has been referred to as a circus and carnival. Nothing reveals the flaws of evangelicalism more then death, dying and funerals. And yet there is a healthy example of an EFCA church in the Midwest District that shares regularly about loss and death. And in the process allows lament. Tom Nelson’s Christ Community church regularly shares about individual deaths in the congregation. It is refreshing to see a church that gets this issue right.
“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it, and that is how it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”
For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 NLT
In this post I want to explore evangelical culture and the issue of death. There is something that I noticed about Tom Nelson’s Christ Community Church that I wanted to report on.
The Evangelical Circus and/or Carnival
Michael Spencer was a Southern Baptist pastor who published a blog called Internet Monk. It was a blog that looked at the issues in evangelicalism. He hit it big with a post about the coming evangelical collapse. But there is another aspect he is known for publishing. If I remember correctly he wrote about how evangelicalism is a circus. Or another way to write is that it is a carnival.
Stop and think of it for a few minutes and reflect on some of the evangelical churches you have come across. You have in some situations pastors in their 50’s who act like they are in their 20’s wearing tight clothing and going for the ever impressive goatee. In other situations you have the worship leader jumping around on stage with a light show and fog machines. Other churches have coffee bars where you can got a latte for $8.00. On and on it goes and it begs the question why would anyone participate in any of that? How can a pastor who is in denial about aging or more shepherd people effectively? Why would you go to a C grade musical show especially with the likes of Pink. Lady Gaga, Celine Dion, Green Day, and so many others touring the country? And why would you spend nearly $10.00 for a luke warm latte from a church especially when you can get a nice coffee at places like Starbucks, Caribou, Dutch Bros Coffee and Peets Coffee and so many more? Then you have other aspects of evangelicalism which show how sick the movement is. For example C.J. Mahaney who led Sovereign Grace Ministries once boasted of demanding sex from his pregnant wife who had morning sickness. Mark Driscoll in an infamous sermon in Edinburgh, Scotland boasted of how he got a woman to repent and perform a blow job on her husband. Driscoll boasted of how that blow job bought someone to Jesus. If you want to listen to that “sermon” you can do so in, “Reflecting on a Controversial Mark Driscoll Sermon About how a Repentant Woman Gets on Her Knees and Performs Oral Sex.”
Evangelicalism and Death is an Ongoing Problem
I write all that above to turn the subject to death, grieving, and loss. When you are in a church that functions more like a circus or carnival then how do you your deal with the topic of death? This blog would contend that many evangelical churches are in denial about death. They avoid the topic and focus on the issue of being young. Why do so many churches have an average age of people in their 20’s and 30’s? In many evangelical churches The elderly do not exist. This issue of death and evangelicalism will be revealed more with the aging baby boomers and our society aging. In addition you also have many churches that are not stable and in flux or in some cases preparing for a painful split. When I consider the circus of evangelicalism I once asked where will my funeral be one day? You can read more in, “In Dealing with My Mom’s Death, Amidst the Chaos of Modern Evangelicalism A Question: Where Will My Funeral Be One Day?” Other issues also happen which remain shocking. For example when my Mom was dying I was shocked when I submitted a prayer request to my former EFCA church in Fresno, California. The prayer request fell through the cracks to my later horror. It begs the question what good is a church that doesn’t bury the dead or comfort the ill or the grieving? Why does such a place exist? I wrote about The Bridge Fresno in, “The Bridge Fresno vs. Holy Spirit Catholic Church: Who was More Pastoral?” Then you also consider how evangelicalism discourages lament. Death is an issue in evangelicalism that many evangelical churches avoid discussing.
What Tom Nelson’s Christ Community Church Does When it Comes to Death and Loss
In writing about the EFCA and studying the movement while reading and researching it I subscribe to a lot of church email updates. From EFCA churches in California, to Kansas, to Pennsylvania to Minnesota I subscribe and study and see what is happening in individual congregations. Those emails can give some great insight into an EFCA church and what is going on internally. They also allow me to see the trends and issues in the greater EFCA when l consider the bigger picture especially as I write about religious intelligence. Its in that frame of mind that I learned something about Tom Nelson’s Christ Community Church that is in the Kansas City and Kansas area that is what brought this post about.
Christ Community Church does something that is unique and refreshing especially in the chaos or modern evangelicalism. I have noticed that they are one of the few churches that actively shares death and loss with its congregations. There are many churches that share birth news and yet few that share about the pain of loss or death. They do this in their emails. In their weekly updates this is frequently communicated. For example in their weekly email that was sent on February 15, 2020 they have a section called, “Family News.” Here is how Christ Community Church describes family news. “Here is recent news about life events in our Christ Community Church family. As a caring family, take a moment to: Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.(Romans 12:15 ESV)” And with that Christ Community shared about the deaths and loss recently within their congregation. The losses dealt with their Leawood campus in Kansas and Brookside campus in Kansas City, Missouri. This is how Christ Community wrote about the loss.
We pray for God’s comfort and peace to surround this family. Sincere condolences to…
David and Tracy Abrey (Leawood Campus) on the loss of David’s father, Larry Abrey, on Saturday, February 1.
Derrick and Barb Willard (Brookside Campus) on the loss of Barb’s father, Warren Morse, on Saturday, February 8.
Chip and Tracy Gibson (Brookside Campus) on the loss of Tracy’s father, Randall Phillips, on Sunday, February 9.
This blog would like to commend Christ Community Church for acting in this manner. Its unique and is not as common as one would think. In mainstream Protestantism and Catholicism they take a similar approach and share about grief and loss. But evangelicals largely ignore the topic altogether. This blog believes that Christ Community Church can be more of a model in a number of areas. As a reformed church that is averse to authoritarianism and power hungry clergy they can teach a lot which other churches need to learn. That can be a post for another day as I continue to study this congregation. But when it comes to death and grieving Christ Community can show how lament can be done and how its okay to grieve and mourn. And that this can happen long term. Its easy to write a blog that focuses on scandals and abuse, but it also important to point out when a church gets it right. I have some plans for a trip to the Kansas City and Kansas area later this year. I am looking forward to visiting this church again and studying it as I continue to write about it. Until then this blog wishes Tom Nelson and Christ Community Church well.