People have always been drawn to Jesus more than they have to whatever form established Christian convention takes. Whether the “tax collectors and sinners” of the 1st century or the hippy “Jesus-people” of the 1960’s, Jesus has always been considered more desirable or attractive than the Church supposedly filled with his followers. Now pontificate all you want about this being a false dichotomy, there is an important lesson to learn.
Tim Keller in The Prodigal God explains:
Jesus’s [sic] teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can mean only one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did. If our churches aren’t appealing to [tax collectors and sinners], they must be more full of [pharisees and teachers of the law] than we’d like to think.