I’ve been thinking about church quite a bit lately… wondering why we do the things that we do. Is it because that’s the way we were taught? Or because it’s what we prefer? Or because that’s the way the Bible lays it out?
I’m pretty sure that the early church didn’t have committees, by-laws or a 7-prong approach to reaching the community. Who decided that a church service should last about an hour? I sit in the movie theater longer than that. I haven’t found evidence of youth groups in the Bible or worship teams. Instead, I find stories about Jesus building relationships and believers giving all that they have in order to take care of one another. I read story after story about people so eager to learn about God that they crowd Jesus – and they stay through lunch!
Who are we doing all of this for? Who is our audience? Why do we put Holy Spirit in a box and tell Him that He gets one hour on Sunday morning?
I understand the ‘Great Commission’ – the command to share the Gospel to the ends of the Earth. But sharing the Gospel and filling the pews aren’t necesarily the same thing. I read an interesting bit in “Crazy Love” last week:
In the United States, numbers impress us. We gauge the success of
event by how many people attend or come forward. We measure
churches by how many members they boast.
We are wowed by big crowds.
Jesus questioned the authenticity of this kind of record keeping.
According to the account in Luke chapter 8, when a crowd started
following Him, Jesus began speaking in parables – “so that” those
who weren’t genuinely listening wouldn’t get it.
When crowds gather today, speakers are extraconscious of communicating
in a way that is accessible to everyone. Speakers don’t use Jesus’ tactic
to eliminate people who are not sincere seekers.
Wow. It reminds me that God will attract followers – He will call them to Him. It’s not my job to fill the pews just to have high attendance.
There are some more nuggets that I have been mulling over (again, from “Crazy Love”):
[in reference to the parable of the sower]
I think most American churchgoers are the soil that chokes the seed
because of all the thorns. Thorns are anything that distracts us from
God. When we want God and a bunch of other stuff, then that means
we have thorns in our soil. A relationship with God simply cannot grow
when money, sins, activities, favorite sports teams, addictions, or
commitments are piled on top of it.
Most of us have too much in our lives. As David Goetz writes, “Too much
of the good life ends up being toxic, deforming us spiritually.” A lot of
things are good by themselves, but all of it together keeps us from
living healthy, fruitful lives for God.
I will say it again: Do not assume you are good soil.
Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live?
Do you see evidence of God’s kingdom in your life? Or are you choking it
out slowly by spending too much time, energy, money, and thoughts
on the things of this world?
I quickly found out that the American church is a difficult place
to fit in if you want to live out New Testament Christianity. The goals
of American Christianity are often a nice marriage, children who don’t
swear, and good church attendance. Taking the words of Christ literally
and seriously is rarely considered. That’s for the “radicals” who are
“unbalanced” and who go “overboard.” Most of us want a balanced life
that we can control, that is safe, and that does not involve suffering.
Again, wow. That really makes me think… makes me examine my life. If I’m really honest I have to admit that I come up lukewarm. That last line gets me. I want to control my life. I want to be safe – to keep my loved ones safe. I don’t want to be uncomfortable – let alone suffer. But at what cost? To be lukewarm and spewed out of His mouth? How many of us can look back at a hard time in our life and say, “That really sucked. It hurt. But I can see how much God grew me during that time or I can see how God provided for me or someone accepted Christ because of what happened.” I’ll bet that most of us can say something like that. Shouldn’t our prayers be that God would continue to mold us – no matter the cost, no matter the suffering? Shouldn’t we be eager to let go of the control?
That’s just some of what’s on my heart these days. Thoughts?