March 06, 2012

Church or Not Church?

I've had a thought bouncing around in my head for a couple of years now, but only recently has it coagulated into something coherent.

Consider yourself forewarned: I am presently standing on a soapbox.

I love the Bible. (Please don't hear self-righteousness or condemnation, just a simple statement of truth.) I eat it up. I have literally felt like I could eat the actual pages because they are so rich and meaty and delightful to my soul. One of the things I love about it is how alive it is. Verses that I've read dozens of times will suddenly leap off the page at me as if I've never read them.

A couple-ish years ago I read through the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) consecutively because God had put this hunger in me to know Jesus through the recounting of his life here on earth. I'd read these books lots of times but this time it was like I was getting to know him for the first time.

After that it was through most of the New Testament again. I love Acts. I love the recounting of history, I love the glimpse into their lives, I love their faith, I love to see how doctrine plays out in a tangible way. I've been to several of the places (Athens, Mars Hill, Thessaloniki, Berea) so when I read of their time there, I have vivid visual images playing through my mind. I can feel the heat and humidity. I can see the columns and the market places and the cobblestones. I can smell the salt water and see it splayed out as the backdrop of that strongtower in Thessaloniki. I can taste the lamb and the gyros (don't burst my bubble and tell me they didn't have gyros back then, just go with me here).

All that to say that God's Word is so alive to me (and to everyone actually). So, between reading about Jesus' life here and the radical lives of the early Christians, this is the thing that has coagulated in my brain, somewhere between my cerebrum and my larynx.

I'm afraid that we've become so busy doing church and having church that we've forgotten to be the church.

It seems as if the majority of our effort goes into making Sunday morning a flawless production so that people come back the next Sunday. And yeah, yeah we put the blurbs in there about following Jesus and making him a part of your life every day (as if Jesus is not the great I Am and all of creation was not created by his word, he just wants to be a part of our life), but what we often see and hear are warm fuzzinesses that tide us over until the next warm fuzzinesses.

Much of our money goes into a building that's mostly used for our Sunday morning hour (and make sure you don't go over that hour, people don't like that). Worship is just like such and such. Announcements are just as so and so (and don't have too many, people don't like that either). Everything is down to a current-best-church-growth-strategies science. I can't help but remember that time when Paul spoke so long (all night) that a young man fell asleep and fell out the window and died! And then Paul prayed for him and he came back to life!

If all we offer is an uplifting, hour-long experience Sunday after Sunday, are we leaving room for the Holy Spirit to raise dead people to life?

(That, by the way, is my pastor from Durango, CO. I feel over-the-galaxy privileged that I was able to know him and his wife. Read here for more of their incredible story.)

I'm afraid that so little of our "church" experience plays out in real life. What happened amongst believers in Acts was not just for "that time" (and if I hear that one more time, I'm gonna accidentally kick somebody in the cajones.) One of my most favorite things is to read stories of historical and present-day Christians who are changing the world by the power of the Holy Spirit because they actually believe what the New Testament says about believers, that we have this same power in us that raised Jesus from the dead!

We were not saved to be good, moral people. We were saved by God's mercy to bring glory to His Name, and to complete the good works that he prepared in advance for us to do.

I've been confronted everywhere I look lately with two main things: modern-day slavery and the overwhelming number of orphans in our world. I can't get away from them, which tells me to heed that and ask the Lord about it. Not too long ago I was feeding Asher at night (much of my reflection has happened during this time incidentally) and I was talking to the Lord about modern-day slavery in particular. And I was telling the Lord how I really do feel like Matt and I are doing the best that we can to be obedient to his word and will, and we are trying to do specifically what that means for our lives. And so quietly I heard the question in my heart, "Are you really?" And it wasn't condemnation I heard, it was, at the heart of it, simply this:

I limit what I know so that I'm accountable to act for less.

I hesitate to even write this post because you know what that means? I'm accountable for more to more. So I pray. And I ask the Lord to show us. And I learn that it's not big, once-in-a-lifetime events he's looking for. He's looking for daily obedience to love like he loves, and to serve him with his heart for people. And all of that comes from him, not me.


  1. YES!!! And amen.
    Ever thought about leading a team to partner with aim in Cambodia? Matt could totally use his health skills....

  2. Sarah, Thanks so much for sharing that! I just happened across this blog from Randylynn's Facebook... So awesome and profoundly true and simple! I love your perspective!