How can something be both exhilarating and saddening at the same time?
Watching a herd of horses run free over the range raises this paradox with me. Let me explain. The horse was created to run. When it runs, unencumbered and free, it is clear that God intended that animal to run. While its wild, it eats, sleeps, and poops…is that all it was created to do? God created that animal to be able to do so much more. A mustang has never backed from a cue, slid to a stop spraying dirt everywhere, turned a steer, or worked a cow. Only in its partnership, in its community, can a wild horse ever understand the fullness of what it was created to be. Running free is part of its nature, but only alongside humans, can the horse ever understand fully what is was created to do.
I struggle with writing about this stuff because my wound is still so fresh. In short, I am still struggling with some things that the Church has done to me. Im really no different from you…the Church is made up of hurting people who ultimately hurt people. Your wounds are just like mine (and if you haven’t been hurt, you will someday be). I was lied about, hurt, and taken advantage of by people who claimed to be serving as well. I was betrayed in many meetings by people who were supposed to be leading the Church. I watch as the Church does all the things that I asked them to consider over the last years accomplish all of these things in a matter of months after letting me go. I say all this (trying to be as vague as possible) to let you know that the Church has hurt me.
I also want you to know that as a member of the Church, I hurt people. I wasn’t as compassionate and caring as I needed to be. I wasn’t as clear a picture of Jesus as I need to be for my students. I wasn’t as willing a servant as Jesus called me to be and I liked more about working at a Church than being the Church. I hurt people, with words and actions, by the dozens and hundreds. Their wounds at my hands (and vicariously the Church’s hands) are no less excusable than my wounds. The Church is a screwed up entity sometimes.
No wonder many people say they are too busy, full of hypocrites, and tired to go to Church. No wonder they say the Church is too money hungry, irrelevant, or trying to guilt trip them. We are not a great looking Bride for Jesus sometimes.
But the Church needs you. It needs me. It needs us.
A few years back a pretty successful book was released with the title, They Like Jesus but Not the Church. The premise of the book is pretty simple: everyone wants more Jesus and less Church. I wonder how their Church experience is…
I believe our love/hate relationship with the Church has more to do with our expectations of the Church and less to do with the Activity of the Church. Too often we come to Church expecting to be feed, be entertained, be whatever. A consumer mentality…what can I get from the church? I understand the Church is not a building, but the people. But on Sunday morning when you show up to worship, what are you expecting? Lights, action, candy? When we walk into Church with the consumer mentality…WE WILL ALWAYS BE DISAPPOINTED! The Church will ultimately disappoint if we walk into every week with expectations of this or that. So we need a different attitude to enter with.
What if instead our Spirit was filled with expectation, training, and passion for the week ahead. Too many times I showed up to Church wanting it to do something for me, but what if my purpose of going to church was to pour into, serve, and challenge everyone else in the pews with the love of God?
Remember those old hotwheel sets? The ones that had the two spinning wheels that shot the hotwheels cars through the track. Just as it would loose steam and return to its starting position, the wheels would shoot it back through the track. Remember how you used to get your cousins to lay in front of it and shoot them in the forehead…yeah me neither. What if church was like that? A place where, just as you are loosing steam from the week, you show up, ready to pour into someone, give them some teaching or encouragement, only to send them out again with more fire, passion, drive, and excitement. What if every church member showed up to give to others on Sunday morning? As a sunday school teacher, offering passer, doughnut guard…how would your church look different if the consumer mentality ceased and an attitude of depositor reavealed itself?
As Andy Stanley points out in his book Deep and Wide, the Church has become less a movement and more of a stagnant. Jesus, post resurrection, in his final words in the book of Matthew, tells his disciples to:
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28.19-20)
The first group of people were movers…goers…sentees. Jesus makes it pretty clear that his followers were to be on the move. They were to go out and teach, preach, do and be. The church is a community of believers sent out to love people, teach people, serve people. It will only become a community like this when we decide that we are going to invest in it, not take from it.
When we aren’t connected to a church we lose steam and we don’t get to be all that God created us to be. God created us to live in community. Just as the horse can’t be all that he can be to accomplish a task that he didn’t even know he had…we cant be all that we were created to be to be sent out to a lost and dying world if we aren’t part of the community! We were made to live out our faith before the world, and the only way to successfully and continually do that is to be sent out repeatedly from a community of believers…the Church!