Do you spend a great deal of time talking about how great your church is? Do you talk about how many people attend or your rank as one of the fastest growing churches in the country? Do you talk about the great youth group, the awesome youth building and activities? Do you talk about the children’s ministry, the production, the activities? Do you talk about how nice it is that there’s a golf cart to pick you up in the parking lot? Do you talk about your awesome worship band and how much they sound like U2? Do you talk about how many people came to your Easter service? Do you stick yard signs in your yard and bumper stickers on your car to help market your church experience? When you tell people about your pastor is it about their humor, intellectual prowess, approachability or style?
Look, none of these things are inherently wrong, but do you talk about Jesus?
We don’t have a program shortage. We have a Jesus shortage. Maybe not a shortage, but a containment issue. We’ve held Jesus tight, packaged him well into powerpoint slides with slow rolling ocean waves at sunset and pastors that call everyone “friends”. We’ve done our best to contain the person and way of Jesus, packaging him into sterile and small palatable blurbs. And we’ve insulated ourselves from the world around us polarizing our culture into us and them. Why?
Do you talk about Jesus with people who don’t agree with you about him? One of the struggles that comes with the institutional church herd mentality (see early post here) is that it unintentionally isolates us from contradictory worldviews. And then, sadly, too many churches teach us to argue our theology against any opposing worldviews. Last I checked, proving another person wrong does very little to win them over. At least, that’s what I’m learning in marriage. Those lessons come the hard way.
I have many dear friends with whom I don’t share the same view of Jesus. Some are admitted atheist, others agnostic, others choose not to define themselves. Here’s what I hear most often, “I don’t have a problem with the person of Jesus, but I definitely don’t like most Christians.” And, I agree! Or as Ghandi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” (Note: Some Christians hate this Ghandi quote. Click here for an interestingly misguided example)
We Christians are missing it. We’re working hard to create attractive environments to preserve our paradigm. We “reach out” and try to draw others in. Draw others in only to assimilate to our subculture. Often, we just cannibalize other faith environments. People leave a small church with no programs for a big church with endless programs. People leave a big church where they feel insignificant for a small church where their contribution matters. We trade membership like our allegiance to fast food. We just keep looking in hopes of finding something we like. Sadly, the church’s response to this is not to take notice and ask, “Are we doing something wrong?” But to focus on preaching the importance of membership, of staying. To put together video clips of people telling the congregation how much being a member has meant to them. Churches will taut that membership is God’s way so despite you not finding Jesus in the church you’re supposed to stay, plug-in and give because that’s what God wants you to do.
Some will respond saying that church is not about me. And I completely agree! Church is not about me. It’s supposed to be about Jesus. Not abut programs. Not about liturgy. Not about ritual. Not about small groups, cell groups, life groups. Not about membership. Not about new buildings or big Easter services. It’s about Jesus!
Pay attention next time you talk about your church. Are you talking about Jesus?