We Need You Ash Wednesday
We need you Ash Wednesday THIS year, we need you more than ever
The obvious deformation of the world we knew
Including church paradigms, political parties, communication patterns, workplace rhythms, and educational systems
Clearly the former ways are not returning
So help us scream, rage, curse, rant, rave, mourn, cry, and indulge nostalgia one last time
Help us do whatever it takes to detach from what was
Liberating us from nostalgic illusions
Freeing us to actively participate in what’s emerging
Transforming us toward proactive, invigorated, followers of Jesus
Engaging the world that is and shall be
Sprinkling salt and shining light
So, let’s go all in this Ash Wednesday
Grieving what was one last time
Laying down snap back illusions
Taking up the call to proactively participate with God’s reshaping of this world around us
Weary, trail worn
Too long in the wilderness
Peeling defenses which cope no longer
Naked before Presence
Surprisingly unashamed in love’s light
Deep, slow, strong breaths
No hurrying, no rushing
Enough, is more than enough
Being with the One
Blessed day’s work indeed
Passive-Aggressive Christmas Posturing
I glanced at the car next to me while leaving the Post Office, seeing this colorful magnet stuck to the back. A nice looking older lady stepped out and into the P.O. with her boxes and letters.
The juxtaposition of her appearance with the message proclaimed from the back of her car was striking. She looked so nice and kind, while the capitalized bold letters of her bumper magnet drip with hostility.
What is it people are communicating when they plaster magnets or stickers like this to their cars for the whole world to see? When we communicate, there’s the literal content of our message (We Say Merry Christmas), while the psychological message rides along. We can just hear someone nearly shouting the first two words, “WE SAY Merry Christmas!” Now, aren’t we in the Christmas mood after this cheery greeting? (Uh, no)
So why are Christian people plastering this statement on their cars, using the holiday to passive-aggressively act out their anger?
Reaction. This is no less than a reaction to the demise of Christendom; the loss of their religion’s cultural privilege. Here’s what I mean. Christian people in America age 40 and over grew up in a culture wherein Christianity was the favored child among religions in this country. No, the United States does not officially endorse any religion over another, yet those of a certain age understood that conversations about religion always actually meant Christianity in particular. This was the majority religion, enjoying many privileges and opportunities not necessarily available to others. That was the age of Christendom, when the Christian faith was interwoven with culture so closely there was little daylight between them.
Now, we are in a new era wherein Christianity is one among many religions in this USA. Persons who were used to being the majority, enjoying the privileges afforded their religion, are responding in various ways. Many Christians are managing themselves well, recognizing new opportunities to shine the light of Christ in our broken world. Others though haven’t really considered the effects of their reactions, purchasing car magnets like this one. Some of the messages I receive when seeing these bumper messages are:
- We are angry that other religions are receiving some of the attention we used to enjoy
- We are resentful because we have been dethroned as the golden child, having to move over and make room for others
- We are ready for to fight, trying to force our way back into the prime cultural position of the previous era
- We believe getting in your face with this bumper statement will help rewind time
So, what’s the effect? What does this do for the Christian Movement? Is this what Jesus had in mind for the Church when commissioning us to go and make disciples? How much does this reflect the Way of Jesus; his approach to loving people?
Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure these bumper magnets hurt the cause of Christ more than helping. I’m offended when I see it and I’m an insider. Imagining I’m an outsider, my perception of this car’s driver fits the images I see portrayed in the news….bitter, resentful, pouting Christians who are throwing a fit because they are losing their privilege. The beautiful and attractive love of God expressed through Jesus Christ which we celebrate at Christmas? I can’t see it since the anger volume is so loud.
So Christian people driving around with this bumper sticker or magnet, go outside and peel it off right quick. Don’t scare off those who may be curious about the Christ-child. Don’t confuse them about the Prince of Peace with anything but peace. They will know we are Christians by our love, not by our passive-aggressive posturing through bumper sticker statements.
The Moral Dilemmas Of Pastors
But what to say and how much to say and how directly (or not) to say it. That’s their moral struggle.
It’s obvious our culture is at war with itself right about now. Pick an issue, any issue, and you’ll find people groups who believe their perspectives surely must be right. Even more, many of them believe their perspectives are gospel, THE spiritually fitting way to understand said issue. This means that all other perspectives must be not only wrong or misguided, but are spiritually unfaithful, or perhaps even destructive. In this kind of atmosphere people see the way forward in terms of binary categories…winners and losers, faithful and unfaithful, spiritually correct and incorrect.
This is the culture in which pastors are preaching and teaching. Then along comes an incident, well two incidents, like happened this weekend. More mass shootings. How many times have we prayed for victims? Aren’t we tired of praying without doing? Yet pastors know that speaking a prophetic word related to these shootings, calling people to action, will offend someone(s) in their churches. Racism, gun control, sin, immigration, political policy….each of these is a live dynamic contributing to the particular shooting in El Paso. Pastors know they will offend more than one group in the church when they say nearly anything about this particular shooting.
To complicate things, a quick read through my social media platforms this morning makes it clear that plenty of social media influencers KNOW what pastors “should” say. They communicate, either directly or by inference, what every spiritually responsible pastor would preach after this incident.
I’m not so sure. Yes, I believe the brokenness of humanity is on full display in these mass shootings. Yes, I believe many dynamics contribute toward shaping a culture wherein this kind of tragedy repeatedly happens. Yes, I believe pastors need to address the issues of our day. And, I also know what it’s like to be employed by a church who can terminate one’s employment at the drop of a hat. Though some denominations include safeguards and safety nets, pastors know they will sow the seeds of their demise with just the wrong word or statement. Feeding their families, paying a mortgage, providing for their children….these are real life considerations factoring into sermons. There are people in churches who will quickly move toward terminating their pastor when he/she contradicts their perspectives on how the world does or should operate. This is the reality of pastoral leadership.
So, the moral dilemmas of pastors are less often about money, sex, or fame. More often, week in and week out, pastors live in the tension between their consciences, the still small guiding voice, and the political realities in their congregations. Is it better to soften one’s prophetic voice and remain in place to continue the growth process with this congregation? Is it better to go all in, letting the pieces shake out as they may? What’s God’s guidance here, based on who God is as revealed through Jesus Christ? When your words don’t influence your family’s financial security, it’s easy to have opinions on what others should do.
Here’s my hope for pastors in this crazy age of cultural division. I hope there will be times when pastors don’t speak about the hot issue of the day, instead pointing to the enduring foundations of our faith, comforting God’s people with the awareness that we are part of the ongoing story of God. I also hope there are more than one occasion when a pastor risks it all, knowing he or she could not sleep well without having called out injustice, even when it angers the powers that be in the church. Which to do when? That’s the challenge of preaching in 2019; the ongoing moral dilemmas of pastors.
Trump-Inspired Teaching Moments
“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” -Tweet, July 14, President Donald J. Trump
What do we do when the United States President spews racism during his weekend tirade? First we may need to give ourselves a moment. We grow so numb to his rhetoric after a while, with the firestorms of his frequent tirades burning up our emotional responses until we become numbed-out. But after we catch our breath, and after accepting the fact that this United States President is spreading racism again, then we are positioned to consider a response. What might this mean for those who are pursuing the Way of Jesus, for those caught up in the Christian Movement? How might we respond to the national conversation about racism this time? What might we do to advance the cause of Christ in this current milieu? Allow me to share three suggestions about teaching opportunities presented to us by Donald J. Trump.
First, let’s talk with our children. If you have wee ones at home or if yours are grown and launched….either way, it’s a great time to talk with our children. It will surprise some that very young children will be in touch with Trump’s comments, at least tangentially. They may hear their peers on the playground yelling and telling others to “go back where they came from.” Any child old enough to engage social media is well aware of Trump’s racist remarks. So, this is a great time to talk with them about your values. Please tell them this is not the way decent people behave. Please tell them we follow Jesus who exercised respect for all people, since all are created in the image of God. Please tell them Donald Trump is not a good role model. Encourage them not to grow up and be like Trump. Remind them there is a better way; that what they are learning at church is real and actionable and preferable. Remember too that young children won’t remember another president. Share with them that Trump is an aberration; that most presidents have not been overtly racist. Share with them that aspiring to be the president doesn’t mean they have to become like Trump. The presidency can still be a viable way to serve people while also being a basically decent human being.
Second, let’s talk with our peers, colleagues, and fellow disciples. When we scratch below the surface, most of us are aware of latent racist thinking buried in our brains. Talking with others who can engage the race subject with us can help us uncover our racism, bringing what’s dark into the light of Christ. What if a black president were to make the same statement as did Trump? How would that change our thinking and responding? This is a great opportunity to dialogue with others about racism in this USA, surfacing questions like this. Of course it takes mature people to do this well. Mature or not, it’s a discussion begging for attention this week. Don’t let this golden opportunity to exhume our latent racism pass us by. Regardless of who the president is, we can discover a better way through dialogue with those we know.
Third, do something different. Anger is not the only response available to us after hearing Trump’s racism (again). Why did God give us the emotion of anger? One useful purpose is to alert us to injustice. Our morality rises up, energized by anger, instructing us to do something. So today, let’s do something different; and more. Rather than simmering all day, let’s look for those who are racially different than ourselves. Let’s reach across the cultural boundaries, engaging one another. Though we have a racist president, we don’t have to follow his role modeling. We can live a better story. We can live as followers of Jesus who taught us that even Samaritans (symbolic of an unacceptable person) can be good. So let’s reach out and be the change we hope to see in this whacked out world.
That’s being a disciple. That’s living in the flow. That’s DiscipleFlow.
Through the grace, power, and love of Jesus Christ, may it become so. Amen.
Go And Do Likewise – A Good Samaritan Sermon
Go And Do Likewise
They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
Go and do likewise.
“Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
“It’s obvious Jesus – The one who showed him mercy.”
“Go….and do likewise.”
This has been a challenging week. Not because of my personal life, nor because of world events, but because of this scripture. I thought the story of the Good Samaritan, which is so well worn and familiar, was a good basic Christian story, designed to teach us basic things like, “Be kind” and “Help others” and “Don’t judge people.” And it does teach these things.
But as I’ve sat with it this week, I frankly find it very challenging. Sometimes the scriptures comfort the afflicted, so to speak. When we are hurting, or in crisis, or in need….we turn to the Bible finding so many passages which reach out to us, comforting us in our pain. And Jesus himself….Jesus was infinitely patient and tender with those who were downcast, or depressed, or broken by life in some way. Thanks be to God for God’s mercies.
But scriptures like this…perhaps they comfort the afflicted, maybe, but they clearly afflict the comfortable.
Challenge is here…a call to love more, to reflect the extravagant over the top love of Jesus Christ more fully.
We find calling and challenge here.
In fact, this story can make our perceptions about what it means to be a faithful person seem very small and somewhat off base.
Here’s what I mean. There are two primary points of challenge among others we are encountering this morning. Allow me to go ahead and share them up front so that you will know where we are headed.
Challenge number one – Our attitudes and understandings of who can give mercy and who deserves mercy are way too small. We limit who gives and receives mercy due to the smallness of our perspectives.
Challenge number two – Our calling in life is to go and do likewise….plain and simple.
They, and we, will know we are Christians by our love.
First the story itself:
This lawyer sets out to test Jesus. Today he would be more like a religious leader than an attorney, so that’s what we will call him this morning. His intention, as a religious leader who’s part of the religious establishment of the day, is not to sincerely learn how to be a spiritually invigorated person….his purpose is to test Jesus.
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” This was the ancient way of asking, “What’s the key to life? Or how does one live a really good life; one where we are in harmony with God and God’s creation?”
And Jesus replies as a good rabbi in that day would, asking this religious leader what he reads in the law. The religious leader replies, as we expect, with the Shema from the Old Testament: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus responds affirmatively, “Yes, you know the law, do this and you will live.”
Jesus is ready to turn away, conversation over.
But the religious leader is panicking. He’s not been able to start a theological argument and he’s left with a commission to love other people….this has been a totally unsatisfying conversation to the religious leader so far.
…”But wanting to justify himself, he asks, “And who is my neighbor?’”
In other words, “Would you define that more clearly for me Jesus? Would you describe the circumference around this kind of love, would you circumscribe it for me so that I can determine when I’m done loving? Let’s have a theological debate here because I’m so much more comfortable with that than actually loving people.”
Clearly this religious leader didn’t know Jesus very well. This was the kind of question that often throws gas on the fire. We can almost hear the disciples in the background snickering and whispering to one another, “Watch this. He’s really stepped in it now!” This is the time when Jesus often launched into one of those stories that takes everything they thought they knew about God and God’s ways and turned it all upside down. This is one of those times when Jesus takes the religiosity of the day and blows it out of the water.
And this matches our experience of God doesn’t it? When we think we have God all figured out, when we believe we know the parameters of God’s activity with us, when we think we are approaching the time when we have it all together and when we have this Christian life thing down….that’s when God breaks into our lives and shakes them up.
Now Jesus tells this story wherein he invites this religious leader to visualize the most unholy, unacceptable, unlikely person the religious leader could imagine – and then made him the hero of the story, the shining example of what it looks like to live out the Shema. It’s hard for us to really understand how radical this was in its first telling.
In that day and time, within Judaism there was an ongoing discussion about who were their neighbors. They developed lists for who their neighbors were. A fellow Jew-check, a full proselyte-check, the enemy of my enemy-maybe. These qualified as neighbors, but few others did. In fact the Pharisees also explicitly ruled out the tax collectors and sinners from the circle of neighbors. The Samaritan would not receive a check. The Samaritan was person non grata. So Jesus makes the Samaritan the hero of the story.
As I mentioned, it’s very difficult for us to appreciate how Jesus was rocking the religious establishment with this story. So, let’s try this experiment.
Were Jesus telling us this story…who would the Good Samaritan, the hero, be to our ears? Who is the kind of person we would never expect to show the greatest kind of mercy and love there is? No, I’m serious. Who would it be for us?
Let me give us some examples to try on:
Would it be someone of a different race, a different color skin than you or I? Or perhaps it would someone who’s not from here and is from OFF – a Yankee or a Redneck or a fill in the blank. Or, would it be the White supremacist who spews hate at rallies? Maybe Jesus would make him the Good Samaritan now.
Or maybe Jesus would tell this story through a socioeconomic lens. The hero might be that person who’s stuck in poverty due to the systemic oppressive forces in our society but also through the squandering of every dime she receives. Maybe this person, who we think is a victim of her own bad choices turns out to be the hero. Or, perhaps it’s the reverse, it’s the over-the-top wealthy person who has more money than a small nation and whom we believe doesn’t care at all about the people around her, but then who surprises us and is the Good Samaritan.
Or maybe Jesus would tell this story through a political lens. You may have noticed that we live in a slightly polarized political environment (just maybe you noticed that somehow). So choose someone from the other side. In your mind choose the one who is the epitome of the OTHER political point of view…whoever that is. And then imagine, this is who Jesus makes the Good Samaritan. Perhaps we think there is not a good or caring bone in that person’s body at all, and low and behold, Jesus makes him/her the Good Samaritan, the hero of this story.
Or, (one more, stay with me), perhaps Jesus would tell this story through a religious lens, like he originally did. Choose whoever you think is way off base when it comes to faith. Who do we think gets it wrong, doesn’t understand God, and certainly doesn’t represent God? Now, imagine this person’s name inserted into the story where Jesus used the Samaritan.
So, Jesus told a story, wherein the hero is THE MOST unlikely hero we could imagine. Now we are getting close to understanding the consternation and perhaps even the anger of this religious leader.
Challenge number one – Our attitudes and understandings of who can give mercy and who deserves mercy are way too small. Mercy often comes from the unlikeliest of people and places. And, just in case we are not aware, we ARE the unlikely ones in the eyes of plenty out there. Because of their prejudices they believe we are very unlikely people to extend mercy and reflect God’s love.
We hardly even mentioned our attitudes about those who we believe don’t deserve mercy. That’s an entire other sermon so all I’m saying about that this morning is this:
This Samaritan, who turned out to be good, did not do a background check on the man laying in the ditch before helping him. He wasted no time at all trying to determine if the man was deserving or whether he would use his restored health in a responsible way. The man was in the ditch, hurting, and that was reason enough to be merciful. This is what it means to love neighbor.
Jesus cut through all the self-serving, self-justifying, works oriented righteousness of this religious leader….and of ourselves…and reminds us all that no one justifies themselves. That’s God’s good work called salvation. That’s God’s mercy for us accomplished through Jesus Christ our Lord. So we can drop our efforts to self-justify, we can drop our expectations about who can be God’s heroes, and instead live in faith and love. That’s challenge number one.
But after all that, even after all that, Jesus is not done. Jesus presses on relentlessly. “So you want live in ways that are congruent with what God is doing in this world? Then go and do likewise. Go and show mercy. Go and love like Jesus loves.” Challenge number two right here.
This, sisters and brothers, is our spiritual heritage.
We swim in that current. We are living in the flow of this faith movement, the Christian movement, which is designed to be an expression of God’s mercy. Go and do likewise.
And before we see the gap between our living and Christ’s call as too far, allow me to remind you that you/we ARE doing likewise.
When you teach our children that making fun of the different ones on the playground, or on the bus, and on social media is not our way, right then and there, we are doing likewise.
When you linger after the workout at the gym and listen to her tell the story of her husband’s cancer and the stress and strain in their family, and you give her some space to unload her heavy burdens, right then and there, you ARE doing likewise.
When you step in for another disciple in this church and carry the load of keeping things running around here while he’s caught up in a work crisis, right then and there, you are doing likewise.
When you got out of bed on that Saturday morning and carpooled into the city and joined the protest, marching for those who have no voice, standing up for those who have so little earthly power to change their circumstances, right then and there, you were doing likewise.
When you respond to your attacker on social media with grace and mercy rather than returning contempt for contempt, right then and there, you are doing likewise.
When you stay after worship and pack food for children, right then and there, you are doing likewise.
The one who showed mercy. Go and do likewise in all these ways. This is how we know, this is how we know we swim in that stream, when we are doing likewise. This is how the world will know we are in the lineage of Jesus our Lord, when we are doing likewise. “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love, by our love, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
And the doing is not done.
The loving is not yet complete.
So many in this world are in the ditch, sometimes we are there too. So no more judging who’s acceptable to love or not. Instead, Go and do likewise
Through the grace, power, and love of Jesus Christ our Lord, may it become so! Amen.
We are always trying to prove it. We are like children who can’t resist rising to the challenge of that familiar taunt, “Prove it if you can!” When those words were yelled in our direction, we knew the gauntlet was laid down. “Prove it!” Hardly any kid could resist rising to that challenge.
And it turns out that we adults aren’t so different. When we observe our motivations, we realize we are mostly just kids in adult bodies. Sure we are more sophisticated and nuanced, yet when we look really close, we recognize that childlike desire to prove ourselves lingers. Even more than rising to the challenge to prove another wrong, we are actively working to prove all kinds of things to ourselves. Peel away the surface layers which appear ordinary, and we find our extraordinary efforts to prove something to ourselves and others. Where does this show up?
In the woman who experienced extreme food scarcity during her formative years who now has a house always jam-packed with food. Pantry, inside freezer, outside freezer, shelves in the garage….more food than can be consumed before the expiration dates. This is comfort food in the purest sense of the word; it’s presence proving to her that her food needs are and shall be met.
In the pastor who carefully watches the attendance and financial reports each Monday morning, with some small part of his brain interpreting them as a reflection on his pastoral competence. When he’s honest, the numbers are even more than that…a reflection of his worth. When the numbers are high, he recognizes the emotional high is not as meaningful or good as it seems, yet he just can’t resist interpreting this data to mean he’s not only a fine minister, but a fine person.
In the man who shares his story while his new therapist constructs a genogram (family tree with emotional dynamics included). As the story unfolds, he recognizes a pattern of cutting off relational connections prematurely. He realizes he’s working so hard to avoid being ever hurt like THAT again that he literally strikes first, cutting others off before they can cross his vulnerability line. He’s proving to himself that he can keep himself safe, not matter what.
In the woman who can’t put it down. She’s successful now, the hardest working person in the company. In fact, now she runs the company. Yet she doesn’t stop, even on vacation. It’s like her success has not caught up with her. The imaginary person over her shoulder keeps whispering, “you’ll never make it, you’ll never be successful,” driving her day in and day out to prove that voice wrong.
In everyone who’s posting anything at all on social media. It’s not hard to read between the lines, recognizing we are all unconsciously working to elicit something for ourselves. It’s like every post screams loud and clear what we are proving. “See this post proves I’m successful, or affluent, or connected, or happy, or whatever.” Certainly we are clever enough to disguise the psychological need behind the obvious surface pictures and quotes and memes. Yet, the subtle invitation is to help us prove to ourselves whatever it is we are trying to prove.
It turns out, we are not much different than kids rising to the taunt, “Prove it.” And sometimes, we need to do just that. We need to overstock the pantry until we accept the fact that we can provide the food we need to take care of ourselves. We need to find helpful ways to prove we are competent in our vocations. We need to find ways to get the affirmation in life we need to feel like a healthy, acceptable human being.
And there is a place on the other side of proving. When we prove it enough, whatever our “it” is, then we move to acceptance. In the land of self-acceptance we no longer find ourselves hooked by the taunt. In the land of acceptance, we don’t need to prove it anymore, since we know it. We know we are enough. We know we are acceptable. We finally have proven it to ourselves. Then we are not so driven by the need to prove it. Sure, we may still be people with high drive, focused on accomplishing what’s ours to do. But proving it to others and to ourselves….that no longer motivates, because the proving’s been done.
Through the grace, power, and unconditionally accepting of God, may it become so. That’s being alive in the adventure of Jesus. That’s DiscipleFlow.
Power Of The AND-Word
I disagree with you, AND
I love you, AND
We are in ongoing relationship, AND
This is what it means to live in community. We disagree on issues, ideas, decisions AND we continue onward together. We accept each other, we care for each other as people, we respect our common humanity, AND we disagree on some very important issues. The AND-word is a powerful connector, encouraging our better selves to rise to the surface.
Sadly, the AND-word has fallen out of favor with many. We have believed the lies of those who cultivate division; those telling us we cannot be in ongoing relationship with those who disagree with us. So many voices urge us to break relationship with those who don’t vote like we do, profess their faith exactly like we do, or don’t look like we do.
But we don’t have to fall for that….stuff. We don’t have to swallow the belief that those who disagree with us on issues, theology, or even personal preference are not simply different…but evil. Certainly there is evil in this world and some issues directly interact with evil. Yet most issues which we allow to break relationships are not in this category. They are different ideas about how this world should work.
So, don’t give away your power based on lies or because of the counsel of those who would use you for their selfish purposes. Instead, claim the power of AND.
I disagree with you, AND I love you, AND we are in ongoing relationship, AND we disagree.
When we live this statement, becoming these kinds of people, then we help tilt this world toward the better. Surely, it’s not easy, requiring a power beyond ourselves to do this. This is where the power of our faith in Jesus Christ shows itself. When we cast ourselves on God’s strength, God supplies what we need.
This is DiscipleFlow. When we are caught up in the wild, adventurous Way of Jesus, then we disagree AND love.
Through the grace, love, and power of Jesus Christ our Lord, may it become so.
“Arguably, one of the most potentially destructive things that can happen to a faith is for it to become the accepted and established religion of the political, cultural, and social unit in which its adherents live. -Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence, 2008
“These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also,” -Description/Criticism of Christian disciples in Thessalonica, recorded in Acts 17:6
“On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.” -Psalms 138:3
Read the Bible lately? The story is one of twists and turns, nomadic movements, and heroic deeds. All this happens even before Jesus, a central character, shows up. Then Jesus goes about turning his world upside down. As we read along in the gospels, we can see far before the story’s end how it will turn out. We almost cringe along the way, thinking, “Jesus, did you have to say it that way?” Or, “Jesus, did you have to go there?” Couldn’t he have used a bit more political savvy or emotional intelligence? Just a bit more? No, Jesus does not fit our categories, or expectations, or wishes. Instead he’s edgy and untamed. Reading the Bible is fascinating, exciting, and disturbing.
And then we look at church. Several years ago I read books like Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s New Monasticism and Mark Scandretti’s Soul Graffiti. These books (and others like them) are encouraging and discouraging. Apparently many sincere younger Christians are forming monastic-like communities in cities… right there in the midst of urban culture. Their motivation…they (some of them) don’t believe their churches can sustain them as Jesus followers in our current world. Wow. Most of us know other Christians who simply have opted out, seeing the church as just another organization trying to survive. When we get down to it, most of us entertain these thoughts from time to time.
What to do? Or first, what might we need to let go of, in order to embrace a more authentic faith?
Over time, most movements become acculturated and systematized. The great danger therein is mistaking the organization for the essence of the faith. Buildings, bodies, and budgets are the traditional ways to measure church success. These may be important, but they don’t draw humankind into the Jesus story. I remember growing up as a Southern Baptist Missionary’s kid in a state which was not much Southern nor Baptist. As our family started new churches, I was aware that we were counter-cultural in our setting. Being that brand of Christian in that context was a major decision; costing us something in community esteem (though actually minor inconveniences). Now, as the American church moves more toward society’s periphery, more of us are having to confront our motivation for church life.
So then, what do we embrace? Good question. The answers will call us to be more than we have been and done before. It’s likely to shake up our world. And, we are going to need help. We are going to need each other, and a Savior. It’s not what we embrace, but it’s who we embrace….an untamed God. May God increase our strength of soul!