Saturday, December 21, 2013

If Jesus had a Church in your Town, It Would be Smaller than Your Church

I just watched this excellent video from Francis Chan.

Remembering how I reviewed his book "Crazy Love" back in '09, I went back and reread that review.  It's here in case you were wondering.  I would consider it one of my more open and honest posts, not that any of them aren't honest, but we all guard ourselves a little.  In fact consider this a sequel.

Looking back at that post, wow, I have all those same questions now.  All of them.  I do feel that I've gotten an answer on one of them.  I am moving to Boulder Colorado to help start a new church.  Like Francis mentions in this video a few times, Bible Belt Christianity is sick and I am incredibly uncomfortable being here.  I know God loves these people too and I know there are strong believers here too, but I cannot handle it.  I've realized that worse than having to give up all my worldly possessions, I'd consider it the greater chore to have to live here for the rest of my life.  God could tell me in an audible voice "I am going to have you win the lottery and you will live in opulence and comfort for the rest of your life, but you have to do it in the Bible Belt," and I'd be like "I don't ... really want to do that."  I mean, I would, if God wanted me to do that, but I don't want to.  This is not my homeland.

If I had to compare it to something, I guess I would compare it to Laodicea in the book of Revelation.  There's a whole lot of "I believe in Jesus and vote Republican (or Democrat as the case may be)" but there doesn't seem to be much beyond that.  I see people whose life purpose has little to do with the work of the Kingdom.  The only difference between them and any normal person on the street is that they go to church on Sunday and I can't really see much difference otherwise.  They drive the same cars, live in the same houses, watch the same shows and movies, eat the same food, take the same vacations, and do the same thing everybody else does.  And there's so many people going to church that really, the members of the church actually is everybody else.

I come from a different environment.  I grew up in Oregon, polled at one point as the least churched state in the nation.  In high school, I was one of just a few in my circle of acquaintances who went to church and the only one of my group of friends for some time.  I describe it like this.  In Oregon, if you don't want to go to church, you just don't go, and Mr. Chan mentions that attitudes are similar in California.  It's not like that here in the South.  Church is much more of a cultural thing, but it's such a consumeristic thing.  There is such church hopping you wouldn't believe.  Our church staff was talking the other day, that you have to bring in hundreds of new people every year just to maintain a steady population.  They were talking about how Discovery Classes (new membership thing) are massively full and yet the church's population is not growing rapidly like you'd expect.

I remember one small church I went to for a couple years back in Oregon before I moved here.  It was quite a diverse church, and I don't just mean racially.  There were a whole lot of significant sinners, addicts, alcoholics, people who'd done prison time.  I feel like that's Jesus' sort of church.  It's a place where people know they are wretched, blind, poor, and naked.  (Revelation 3:17)  That looks to me like the sort of place where Jesus would hang out.  Most churches I've seen appear to be nursing homes for Christians stuck in that awkward and embarrassing parenthesis between baptism and death.

That's not where I want to be.  So I prayed "come get me."  And as far as I can tell, He has.  And I am very excited about moving, even though it will take a hit in our finances, it's a colder place, and I will leave some good friends.

Jesus said:  "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters-yes, and even his own life-he cannot be My disciple.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  "For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn't first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, after he has laid the foundation and cannot finish it, all the onlookers will begin to make fun of him,   saying, 'This man started to build and wasn't able to finish.'  "Or what king, going to war against another king, will not first sit down and decide if he is able with 10,000 to oppose the one who comes against him with 20,000?  If not, while the other is still far off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.  In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not say good-bye to all his possessions cannot be My disciple.  "Now, salt is good, but if salt should lose its taste, how will it be made salty?  It isn't fit for the soil or for the manure pile; they throw it out. Anyone who has ears to hear should listen!" 

I don't necessarily think that everyone will need to be martyred, or that everyone will have their families abandon them or that they must live in their car or any other specific thing.  But some will.  Some will be asked to die.  Some will be asked to give everything.  Some will lose their home.  Some will lose their family.  It may not be you.  It may be.  But what you are asked to do, you better do it.  And if you're not living in the tension, then I don't think you're in tune with the Holy Spirit.  I wish Mr. Chan would have mentioned one of the most important things Jesus said when he was busy running people off.  

"How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!  For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."  Those who heard this asked, "Then who can be saved?"  He replied, "What is impossible with men is possible with God."  Then Peter said, "Look, we have left what we had and followed You."  So He said to them, "I assure you: There is no one who has left a house, wife or brothers, parents or children because of the kingdom of God,  who will not receive many times more at this time, and eternal life in the age to come." There is a Midrash on the Song of Songs that uses the phrase to speak of God's willingness and ability beyond comparison, to accomplish the salvation of a sinner:  "The Holy One said, open for me a door as big as a needle's eye and I will open for you a door through which may enter tents and [camels?]."  God wants you.  Camel through a needle, God can do that, and he wants to.  And he wants some effort on your end.

I get harangued when I say things like this, but if you're the sort of person who gets mad at the church parking attendant when you're trying to leave early after pulling your kids out of Sunday school early so you can leave early and avoid traffic, I'd appreciate it if you would just not come back.  If you don't want to attend a church because service times changed, by all means, don't.  If you want to find another church because you don't like the music, please do.  If you don't feel like coming to church this morning, don't, and don't worry about it next week either.

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