19 June 2006

Why Not U.S.?

The previous post talks about thinking like a missionary here in the U.S.. We like to preach it and think that we are practicing it, but we're not. How are we supposed to seep into every area of this society if we just ignore what's going on around us and live our safe little (so-called) Christian lives?

We give money to foreign missionaries so that they can live abroad in the culture they are trying to reach. We not only allow, but expect the people to learn the culture inside and out. We expect them learn the language, dress, and customs of these different places. Great. So why is it different here?

In the U.S., we're told you can't do this, don't go here, don't wear that, don't be around these people. We use Scripture to justify what we think is a legit point. Sure, we are to capture every thought and make it obedient to Christ. Just don't use the Scripture to say that you should basically tune out of popular culture so that you don't sin. Temptation is not sin. Giving into it, is. Yes, watching TV, listening to the radio, reading a book may tempt us. That's not sin. Picking up a newspaper can tempt you. Do we stop reading it? Do we turn off the news because we're afraid we might see a commercial?

How can light be seen except if it is shining in a dark place? I don't care how bright your light is on a Sunday morning with all your fake 'amens" and incessant head nodding. Where's your faith without the pretty building? Does Jesus go to the dry cleaners with your suit Monday through Saturday? Why is the main concern about how things look? It doesn't look good for you and your girlfriend to pray together and have a bible study in the most open space in the building. You can't wear this or that if you want to serve in a particular ministry. Things that will be more effective and functional are shot down because, "I just don't like how it looks on me." What about this: "I don't think the Decor Committee will like that." God so loved the world, that He didn't send a committee. He sent His Son. A blue collar working slob like so many in the church today. Didn't have a fancy house, fancy clothes, or a pimped out camel to ride. No family heirlooms. And this is God we are talking about.

Almighty God himself came down to live in the flesh among men. He called men to follow him and learn from him. To spend every hour of the day with him in his presence. He came with promises and a free gift. Yes, there were commands to follow, but worthy commands from the Savior of the universe. He was a humble servant spending time with those whom no one else would. It "didn't look good" for him to be alone with the woman at the well. I suppose that no one told him about the rule forbidding you to be alone with the opposite sex if they are not family. I don't suppose the Decor Committee liked the smell that probably followed Jesus and his disciples. That happens when you wear leather sandals in desert heat; your feet stink.

Funny, with what we know about how Jesus dressed (like common folk), there is no record of him ever being reprimanded for preaching in the temples without wearing his "Sabbath Best". Of all the things the Pharisees would nitpick him about, you'd think they'd jump all over that one. Where were his Holy Garments? His phylacteries? His clothes didn't threaten them, his message did. Even the Pharisees knew what was worth arguing about sometimes.

Why do we preach that we want to reach the lost, but so much time is spent in the church building? Why will we try to preach a convicting message about how you can tell where your loyalties and priorities lie by how you spend your money, while at the same time having a yearly budget with the overwhelming majority of money going to the mortgage, utilities, and upkeep of the building and the missions budget is a distant second? It's kind of funny; we wouldn't want to sit next to too many of the people that our missionaries are trying to reach because they probably smell funny or dress differently.

We justify spending big bucks on a huge building by saying that in order to reach people in this particular community, you need to appeal to them in a way that they will best respond. Basically, upper/middle class and rich white people won't come to your church unless it's pretty and expensive. They won't listen to what you have to say unless you dress in appropriate business attire. I'll buy that. That's almost like missions, except it's a lot closer to hypocrisy.

We want the poor city folks here. We want the young people to come here. We want the drunks, the addicts, the sluts, the homosexuals, the abusive husbands. At least that's what we say. But in reality, we don't want them here. We don't want Christians going anywhere near the places where these people are. We don't want Christians to have anything to do with these people.

Dr. Ted Roberts was at our church not too long ago leading a Pure Desire Leadership conference. He said this, "Twelve step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous were a great idea. They were based upon principles found in the bible (James to be exact). The only problem was that the programs worked, and drunks started coming to church. So they kicked them out."

We don't care if our man made traditions and preferences interfere with the advancement of the Gospel. "God doesn't require this of you, but I do. Follow my rules or don't be a part of the program."

I think the guy who God used to found the Calvary Chapel movement has got the right idea. Back during the Jesus Movement, all the hippies started coming into the church. A lot of them came in with food and drink, beach sand on their sometimes bare feet, suntan lotion, etc. It cost a bit of time and money to clean the carpets every week. So, instead of instituting a rule against these things, he tore up the carpets and said, "Come as you are."

When did we lose focus? When did our big God turn into a big clubhouse? When did we trade the Great Commission for the Great Omission?

The world is a dangerous place and we are in it. Not of it, but in it nonetheless. Jesus sent out the original disciples like sheep among wolves. Did you think it would be any different today? I'm glad there is preaching about how important prayer is. About how important it is to meditate daily on God's word. About how important it is to have strong Christian fellowship. But when we follow that with telling people to basically stay away from all the places you're gonna find lost people, it's counterproductive. The reason we pray, read and meditate on the bible, have strong fellowship, etc. is to equip us for the work of bringing the light of the Gospel into the dark places of the world. We prepare so that we will not fall prey to the wolves of temptation. We don't prepare so that we can sit on a pew every Sunday and blab about how thankful we are for not being persecuted.

Tell ya what, sheep. Go out among the wolves in the dark places (like we are called to do), and you will find persecution. You will get laughed at, spit on, punched, maybe even killed.

Be a light in dark places. We have every opportunity to do that here in America. This is one of the most spiritually dark nations on the planet. If you don't believe that, then get your head out of the sand. In fact, the only difference I can see between an ostrich and your average American "Christian" is the fact that God created the ostrich to stick its head in the sand every time it was threatened.

If we ever get to the point where a church building is the only place you can find a (so-called) Christian, then Christianity is dead.


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