While our world aches to know God, many of our church leaders nitpick minutia.

Only a small percentage of Americans claim a deep and transforming faith—a genuine relationship with God. The rest are missing out on the transformative friendship that Jesus offers.

That relationship, that friendship, is not complicated. Jesus came to this earth with a simple message of love and faith. So simple, in fact, that he pointed to the faith of a child as an example for us to emulate. And he recruited simple people, such as fishermen, to spread his message.

Those who resisted his simple relational approach were the religious leaders, the Pharisees—the learned ones who loved to nitpick theological minutia. But Jesus knew then—and now—that it’s not doctrinal hair-splitting that keeps people from a close relationship with God. In fact, these zealots of doctrinal purity may be having a detrimental effect on welcoming more wanderers into the kingdom of God.

We see a recent example of the purity patrol playing out in the blogs today. Many are fuming over Minnesota pastor John Piper’s decision to invite California pastor Rick Warren to speak at Piper’s conference. The religious leaders and bloggers are sniping over disagreements on such things as “penal substitution,” “total depravity,” “limited atonement,” “separatism,” and “secondary separatism.”

The Pharisees would love this stuff.

Meantime, the world aches just to know Jesus and his simple love for them.

I’m afraid that many pastors, church leaders, and Christian laypeople spend way too much time posturing and preening with one another. It’s time to give the theological contortions a rest. It’s time to get out—get out and spend time with real people. Zacchaeus-like people. Regular people who angst for a God who loves them, simply loves them, and invites them to follow the simple example of living and loving that Jesus demonstrated.