Saturday, March 23, 2013

Squeezing the Church

If you have not read Jen Hatmaker's post, And Then the Conference Uninvited Me to Speak, do.  It's a really intriguing look at modern Christianity, specifically in terms of reform.

The following words from Jen really resonated with me.

 "I’m hungry for a church less known for sanctimony and more for their shocking intervention for hungry babies and human trafficking and racism and injustice. Christianity is too thrilling to reduce to middle/upper-middle class First World Problems, encapsulated in issues and gauged by a nebulous moral compass that lost its bearing decades ago.

People are starving – spiritually and physically – and this world needs some Good News, but they can’t decode what is actually good about us. Good is finding a safe place to struggle, to doubt, to ask hard questions. Good is food when you’re hungry. Good is warm, kind, genuine love extended, no strings attached. Good is clean water, medicine for your sick baby, education, family. Good is community, even before ‘belief’ binds us tight. Good is sustainable work, dignity. Good is Jesus and His backwards, upside-down ways."  

They reminds me a lot of her words in her book, Seven, where she urges us as the Church to consider how much of what we do is about feeding our own feast, rather than having a feast that feeds those who need it most.

They remind me of my own constant struggle with judging the choices others make as my heart watches a church goer leave the parking lot on Sunday morning in a $40, 000 vehicle, all while I think about how far that money would go in Haiti or at an area rescue mission.  (And if you are my friend who drives the $40, 000 vehicle, hear my words.  "My struggle"-I fully recognize how those thoughts are not grace filled and not productive.)

It reminds me a lot of Casting Crowns song, In the Middle.

"Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender, without losing all control."

How many of us within the church stand on tippy toes as close to surrender as we can get but not really sure if we are all in or hugging the line lest we fall right over into losing control?

"Fearless warriors in a picket fence, reckless abandon wrapped in common sense."

A watered down Church, reigned in by the American dream.  A timid Church afraid to be reckless.  A pessimistic Church, unsure if the power of the risen Lord is really in us.

In some ways, I struggled with Jen's words a bit because I think I am blessed by the church I am currently attending and by the area in which I grew up, where people work hard to meet the needs of those around them, where the hearts often say "people matter."  But I also recognize how I wish people were a little more sold out in terms of taking risks and living a radical faith.

The bottom line of what she is saying is that we as a church can become irrelevant not because of our worship style or our children's programming but because of the way our actions reveal the true nature of our hearts.  For those raised in the church and then choosing to leave, and for those looking at the church from the outside, they fully understand Proverbs 4:23.  "Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it."    There is a line drawn in the sand, one that asks those who say they know Jesus to act like Jesus, not just by voting pro life, avoiding questionable tv programs or by attending Sunday school regularly.  The Church is being squeezed from both the inside and the outside.  People on both ends of the spectrum are hungry for the Church to love deeply and passionately, for the Church to be an authentic representation of Jesus, the friend of sinners, the source of hope to those at rock bottom.  And that is messy and a challenge.

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