(Part Two of at least three or four……)
If, as stated here yesterday, true vision fosters or leads to or results in right conduct, then we need to evaluate the vision. We need to be certain the vision is true. I believe the vision in our churches, the vision presented by our elders and preachers, needs to be tweaked. Or, in some cases, probably overhauled.
It seems that the vision a lot of churches create for Christians is one of looking inward to the here and now, all but ignoring the future there and then. A concentration on the Bible as a pattern or blueprint for how things are to be done instead of as a collection of inspired pictures to communicate to us what happens when one encounters the living God keeps us focused on the rules. And those rules are more and more about what we do in our Sunday assemblies and less about what we do with the other six days of the week. Ironically, the Bible has much to say about daily living in the world and very little to say about organized corporate worship. The whole of Scripture supports those priorities. But , instead, we seem to care more about what happens during our one hour of worship time on Sunday mornings than we care about how we act at work, at the park, or in line at the bank.
We’ve allowed the Sunday morning assembly to define our Christianity. We judge faithfulness based on how many assemblies one attends each year. The phrase “She’s a faithful member…” means she’s there every time the doors are open. Nothing more, nothing less. We rate churches on the “doctrinally sound” scale based on what and how they do that Sunday morning time.
When we see the Church as Sunday morning only and we see our lives as Christians centered on being there those Sunday mornings, Church and the Christian life becomes just another compartment in our world. Just as what I do in church has nothing to do with whether I make a sale at work or not, what I do at the office has nothing to do anymore with my walk with Christ. It’s all separate. Neither necessarily informs the other. And neither is necessarily more important than the other. People at work don’t care whether I go to church or not, just as long as I perform my job effectively. And, increasingly, people at church don’t really care anymore about what I do at work or play, as long as I’m there and worshiping correctly on Sunday mornings. It’s completely secularized.
Church and Christianity seem to be just another part of our world when it truly is a completely different world altogether that informs how we live in this world. And until we can learn to see our world in the reality of the cross, see how the love of God and the sacrifice of Christ and the promises we have in that salvation act impact all of reality, our character won’t change and neither will our actions.
There needs to be a mindset developed in the Church that everything we do and say and think is directly controlled by our God. Our actions are determined beforehand by what God has done for us, is doing for us currently, and has promised to do for us tomorrow. It all has to be connected. There cannot be a thought that what one does at work has very little to do with one’s claim to be a follower of Christ. It has everything to do with it!
But where do we start? What do we do? How do we tweak or overhaul the vision?
I think one way to overhaul the vision is to take so much of the focus off of heaven. Heaven isn’t the goal…that’s just where I end up because I have claimed God’s Salvation (Yeshua). Heaven is the prize, and the goal is very different from the prize. Yes, we should still rejoice in our salvation, but what good does that salvation do for a poor person or a suffering person who doesn’t know God? Nothing. The goal, then, is Tikkun Olam – “repairing of the world”. The world is broken, sinful, and corrupt, and it’s our mission to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to every last corner of it. We bring the Kingdom by following God’s will now and in everything we do.
We as people, yes even Christian people have a big desire to make everything good, better, OK in our eyes and in God’s eyes. Sometimes it even seems like the longer we are in the Church and the more we talk to those who have been in the church a long time, the better our answers to the hard questions of being a Christian become. I have even found some conversations go like this. “Dude, I got it. I have it all figured out. Everything is right with the world. God is good!” To your point, we can usually see our way to figuring all this out in two or three hrs a week, when we hang with our Church Friends. How easy it is to see what we want to see.
Now, go hang out in the homes of those Brothers and Sisters who have just been baptized or those Christians who are surviving some dreadful disease, trying times, or a loss. It is not hard, just try it. Put some time in to ministering, or just talking to these people. Really, you only have to spend an hour or two a week. Most of us could do it in our small groups if we thought about it.
Don’t forget your bible and be sure that you have read it in the recent past. Your vision will change focus quick. You might even see things in a different way. Your old pat answers of “if you do good, God will bless you” soon go away when you have to face down the questions that come with why cancer, or why divorce, or even the questions of a new face who was told that they can find peace with Jesus. You will be surprised how much of what you use to sell people, all of the sudden just doesn’t seem like it rings true. You might even see your way to answering some of those nagging questions that keep coming up in your own mind. Truly being in Gods word, truly living your life in His word might just change your point of view. It is eye opening and life changing when you see the Love, Grace and Mercy of Christ answer all the questions.
But you got to try it first, not just talk about it.
Your last three posts have really made me think. A lot. (After I read the posts, I read the article from Jay Guin… and then I read several more posts from the One in Jesus site… and then I read Patrick Mead’s blog… I guess I’ve read and thought a lot lately!)
I have been convicted of what I believe is the first step… and I am working to take it in my own life, so I say this out of the humility that I feel in knowing that I am nowhere near perfect in this area either. I think the first step is to talk about Jesus like we actually KNOW Him and not like we just know ABOUT Him. When I am walking closely with the Lord, I just can’t help but talk about Him and to Him. It’s like a major “crush” – everything I see and everyone I talk to just makes me think about Him, and I just bring Him up… kind of by accident at times. When He is on the front of my mind, I am more in-tune with what He’s doing in me… and what He WANTS to do in me! I just talk to Him on my way to work (perhaps out loud…) like I would talk to my husband or a close friend, telling Him the worries and stresses of my day… telling Him the sunrise is particularly spectacular this morning… saying thanks for the good things that are going on.
Too often, I am very timid about speaking openly about my relationship with Jesus, especially at church. In fact, I tend to be bolder about it at work than I am at church! I am working to be what I believe we all should be – Jesus-lovers that can’t help but talk about His wonderfulness. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” I’m no Greek scholar, so I’m not sure how “salt” was used exactly or whatever… but I believe that the Lord is calling me to make my conversations seasoned with Him! When I can’t stop talking about Him, the gospel of His grace will just come pouring out all over the people I talk to.
I believe this is just step 1 (well, technically step 2. Step 1: Fall in love with Jesus.) in the process… but I believe this head-over-heels, Jesus-is-all-I-can-talk-about attitude will absolutely change our individual vision, thus necessitating a change in our collective vision… which will revolutionize the way we live it out as well.
I’m working on it.
It is hard because it’s edge work and edge work is messy and most people don’t like it. I love your point about spending time with people who are hurting yet let’s include all of our friends regardless of their beliefs.
I can make it even easier to go – leave the Bible at home and just be there. If they want to talk, we talk. If they want to sit, we sit. If they want to pray, we pray. If they want to yell and cuss, we let them (depending on how well I know them, I might join in).
The point is we are there with them.