Picture this: you’re finished stuffing all the kids in the car and somewhere in the process you and your spouse began an argument. As you drive to the church you both realize that this argument has to end, and your attitude has to get better so you can worship together. Worship means drop the kids off as quickly as possible, which will be challenging now because you are running late and will barely make it in time for the service if you went straight into it.
You arrive and check in the kids, and two of the four cry when you drop them off, so that rends your heart. But you stay focused because the benefits of your personal worship time (corporately, that is) will make it worth while. This is what will get you through the week. You enter and smile, as the greeter greets you. (It is, of course, an unwritten rule to smile when smiled at especially at church gatherings). You collect a bulletin, a pen, the notes for the sermon, and you and your spouse chit chat with sound bytes to people you see every week. You find a seat near the back since your late, even though the usher is trying in vain to fill the empty front rows.
The music is a song you don’t know, but the style and beat are probably great for unbelievers you think. The next song is the same. Finally they play a song you know, and you sing it out, but not too loudly because you don’t want to bother anyone else. You sit through a prayer, trying to also pray. You see the sermon is about to start, and this is the part where you get fed once a week. You eagerly expect something that will be encouraging. In 20 minutes or less. Remember, it can only take an hour total. 45 minutes for you since you came late today.
Oh geez, he went over 5 minutes. He shows no signs of stopping. He ‘s joking about going over now. He has accepted the fact that he’s going 10 minutes over and he shows no signs of stopping. Now we’re singing too. Okay, okay, this is good for us spiritually. Final prayer. Exit. Swim quickly through the crowd and pickup kids, keeping spouse from getting cornered by anyone so you don’t have to wait, right?
Did I or did I not sum up the typical weekly worship experience in the Western Christian’s lifestyle? Honestly? I know, you can poke a hole in some details, add or subtract a thing or two, but overall, is this not an accurate snapshot for the history books?
Now let me ask a deeper question: Does this describe your experience?
Deeper: Is this all of your Christian experience, or do you participate more than this with your church family? Ministry? Small group? Use your gifts of lawn mowing or interior painting, or attending elder meetings?
Deeper still: Are you satisfied?
If you said yes, yes, and yes, you’re probably not a believer or follower of Jesus as He called us to be. Sorry to be so blunt. I may touch someone here, and offend them, but that is not my intent. My intent is to raise awareness for your sake, actually, to help you. Like the doctor who squirts fluid from his needle and flick taps it with his finger, I’m saying, “This might hurt a little. Okay?”
Jesus did not call us only to a one hour weekly worship gathering. If your Christian experience is only that one hour a week experience, then can you say with a clear conscience following Jesus 52 hours a year is sufficiently following Him?
I think you would agree not. Then how can a person change that?
Here is where we are like The Matrix, and you are offered a red pill and a blue pill. One will allow you to remain as you are, promises no change, and promises comfort. Ignore the fact that it isn’t reality. You get to keep everything the same and you can have control of a comfortable religious life.
But the other pill is what people commonly refer to as missional. It is defined by uncertainty, yet absolute peace because of trust in God. It is defined by adventure, high risk taking as people dare to take gigantic, huge leaps of faith. It is defined by following the teachings of the homeless Jewish rabbi from Nazareth Jesus Christ, and following His example. This is the beginning of the life you are itching for but afraid to commit to.
How do you get involved?
First, understand Jesus’ story, and how your story interacts with His. God’s story, more specifically Jesus Christ’s story, has been going on long before any of us. God the Son expressed the love of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by this: “He made Himself nothing,” (Philippians 2:7, ESV). He became a human being, lived perfectly, taught truthfully, suffered terribly, died physically, suffered spiritually for all sin, rose to life as the Conqueror, and sits in Heaven, serving as intermediate between us and the Father until the cue to return.
What’s your story? The Bible says all have sinned, so that’s in there somewhere. The Bible also says all continue to fall short of the glory of God, and what He demands for us to have salvation for our sin. The Bible says you don’t have to try to gain God’s favor, because, well, you can’t. Ever. But Jesus did, and He wants to take you in and let His victory count for you, which God said is okay.
I’m not dumbing this down, just trying to speak plainly. It’s an easy “pill” to swallow, Neo. Trust that Jesus did all the work, and if you accept Him and start to follow Him then you can dump the pack on your back and He’ll carry it. The Bible says in Acts 16:31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
You then start to be transformed to look more like Him.
So then, all who follow Jesus are on the mission Jesus gave us. It’s just one mission. He said in Matthew 28, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Getting back to what you are used to, that weekly hour. In a missional church we still gather weekly. We don’t stress about it though. We focus on being together, and we go through what it means. We see if we are being transformed to be like Jesus. He said, “if anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
We talk in what we call Gospel Community, at a person’s home (with food, drink, and merry hearts) about what we need to die to and repent/turn away from/make new habits about and then pray for one another. We remember the Gospel. We go through an edible section of Jesus’ teachings, understanding them, then discussing how they play out in our various life stories. We hold each other accountable with love, earnestly trying to come up with ways to help each other be more like Jesus. People have noticed, and not because we’re bragging about what we do and don’t do, but because they see we are imperfect people being transformed. We also are in our community trying to transform it with the love of Jesus. We also go to different countries—this year Rwanda and India—and help share the transforming love of Jesus through the power of the Gospel story.
I can tell you a few things that are challenging. We can’t tell you how much money we’ll have for retirement (if that ever happens). We can’t even tell you how much money we’ll have in 2 years. We can tell you that we’ve been in that financial uncertainty for 6 months now, and given more money to missions and church planting than the last 10 years combined. Truly, as Jesus said, “it is more blessed to give than to receive,” and you get blessed. Our focus is not “how to succeed,” though we always strive for excellence. Our focus is always “how will that help the Kingdom of God that Jesus is building—the Church?”
I’ll pick this up in the next entry more, but think and pray about this. Keep in mind, I’m not anti-any gathering of people that claims to follow Jesus. I’m for them, even if they fit the description at the beginning of this entry. Even if they want to stay in The Matrix and retain comfort and control. I’m burdened for them, and that’s why I write.
Where are you now? What will you do? Consider what Jesus offers. I guarantee though He is challenging to follow, He will scratch your deepest itch and fill your greatest hunger. He said, “Whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never thirst.” He keeps His promises.