Have you forgotten why we gather today in our sanctuaries, auditoriums, strip malls, college campuses, in homes, or satellite campuses? Sometimes I wonder if we’ve gotten in the habit of gathering to meet with friends, or have an hour with your spouse kid-free, or have a place to dress up, or dress down, because maybe it gets you up and out of bed, or it’s a place to grab some free coffee, or get to sing in a place that doesn’t require you to have skill, or think about the Bible in a way that’s focused and intellectual, or a place to pray quietly about that thing that’s been hindering you, or maybe it’s a place to have some quiet for the first time all weekend. Or maybe, to be blunt, we go because we feel it’s our obligation as a Christian. Is it because your church balks at the ‘norm’ and does things differently? Is it because it is the family you never had? Is it because you can escape your problems and just be for an hour or two? Is it because it’s a simple and predictable time when you live in chaos?
Think long and hard: What do you love about it and what do you wish were different? Is it your best use of time or could it be better spent? Do you love church? Why do you love church and if you don’t, then why are you going?
I have sat in far too many churches that have tried to woo me with their music, atmosphere, expository teaching, activity based community groups, men and women’s luncheons, open forums, and promises that it is not like the others. Most people my age are not in church and have no plans to return. To be honest, I was a little worn out myself in college, struggling to find an answer as to why I should go when I was involved in Bible studies on campus and serving my community through campus ministries. But all those ministries would say, “we aren’t the church, you need to be in the church” and so when I went, and I sat alone and the pastor spent weeks preaching on raising children, I was confused why God commanded that I be there. How the heck did this fit my context? And why was the church so adamant about young adults needing to be fostered in the church, yet when one was there, no one had the guts or will to step out of their Sunday service routine to let me know they were ‘glad’ I was there.
Routine. How many of us go to church because it is a part of the routine?
We are dying off in the west, it cannot be ignored anymore, nor can it afford to be attractional. Don’t be mistaken, God is building His church but He is also trimming away the fluff and yet we are scrambling to keep our multi-site locations and budget for conference decorations, and figuring out ways to make people want to come to us. Stop it. Our culture will never return to the thought that it is bettered when they engage in Christianity, or any faith for that matter. The church has and always will be “painfully uncool” as so poetically described by Switchfoot. Stop trying to make church a glamorous part of your life. Your community sees straight through you. You can no better love your neighbor than your neighbor can just because you’re reminded to do so once a week. The world does not need our church services. It needs God. We need God.
Church, do you recognize your need for God? Do you realize we gather every week to fall on our faces in desperation for His grace and guidance as we struggle to live as Christ exemplified for us? Does your soul crave to take the Lord’s supper to be reminded together how utterly helpless we are without His spirit and power in our lives? Are we going to church to worship Him in our conversations, in our greetings, in our songs, over our meals, and in our acts of service? Are you sacrificing your will to His each time we meet? Are we gathering together has a haven from a week full of sharing the Gospel and humbling ourselves to whatever the Lord impresses upon us to do in our work settings, family situations, and chance encounters throughout the week? Do we scramble to come together so that we can be painfully uncool and worship unashamed to the One our soul is desperate for?
If not, do you love Him enough to be real with Him one-on-one instead of hiding from him at a church service, sitting between your two pals or by your spouse? Do you come to church in the hopes of having a nice relationship with God in the comfort of your routine and the assumption that He will not ask anything too radical of you? If so, you are damaging our beautiful community, a community that needs to be a beacon of brokenness, redemption, and reconciliation of both God and his people. Can we stop being a social club and start waving our freak flag a little higher? Can we cut back on programming and step out to be one that explains who God is to our coworkers and friends and stop leaning on our church services to do that? Really. Let’s worship together because we NEED Him and each other as we struggle through life. And if you are a part of a church that tells you that God desires that you not struggle, or that He will make you healthy and wealthy, stop going there. That is a false Gospel and Christ never taught that.
I’m sorry that I’m flustered and frustrated. Two of my friends who are not Christians have expressed an interest in understanding the teachings of Christ and attending an evangelical church. So we went together for the first time. In short, This morning was a total abomination. My new friends leaned over and whispered,”So it’s kind of like a social hang out?” and then later, “How come no one is singing?”, and the worst, “When will the pastor start talking about God?”
I could have shed tears I was so frustrated. We slipped out early so we could have a little debrief after, most of which I spent explaining what we had just sat through was not God’s design for his church. You guys, there ARE young people who are conflicted, struggling, questioning, and curious about faith, but they don’t know anyone or any church who is open enough to reach out and walk with them through it. It is a human thing to not wish to be stereotyped or to crave authenticity. So let’s stop imitating the world and start worshipping the Lord whole heartedly in our gatherings and in our actions throughout the week; anything less makes God look cheap. And yet, he is worthy of all our affections and our worship.
O come, let us adore Him!
Ps: I love you. I really do. I promise I’m not throwing the towel in.