going through the motions.
This is the 6th post of a series. If you need some context, here are the previous posts in order by date:
Too often, Christian churches today are not what they were originally intended to be.
Too often, they are social meccas, driven by self-preservation and focused on service.
Too often, Christian churches today are more like clubs, whose leadership is firmly claimed by the kids who contributed the most materials to build the tree house.
Too often, sermons are inspirational messages, motivational speeches or dry academic lectures.
Too often, the sermons delivered in Christian churches today are so vanilla they could easily be delivered in a Mormon Temple or Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall without changing a single word and without offending a single person.
Too often, pastors are motivated to keep the peace along with their job security.
Too often, churches today are too soft.
Too soft on sin.
Too soft on Christ.
Too soft on their members. Including me.
Have you been a member of a church like I’ve described? ARE you a member of a church like the one I’ve described?
12 years I’ve attended my church.
Why have I not noticed any of this before?
Because I thought it was normal.
Consider this analogy. In a way, churches are like families. And when our family culture is all we know, we think our family is normal. Until we’re exposed to another family culture. It may be through a book, a movie, TV show, or a visit to someone else’s house. And as we notice the differences, we realize. What we thought was normal?
If we live in a vacuum, never questioning the way things are, operating on assumption and never challenging those assumptions, we can spend years going along with the way things are.
We can fall into a deep complacency.
The real danger is when we slip into autopilot and start going through the motions.
Because after a while, complacency becomes normal.
But sometimes, by stepping outside of our comfort zone, by stepping outside of what we have come to view as normal, we come face to face with problems we never saw before. We realize we’ve been oblivious.
On autopilot. Satisfied. Comfortable. Complacent. Going through the motions.
In my case, 12 years.
My relationship with God has grown stronger over those 12 years, especially since 2007, when I entered into a deeper level of intimacy with Christ than I’ve ever experienced before. But my church hasn’t played much of a part in my spiritual growth.
How did I become aware of that? If you’ve been reading this series, you’ve already seen a little bit of how God revealed it to me.
Now? I can’t un-see what I’ve seen. I can’t un-know what God has revealed to me.
I can’t go through the motions anymore.
I can’t settle. I want more from my church.
Let’s go back to the family analogy.
If the other members of your family recognize the problems too and have a desire to change, the family stands an excellent chance of healing and growing.
But if the other members of your family don’t see a problem or any need to change, the family will stay dysfunctional.
They will continue to go through the motions.
It’s the difference between living “a good Christian life” and experiencing abundant life in Christ.
I’ve discovered there’s MORE than “a good Christian life.” And while I personally know some people at my church who also experience abundant life in Christ, there are too many people who have no idea what I’m talking about. There are too many people who are completely unaware that it’s possible to experience abundant life in Christ. There are too many people who are settling for that “good Christian life.” Too many people who don’t know that in addition to salvation by grace, through faith in Christ the “more” I’m talking about is also the strength to make it through a day, the ability to serve in His name because He equips us for that service and for the freedom to forgive themselves when they fail to “be good” – because He first forgave them.
The question is, knowing all that, what do I do? Do I stay and strive to be a witness to that “more” in spite of the seeming preference to continue with the comfortableness and safeness of the status quo? Do I stay and strive to be a witness to how abundant life in Christ is transforming me? In spite of a barrage of rationalizations and excuses? In spite of attempts to belittle me or dismiss me?
Or do I abandon my church and the people I’ve come to care about and find a place where I’m more challenged. and more uncomfortable with my sin?
Because the thing is, God never promised me “comfortable.”
Do I stick around? Can God use me here? I know He doesn’t need me, but can He use me? I know it won’t be easy. God didn’t promise me “easy” either.
Thankfully, God finally got through to me on this one: I’m not responsible for the outcome.
“The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24
Do I know what He will do?
I don’t get to know the mind of God as some sort of precursor to obedience. What whatever He does, He will do it. Not me.
Thankfully, I know what I need to do. I need to be faithful in the small things. Even though some people won’t like it. Even though some people find me annoying.
“Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” Galatians 4:16
I know it would be more convenient if I kept my mouth shut. More comfortable.
It’s okay. God is equipping me for this task.
I found myself watching this:
This post is the sixth in a multi-part series, written mostly in early autumn 2012, published now for the first time.