I’m writing about the difficulty of being the church. If you read earlier this week, you’ll note that some of the difficulties that we have in being the church involve wanting to sample life, wanting to apply our own meaning to the world, and being afraid to be known.
But if you can get beyond these difficulties, the church has many great things to consume. They are in fact often the first things that people see and want. But if we’re only doing it for selfish reasons, they’ll wear out really quick too.
If you aren’t resistant to being the church, here’s why you might be over it.
- 1. Maybe the fun’s worn out. When you first get connected—I think we look like a really fun group (and I believe we are!). We’re always getting together, throwing parties, inviting people out, having fun meetings. All of the fun we had when we started though becomes a little old. The public meetings drag. Our cell meetings are redundant. It gets stale after a while—especially in busy seasons it seems, and it seems like it’s too hard to really connect. It feels socially exhausting to meet new people all the time, to try and spread the Gospel. We’ve been rejected enough times to be tempted to just through in the towel.
- 2. It’s hard to maintain intimacy. Our friends keep having the same problems and the same expectations. They don’t listen to you anyway. So why bother?
Our close friends seem distant. It’s too hard to call, to get together, to discuss our lives. Having children, and our full-time job, and marital stress is enough. On Sunday night, getting the kids ready to go, getting to a PM, trying to worship, just seems hard.
It’s much easier to just watch Breaking Bad.
- The idealism dissipates. This revolution of a church we were supposed to start? Well, the warm and hospitable community that welcomed me, seems to have moved on to the next person and I’m getting done with it. The first few weeks and months were great, but it’s not really panning out the way it seemed like it was going to. What did I sign up for again? Why am I doing this?
At some point, I hope you see how difficult it can be to be a mature Christian.
If we finally get over the postmodern traps of wanting to experience everything on the menu, allowing someone else to apply meaning to our lives, and being known—we have also get over the fact that we think the church is just about us having fun, building intimacy, and helping us feel great all the time. It’s much more than that. If we all we want to do is serve ourselves, then we really never learned to be the church, we just found a really awesome church to go to.
Being the church is about telling the world that you have a secret to the Greatest Truth in the whole world. Ask any Christian what the greatest moment of their life is and they’ll tell you: it’s when I came to know that Jesus was Lord over me. It’s when I learned that I was the beloved of God. When I accepted it and when I learned to return it.
The method is in the medium for us. Here’s why I think Jesus wants us to be the church, why Jesus doesn’t want us to just go to church.
- Doing something together is a statement by itself.
Doing something self-sacrificial, something that doesn’t bend its knee to consumerism and individualism is revolutionary by itself. You’re doing that when you resist the culture of the age and the psychological disposition the age. The man that’s referenced in Matthew 19 is learning that lesson:
Doing something together is a statement in an of itself. “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”—Matthew 19:24
It’s not just about him and the rules he follows. Jesus instructs him to sell all of his stuff if he really wants to relate to him in a big way.
He’s telling him “get over yourself, and do something with community.” Do something collective. Do something with other people. Get rid of all the stuff that you’ve got so you can have real relationships!
- Jesus was being the church. His whole life was about being incarnational. About being the church. About being real.
God sent his Son to be a real person among us so that we could be motivated to be filled with his Spirit and do the same thing. Following Jesus means being the church all the time. We need to be a tangible example of Christ’s love in our daily lives. Jesus was. The word became flesh. We need to keep that tradition going. We are the only chance some people will get.
- Jesus needs us to be authentic examples of Christians. Live a whole, full, and abundant life. If we just went to church and then did whatever the hell else we wanted—what’s the big deal. Anyone can fake it for 90 minutes. Isn’t that what the leaders of the world do all the time.
And this world, as it should, will test us and will know if we are fake. Let’s be real.
Overflow with God’s joy and goodness—that doesn’t mean be happy all the time—but it means we have to demonstrate an abundant life of being the church.
In John 10, Jesus offers a beautiful expostiion. He’s talking about being a good shepherd caring for his sheep, laying down his life for them. We are his under-shepherds and we are to do the same time.
Truly, sometimes it will feel like we are laying down our lives for him. But take heart, Jesus says the reason that the Father loves Him is because he lays down his life, only to take it up again.
No one takes it from us, we do it on our own accord. We follow Jesus fiercely and no one is going to stop us. We’re not just doing the right thing, we’re doing the only thing. No experience can top this, no other meaning beats it, this is how we are fully known. And, yes, you’ll get friends, and have fun, and build intimacy too. You’ll change the world. But you’ll do it together, like Jesus, and in the most real way possible.