Ok, I don’t mean to sound critical and judgmental. I know that IS how I sound but, honestly, that’s not my intention. I want to challenge us, especially myself, to view this church thing in a new way. (Or maybe a really old way.)
See, I’m not saying every church has to do things the same way. I’m all for different styles of worship as long as they bring you closer to Jesus. If sitting in church together with the body of Christ, singing hymns really brings you closer to Jesus then by all means, SING HYMNS, please. If hearing a well-prepared sermon draws you closer to the Father, then listen the heck outta that sermon. I don’t care what you do as long as it is bringing you and the church body closer to Jesus.
What I’m really on about is that church should be a place where we, as the body of Christ, draw closer to the Father and to one another. Ah, you say, that’s what Life Groups are for. Ok, maybe. But let me paint a scenario for you.
In the world there are cooks and there are chefs. Cooks have varying levels of cooking ability from “can boil water” to “winner of the Betty Crocker bake-off 3 years running”. Chefs also have varying degrees of ability from “can run a greasy spoon diner” to “runs multiple Michelin rated restaurants in New York City, London and L.A.” The main difference between cooks and chefs, though, is cooks do it at home and for fun, chefs are interested in cooking food as a business on a professional level and they are serious about it.
Let’s say you’ve become a pretty good cook. You decide you actually want to be a chef and decide to go to culinary school. Your first few classes are GREAT. Challenging but you knew it would hard going into it. Then one day your head instructor makes an announcement. The school has decided to go in a new direction. They really want to attract new students and keep them coming back. They realize that the difficulty level of the classes has caused some students to drop out and they want as many people to come to their school as possible. The main classes will now be geared towards recruiting and keeping new students. There will be a snack bar, D.J., and a short, easy lesson that everyone is comfortable with. If you still desire to learn the hard stuff you will now be required to take an extra class where you and a few other students will talk about what you read in the text book this week. There will be snacks at that class too.
Wouldn’t you be angry? Why did you pay to take these awful, uneducational classes to begin with? Beats me. If it was me, I’d be looking for a new school.
Now, I know this is an overly simplified example but you get the point. And I’m sorry but I’m not done giving examples.
Musicians. Musicians only get really good by playing with other musicians. And do you know what happens when musicians of varying skill get together to “jam”? The more experienced ones don’t stop playing so that the noobs can catch up. They keep playing and the less skilled musicians either have to give up or get better.
Elementary School. A teacher of a classroom of 30 kids doesn’t let the kids who just aren’t getting it hold up the rest of the class. Instead, they help those poor kids find a tutor so they can catch up. They stay after school with them to answer questions. They think about the education of all of the students.
The point I’m trying to make is that you cannot get better at anything without being challenged. Nothing grows without effort. It shouldn’t be too easy. It should be hard.
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Back to culinary school. If the school is interested in recruiting new students they should hold seminars or offer smaller introductory classes on a different night, not change the whole direction of the school. Keep challenging the students who want to be there and pick a different time and place to entice the new students.
If people are coming to church to get a taste of what being a Christian is like, why in the world are we dumbing it down for them? They’re not getting a taste of what being a Christian is like if we do that! They’re getting an advertising campaign.
“Bonnie, what you’re talking about is just not practical.” I got news for you people, Jesus just isn’t practical.
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
What kind of leader is homeless?! Only the coolest guy ever, that’s who! But certainly not practical.
“Bonnie, I pastor a church of over 500 people, it would be impossible to do some of the things you’re talking about.” Wait, you mean to tell me that there are over 500 people going to your church and you are the ONLY one who is gifted in pastoring? That is insane. And highly unlikely. You’ve got 500 people, I bet you have at least 4 other pastors in there somewhere. Ask Jesus who they are and put them in charge of 100 people.
“Our facilities are not built for that kind of ministry.” Ok, fine. You have over 500 people? Pick 50 people from your congregation and give them each 1 Sunday a year to preach a sermon. Meet with them ahead of time to go over their notes. That’s only 10% of your congregation, yo.
“But people come to church to hear me preach.” Oh, they do? Well, you better start charging then because that makes you a motivational speaker, bro, not a pastor. A pastor is a shepherd, guiding people into a closer walk with Jesus. We should ALL be pastoring each other all the time! If it was primarily your job to teach or preach you would be the Senior Teacher or the Lead Preacher, not the Head Pastor.
I’m rabbit trailing. Sorry. I do that.
HERE IS MY MAIN POINT: I want to be challenged and I want to draw closer to Jesus with my brothers and sisters in Christ and I think the church as a whole should want the same thing. I know I’m not the only person who feels this way! But sadly, those of us who feel this way have been told that if we want to do that we need to form a small group and meet at a different time and place than the church we attend.
But I don’t think that’s the way most pastors want it. I’ve met a lot of pastors who would love to do the things I’m talking about here. My pastor is an amazing guy and you can see his passion for Jesus clearly. I love all the people I go to church with and really I’m not ragging on my church. I go to a great church. The people there love Jesus and each other. They’re probably the most loving people I’ve ever had the privilege to be around. So I’ll be honest, most of this is directed at my inner televangelist. That’s right, I have an inner televangelist.
If you think this is all about me criticizing pastors, you’re only partially right. Because that is the way it looks, I guess. But when I started writing my first political rap the other day I was writing it because I was angry at myself for thinking with my glittery thinking cap. I was at a prayer meeting and all I wanted to do was worship Jesus and pray but my inner Tammy Faye was nagging at me to try to get my youth group all fired up and emotional. I was sitting there thinking about how I just wanted to go to the secret place with Jesus and feel the love of God but I kept looking over at my youth group and wondering what I was supposed to be doing to make them love Jesus more. GAH! What the flip is wrong with me?! Hahaha.
I DON’T WANT TO THINK LIKE THAT ANYMORE! It’s too much work. It’s exhausting to have to plot and scheme and plan and organize and rehearse. I’m so tired, tired, tired of it.
If people don’t want to follow Jesus, I don’t want to chase them down anymore. Jesus certainly didn’t go chasing after people.
Then he and his disciples went to another village. As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Jesus was all, “Follow me or step off, yo. You can’t step to this.” So why are we all, “Come to my church, we have donuts!”?
So that’s really it, I guess. I just want to draw closer to Jesus and quit playing games. I wanna get my hands around the neck of my inner televangelist and wring the life outta her. I WANT TO BE DONE WITH GLITTERY PARADES AND PAGEANTRY. I want to be done trying to make Jesus relevant and cool. He’s the Creator and King of the Universe, how much cooler can I really make Him? I mean, honestly.
My ranting is just a challenge to myself and anyone else out there who is reading this. The challenge is to make getting closer to Jesus the main priority in my life, not trying to make Jesus the main priority of everyone else’s lives.
And, yes, I am criticizing the way we do church in America a little bit. I think I’ve made it clear that I’m not down with the overly complicated performances, light extravaganzas and rockin’ sound systems. What in the world do we need all that for anyway? If the point of Christianity is to be more like Jesus then WHY DO WE NEED ANY OF THAT CRAP?!! The answer is we don’t. We only need that stuff if we want to keep people coming back for more and if they aren’t coming for Jesus then who needs ’em, anyway? I mean seriously! Do we love Jesus or do we love that we are good at making people love Jesus? I’ve been both.
And I’m still ranting because I’m so frustrated! You probably stopped reading a while ago and that’s ok. I think this is more for me at this point than it is for you. But that’s ok too.
If you’re still reading, ask yourself this: why do I go to church? Is it a desire to draw closer to Jesus and be more like Him? Am I coming because it makes me feel like a good person? Do I go because I want to raise my kids in church? Am I going because I like the way the worship team sounds or the way the pastor preaches? Am I going because I have friends there? If your #1 reason for going to church isn’t Jesus then you’d better go read Matthew 7:21-27 again. Not everyone who comes to Jesus and says, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven. Some of them Jesus will look right at and say, “I don’t know you.” And I’m terrified that will be me. I want Jesus to know me. I want to be done playing church games, beloved. I want Jesus.
I’m sorry for sounding so critical. I’m sure I’ve offended someone. I’m sorry for that. It was not my intention. But the truth can be offensive sometimes and I feel like this is truth. It is truth that the point of being a Christian is to love Jesus and to draw close to Him and the Father and the Holy Spirit. It is truth that if we are pursuing anything other than that we are missing it entirely. It is truth that we WILL evangelize if we are drawing close to Jesus because it will naturally pour out of us. And it is truth that our priorities should be Jesus first, evangelize second. And it is truth that we can’t grow without challenge and we can’t grow without each other.
I love Jesus and I love His bride, of which I am a part. I am hurting inside because I have not made loving Jesus my #1 priority and I am hurting inside because there are many in the body of Christ who have not either. Why are we here? What are we doing this for? Let it be to love Jesus more. Please, from the depths of my soul, let it be that. Amen.