“MAKE A DIFFERENCE … ATTEND CHURCH REGULARLY”
One of the churches in my city has this saying posted on a sign in front of their building. Why do we think this way? Does God teach this? I mean, if we were back in the days when Jesus was walking around Jerusalem, do you think He would have put up a sign saying, “MAKE A DIFFERENCE … ATTEND SYNAGOGUE REGULARLY”? Why do we have this tendency to pack everything in a box and label it “The Way,” the tendency to measure by our own rules, the tendency to put our denominational opinions (sometimes known as doctrine) before the truth?
[MY IDEA OF A SIGN]
I’ve said in the past that I think those signs in front of churches provide more entertainment than they do enlightenment. Some of the signs are just so pathetically cheesy: “PUSH—Pray Until Something Happens.” Other times it makes me angry to see us display sayings that only a believer could translate, like, “ARE YOU WASHED IN THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB?” What does that mean to someone who has no clue that we sometimes refer to Jesus as the Lamb of God and has no idea what blood has to do with being clean?
Just once I’d like to see some brave soul sabotage their church’s sign and put up something like this: “GOT HEAVY STUFF ON YOUR MIND? YOU’RE WELCOME HERE. THOSE WHO CUSS ARE WELCOME HERE. OH YEAH, SEX ADDICTS WELCOME TOO.” I’m thinking that Sunday morning service would be one for the record books … The regulars would either leave because they’re deeply offended or stick around to see what happens if some curious and wounded souls come in. (Maybe some of them would even stay to minister and love anyone who came through the doors … Now that would cause a shift in the normal Sunday circus!) The visitors would come in either full of cynicism or ready to step over the edge to hope just a little that “good” people will actually accept them as they are.
[WE’VE GOT IT BACKWARDS]
In the bookProphets and Lovers, Brennan Manning writes, “It is symptomatic in the Western world … the mass of people still pass Christianity by. Why? Because the visible presence of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit in Christians as a whole, apart from a few individuals, is no longer present.”
They can see the lack of Jesus. Why can’t we? Why do we settle? Why are we expecting people who are lost to come to us? God says in the Bible that the believers should gather together to “stir one another up towards love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together …” I’m sorry, but did I miss something? I don’t see where Jesus commands us to bring the lost into our assembly by having a catchy marquee. As a matter of fact, He actually told the disciples to go and make disciples. He sent them out in twos to preach the Gospel. When exactly did we begin thinking that the only acceptable way is to have “bring a friend to church” Sundays? Why do we require people who don’t know God—and may not even be at a point where they want to know Him—to come to us on our terms?
We’ve got it all backwards.
We hide within church culture and think that is being “godly.” What God really says is for us to be in the world but not of its system. But instead we translate that as faithful church attendance, listening to Christian music, reading Christian novels, looking at Christian web sites and attending Christian conferences, and it never crosses our minds that all we are doing is gorging ourselves with the truth and forgetting or condemning people who do not know who the real Jesus is. At times the church reminds me of a situation in the movie The Shawshank Redemption. We get so used to being behind our walls that we don’t want to get out when we have freedom being offered to us.
Keith Green said it well in his song “Asleep in the Light”: Do you see? Do you see? All the people sinking down. Don’t you care? Don’t you care? Are you gonna let them drown? How can you be so numb not to care if they come? You close your eyes and pretend the job’s done. ‘Oh bless me Lord, bless me Lord.’ You know, it’s all I ever hear. No one aches, no one hurts, no one even sheds one tear. But He cries, He weeps, He bleeds, and He cares for your needs, and you just lay back and keep soaking it in. Can’t you see it’s such sin?! … The world is sleeping in the dark, but the church just can’t fight ’cause it’s asleep in the light. How can you be so dead when you’ve been so well fed?
[MAKE A DIFFERENCE … LIVE IN FREEDOM.]
“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore stand firm then and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery … you have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:1, 4). Paul said it to the church back then, and he is saying it to us now. We have fallen from grace because somewhere along the way we were taught that we had to do certain things to please God, that we had to withdraw from people who don’t believe the same as we do and that some sins are more acceptable than others.
It’s time to grow up now, to face our failures and sin as the body of Christ and step into the presence of the God who didn’t die simply “to make nicer people with better morals, but to make a community of prophets and lovers who step into the all consuming fire who is the Living God” (Manning). If we believe in the love and forgiveness and power of the God we proclaim, then let’s come to Him, humbled, and find ourselves in His love again so that we can pray with genuine fire once again, “Let your kingdom come; let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And He will come.
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