Why Donald Miller Is Not Shocking
For those who care about these things you have probably noticed the several posts related to Donald Miller announcing that he seldom bothers to attend church. You can read some good responses and reactions here, here, and here. If you only have time to read one of those three, the first one would be my recommendation. It is good and right for there to be a reaction for though Miller has utterly no influence in my life nor the life of my church he does influence many, many people. When he wrote that article I could picture people nodding their heads in appreciation as he spoke what they think (and likely practice) themselves. What follows is a brief flurry of thoughts in relation to this revelation, primarily on why my eyebrows didn’t even slightly rise in surprise when reading his post.
The cult of occasionalality is rampant in the American Church. You have the faithful in any church but then there are all those who are in some vague way connected but only occasionally. To be blunt, they will miss church for the flimsiest of excuses. I laugh when I hear some say that they don’t see a need to come, they don’t really have a friend or two at the church, or they don’t have some way to serve so they are not needed. I can translate that more accurately to mean, “Church is about me. If I don’t get what I want then I won’t go. I want to serve in the way that pleases me, I have no real interest in serving the church in the way that betters it. Besides, it is snowy and I have the sniffles.”
Miller reveals his horrid theology on the church by a simple statement, “I was finally able to admit this recently when I attended a church service that had, perhaps, the most talented worship team I’ve ever heard. I loved the music. But I loved it more for the music than the worship. As far as connecting with God goes, I wasn’t feeling much of anything.” I will let pass the wrong understanding of the role of music in his mind. The core problem is that he is all about “connecting with God” and that is one of the key areas where he veers into folly and sin.
At the core of his purpose for attending a church is to somehow connect with God. How is this defined? Well in his statement it was all about feeling something. But this is not worship. Worship occurs when you hear truth, biblical truth, about God and His works and you embrace that. You give it an “amen.” You affirm it as true. You may not feel much but you worship. You worship when you then take that truth and apply it into the boring things of your life. This would be things like being faithful to your wife because God is a faithful God. Diligently laboring to provide for yourself and give to those who have need because in your wretched poverty of spirit God made you rich in Christ. Again, not a lot of feeling going on perhaps, but a whole lot of worship.
Miller, and unnamed but “influential Christian leaders” may not go to church but they do it in contradiction to the scripture. They are sinning, just like people in my own church who find it easy to forsake the gathering of the believers. Frankly, their souls are in grave danger and yet this is something that is just snickered at since it is obviously small-minded and old-fashioned. But this is what the church in America has been working at for decades. We no longer need to gather together in the name of Jesus to submit ourselves to the Word. We can just download our favorite speakers who will never confront us of sin and folly. We don’t need to confess sin to one another, we just claim Jesus as our Victor over sin and walk on. We don’t need to pray with one another or share in the Lord’s Supper, we have apps for praying and the Lord’s Supper is something we do by ourselves or at a Starbucks with a latte and biscotti.
All Miller has done is be honest. He doesn’t like church and neither do untold others who claim Jesus. They love the Head but the Body is something else. On one side I can appreciate him not liking attending a church. If they are like most I see, I wouldn’t want to go either. But on the other side, I am forced to wonder that if he finds the Body of Christ that boring, what does he really think of the Head?