Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)
The church is sick. This topic emerged as my mom and I dialogued over coffee. “Church should help people know Jesus better, but most of the time it seems to just get in the way,” I commented. My mom agreed, as many Christians would, very strongly.
How can an institution built on the command to “go and make disciples” actually interfere with the development of intimate relationships with Jesus? Because the Church tends to give the impression that discipleship is simply involvement in Christian activities.
I used to moonlight as a delivery driver for a local pizza restaurant. After I was hired, I began to learn how to make pizzas so I could help out in the kitchen between deliveries. As I learned to slap dough, layer toppings and box the pizza, I noticed signs posted demonstrating how to make every menu item offered in our restaurant. I looked on as my coworkers assembled pizzas with practiced accuracy at impressive speeds. They were doing it by the book without glancing at the charts. It was obvious they had worked through this process hundreds of times and could make a large pepperoni with double cheese blindfolded.
Being the creative bachelor cook who finds ways to make ramen noodles work with whatever’s in the fridge, I began to wonder, “What about the artistry? Where’s the pride in making a particularly good, unique pizza?” These guys don’t care about making a great pizza—they care about keeping their jobs, meaning they care about following the rules, acceptable and precise.
I don’t have a definitive answer as to why the Church is sick, but one answer might be written on the charts above the pizza line at work. Far too many church-goers care more about maintaining respectable lives than developing spiritually, meaning the Christian experience is reduced to following the rules, acceptable and precise. We conspicuously post every step in the “Making A Quality Church Person” process—show up at the right meetings, wear the right clothes, say the right things, and “Presto!”—you’re an instant respectable Christian.
I can work the line at the restaurant, follow the rules with little real concern for pizza-making and still end up with a pretty good pizza. However, if I “work the line” at church, I may end up with something looking like a sufficient Christian life, but missing any real spiritual fruit. My prayers will be rote; my worship, ritual; my Bible reading, dull responsibility; and my relationship with Jesus, merely rational. Spiritual fruit cannot be produced without the Spirit, and the Spirit is not acquired through diligent activity. The remedy for the Church’s sickness may not require abandoning my Christian endeavors, but it absolutely will require embracing the Savior with a more radical zeal than mere rule keeping.
Lord, please remind me to keep my relationship with You fresh. Keep my from making my faith a routine.