A wise man once said to me that as a pastor I would make my people happy 100% of the time: 50% of them would be happy with my arrival and 50% of them would be happy with my departure. Those words have proven accurate in every place except for where I am now. We Christians seem to be a very fickle bunch with fickle preferences. We get tossed about all the time by the latest trends or the newest teachings. So much of what we believe depends, not on the Word but, on the part of the world we are raised and the culture of that place. It is scary to discover just how many of our beliefs are not biblical but instead traditions based on culture, albeit Christian culture.
In our fickleness we need to ask ourselves the question, are we influencing our society or is society influencing us. We the Church and we as individuals, are suppose to be the salt in this world, adding God's flavour wherever we are. I say suppose to because I find that we are not much of an influence on our society at all but rather it is influencing the Church. Whatever changes are taking place in our society today we will find in the Church within a few years. It is sad but true as we continue to strive to make the Church relevant for today. We don't realize that in trying to keep her relevant we are destroy her. Instead of understanding how God has designed her, we, in our limited understanding, are patterning her after models we find in the world. We are following business practices and building mega churches and consider this success. Meanwhile our western countries continue slipping further into darkness.
We have not heard the words of Jesus' as he pointed out the reaction his religious society to differences between him and John the Baptist:
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners." ' But wisdom is proved right by her actions." (Matthew 11:18-19)
Our Father does not give us what we want unless it also happens to be what we need. He gives us all "good gifts" is how the Word is phrased. We don't learn from this example and continue to try to build the Church on "wants" instead of purpose. Today's trend is 'this' and tomorrow's trend is 'that'. We tend to cater to our own wants and leave the world out in the cold. We are into big time entertainment, like we do in our Youth Groups. We want to entertain people into the Kingdom. We are still trying to bring people 'in' instead of going 'out' as we were instructed to do.
My conviction is that we are spending far too much time in 'training' Christians and not enough time in 'doing' the mission. We have tons of seminars to bring people in. We have great teachings every Sunday. We have tons of books and studies to fill up people's time. But is any of this actually producing anything other than overfed Christians who want to change things to attract people in instead of going out into their world? We need to leave the programs behind us and get back to relationships. We need to enter the lives of people and stay there with them. We need to show that Jesus is the Lord of fisherman and farmers, factory and construction workers, prostitutes and druggies, prisoners and tax evaders. The rich need salvation as well but most of them are not interested in the real Jesus because they don't 'need' him. Yet the Church spends a great deal of effort trying to attract the more "respectable" people of society. We should consider who Jesus spent most of his time with, who he hung out with and why he was known as "the friend of sinners". What a great title to bear.
The Church is not meant to be a place of entertainment because it is our place of training. It is here we worship and are renewed in relationship with our Father. It is here that we receive instruction and are trained in the correct handling of the Word. It is here that we surrender again and again to the Spirit because over time our 'self' creeps back in. We need daily and weekly surrender. But the real mission work takes place when we step outside of the Church, and it is based on relationship, just as Jesus taught us. It is true that Jesus taught a bit in the Temple and in a few synagogues but 99% of his time was in the work place, on mountainsides and in people's homes. He entered their lives, their workplace. He did not bring them into the synagogue or the Temple, he went to them.
We need to throw off this idea of going with the latest fades and trends. We need to stop shaping our lives according to our society and the popular way in the Church. We need to let go of our western concept of success. The only direction we follow is that which is given by the Spirit. We need to stop building our own kingdoms and get on with the work of God's Kingdom. Let's stop worrying about the size of our churches. One small church made up of ten Spirit-filled obedient Christians will be more effective than 10 ten thousand membership churches filled with entertained Christians. We have been called to 'do' the Word, to love the unlovable, to sacrifice for the lost, to befriend the friendless, to open our home and our hearts to the sinners of this world, to get dirty in their world so the door would open into ours. Enough of the entertainment; let's get to work.