We hear stories out of China detailing how Christians must get up before the sun in order to walk to the home church they meet in. Or in Korea, we observe people who – EVERY DAY – get up before their 12 hour factory shift in order to experience life with other members of the body. Or those in India who forsake their familial relationship or abandon their caste in order to follow Christ.
Tags: identity | leadership
For them, there is some so compelling about Jesus that they run through difficulty and trial in order to be present with Him.
Something. So. Compelling.
While they seemingly would run over a mile of hot coals just to know Jesus, I see a lot of us who look for reasons to take a weekend off from our life in Christ. (Not that church attendance is equivalent to our entire life in Christ, but for many people it provides a barometer of their spiritual temperature.) Out late the night before. Weather’s good at the beach. Literally, there are significant pockets of people who take the entire summer off from Body life because it is…summer. Better things to do.
Jesus is compelling. In fact, He is the blessing. No need for Jesus plus anything else. Just Jesus. So, why is it that the people we lead get tripped up by something like their surroundings while others find it a privilege to endure every major and minor discomfort and inconvenience to be part of the body?
This is a big question. And it involves the church culture that we have created at the norm for ourselves. It is the product of our corporation mindset of success. We leaders have adapted to the consumer culture we are immersed in by creating a consumer culture in our churches.
Growth strategies that are espoused have to do with professional looking music and lights, movie quality video segments, printing, theater seating, service times based on convenience, and messages promising to improve life quality. Not that these things are wrong things, but they are being used as the foundational attractional piece to what we do. So, it should come as no surprise that our churches are producing consumers, and consumers live in apathy.
One of my favorite Andy Stanley leadership lines is that “your system is perfectly designed to produce the results your getting”. Maybe, then, it is true that we have gotten what WE’VE produced.
Apathy is what you get from consumers. Apathy is what you get when a christian-looking life is the product you are trying to produce. The church is full of the programs that we’ve designed to give people measures of their spiritual success. Then, as leaders we can feel good about our results that we measure, and our consumers can feel good about how they’ve cleared their plates.
When everything is boiled away, what we’ve created is a system based on our self-effort. Jesus franchises selling better life principles. It is another attempt to be our own gods, the original sin of the garden rearing its head once again. Leaders are comfortable because it is not messy (hectic yes, messy no) and can be easily controlled and measured. Consumers are happy because they know just what to do in order to be successful. The change we’re concerned about it visible, and moving forward like a bull stock market is the definition of success.
Problem (well, one of them) is that consumers get bored with products. As evidence, just see every product in the grocery store that says “improved” on it. (My personal favorite is dog food that is labeled “improved taste”. Now, how am I going to verify that claim?)
Maybe it is time for the church to grow a backbone and break free of culture rather than mimicking it. Let’s reinvent ourselves and introduce our people to Jesus. Just Jesus. Unplug the light shows and clever videos and messages about how great my life can be and show them the one who promises to renew the soul. Because when He moves in, you may have seasons of questions, you may have dark nights of the soul, or wander in the desert, but you will not be apathetic.
It seems a disservice to placate people to heaven (or at least thinking they are heading there) rather then compelling them to choose. Hot or cold are the red letter words of Jesus. Then we can walk with them, pastor them, know them through their decision. Help them open to God so He can shape their behavior.
Exponential church growth may not happen. But do we really think the apathy we are met with is indicative of a life fully devoted to their new identity in Christ? It would be better to equip a few to live that new identity out, demonstrating love for one another, so the world will know why life in Christ is different, than to use our present growth strategies to have auditoriums filled with lukewarm people.
Soul growth is slow and laborious. Like tilling Midwestern soil. If Jesus is to be believed and weeds crowd out truth, then we have to be prepared for the back-breaking work of pulling the weeds; disconnecting from the things that distract our attention from the Living God. Developing openness and readiness for God.
Jesus is just that compelling.