Estimated reading time: 6 minute(s)
Fridays in August will be featuring a selected chapter from the book I published on the topic of the Church, titled, There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church—I call it “The Church Book”. If you’d like to read the rest, click the book cover to the left to purchase your copy from Amazon.com! (And, thank you!) Or, see the footer of this post for how to obtain a FREE copy.
I have a few posts coming in the near future that will be similar in content to this chapter of There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church! I was hoping to post them before this, but I’ll stick with this pre-selected rotation.
This chapter, written eight years ago, follows nicely with yesterday’s post about living in the moments. Life can be messy, but that’s life. We usually miss the beauty when we try to clean it up first—or to pretend. Don’t miss this. Real life is so much better than anything we can pretend.
(Although, I am certainly one for a good game of make believe! I grew up with Mister Rogers!) 🙂
The World of Pretend
here is a new fad these days in the world of audio. MP3 players are all the rage, and specifically, the iPod has become iconic. Everyone has at least heard the term. In fact, a new form of “broadcasting” a radio program is to record it and post it to the internet as an MP3 that people can listen to on their MP3 players—like the iPod—so it is called a podcast. I am quite addicted to these. It’s radio, but on your schedule. The other day I was listening to one of these podcasts and a phrase caught my attention. The speaker was a former pastor who has stepped away from “the paid ministry” and is now feeling more free, and more helpful to people than ever before. He spoke of his new paradigm in life saying:
“It’s no longer practice… no longer pretend. It’s real!”
My head nodded emphatically in agreement.
For a while now I have noticed that the whole world of Christianity as I know it involves some level of “pretend”. It is, in a way, imaginary. We have so closely united our life with Jesus to all of the things we call “church”, that to leave behind any of the practices of Christianity is to leave behind some piece of Christ himself. From Sunday school to Sunday potlucks. From Wednesday night prayer meetings to Sunday morning worship. From singing in the choir to going on a short-term mission trip; even individual practices like praying before meals, or having morning quiet time. None of those things by themselves are bad in any way. When they become the heartbeat of our relationship with God, or even more, when they replace our relationship with him, then we have what I recently heard someone refer to as “Churchianity”—the religion of the church.
The church is not a bad thing. The church, as it was designed by God is us, the believers—his bride. Jesus loves the church. But the church as we define it can be any number of things, as I have mentioned before. Could be a building, or the state registered non-profit organization that owns and meets in those buildings. It could be the hour that folks meet together on Sunday mornings. (“Come on Mertle! We’re going to be late for church!”)
But having for so long made the structure for the masses our primary focus, we have created an entire world unto itself. The world of the church. The world of pretend. There are customs and behaviors indigenous to this place. The natives seem to know them, and occasionally, there are seminars to explain such customs. But often, they are simply learned through time. Newcomers slowly pick up the behaviors and make them their own. As with any culture, there is also a native tongue. Travelers can understand most of what is spoken, but many terms are unfamiliar. The banter seems quite familiar to the natives, however. There is an unspoken dress code, a sense that some things are not to be done at some times. Very much like any other group of people, we have created a culture unto itself.
I think that’s too bad. I think that is what the speaker I mentioned before was referring to. We create this world in which we can do and say and think all the “right” things, and live out a well-performed Christianity. Life was not meant to be lived in a bubble. “Hide it under a bushel — NO! I’m gonna let it shine!” In the world of pretend that’s supposed to mean that we wear Jesus T-shirts and always say “Praise the Lord!” and, “Hallelujah!” That’s not what it means! Jesus is saying you have the light. The Light of The World is in us! Why would we coop him up in this building, or at these meetings, or only gathered with other Lamps? Live life! Let the light shine before all men that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven!
I want to know my neighbors. I don’t want people to see in me someone who is a faithful attendee of Christian meetings. I want them to see a life filled with hope, and Light. A caring neighbor who listens, and is available, not running to the next planned gathering, or rehearsal for said gathering. I want to know the folks I see in the grocery store, and have some connection with them there at that moment, or from previous connectings. I want to be available as Jesus was available.
Some years ago, I really felt like all that mattered in my life was telling people about the reality of God. It is in our little slogan on our website, our business cards, all our basic gear… even our trailer. It says, “Real Life. Real God.” Nothing has been more important to me than sharing the truth that God is real and is part of every bit of our lives. And so I gave up my pursuits of a career in journalism, to follow a leading from God and give my entire life and doings to him. That has led me down some incredible paths. I can’t wait to see what is next! All of my life has been, and still is completely for him.
But perhaps my focus has been on the wrong thing. I have poured my life into doing things for him, working on staff with a couple different churches, planning all sorts of events to share this life God is sharing with me. Maybe I have just been feeding the world of pretend? Helping people to confine their Light to the refueling station of “the church”. Perhaps.
Can you tell I am sorting through some things at the moment? I don’t want you to go away from this post feeling at all negative or mad. If you are…. just forget everything I said. This is definitely something God and I are dealing with. If it sparks something in you, as the phrase at the top did in me, shoot me an e-mail.
Wherever you are in your journey with him, be there. Don’t get your light from other Lamps. Live in the Light of THE Light. Let him live in you, and teach you, and lead you. He is our source. Not the church. Not any pastor. Not any teacher. HE is the Light. HE wants a relationship with YOU. Really.