Three years ago I launched a mission with the intent purpose to save lives, not in the spiritual sense, but in the literal physical sense. Dead people cannot hear the gospel, can they? But a victim of a disaster who is grateful for saving their lives or the lives of their family, is fertile soil for witnessing your love and compassion to strangers and they might just want to ask what compels you to such sacrifice and action.
But using the prophet metaphor rings a bit hollow to me right now as when I read the stories of the prophets, certainly they lived a very different lifestyle than the self professed prophets I read on Facetagram today. In fact, when we look at the prophets from Scripture, we see that the prophet is not just a truth teller, but someone most of us would NOT want to be.
The thing about expectation is it is often not rooted in love, but in pride. I expect you to live a certain way or believe a certain thing or walk a particular road, not because I love you and it’s best for you, but because of the pride I have in my own heart that would be embarrassed if you took a certain path. After all, I influenced you and trained you to be a particular person, right?
In the past, I never wanted to be part of a house church. There’s nothing flashy about that. There’s no place in “America’s Fastest Growing Churches” magazine for my little house church. I’d see these large churches with massive buildings and thousands of attendees and thought, “man what a testament to God’s Spirit being poured out.” Until you get involved in larger churches and then realize that most of those people aren’t even followers of Jesus. That was the part that kept nagging at me. All the time and effort (and tons of finances) poured out to grow the gathering but not adding to the Church.
We were on our way home from Nashville. We had just found out our song Something to Hope For was being used in the new American Idol preseason campaign. We pulled over into a McDonalds somewhere near Bowling Green, Kentucky. This was 2010, so none of us had smartphones, and Wifi at restaurants was a relatively new thing. It took about 20 minutes to download, but Jim, Kyle, Brennan and I sat in a booth in the back of the restaurant and watched the commercial that would be played for millions.
One of the things the internet was supposed to do was bring everyone together in sort of a one world scenario, but ironically, the opposite has occurred. It was so interesting at first to have all of the people over the last 40 years of my life (35 when Facebook really got kicking) together in one place talking about times back in Northwest Ohio in the 80’s, or Pensacola, Florida in the middle 90’s, or from my 20 years here in New England. Over time, however, we took sides, and our bias created our new world tribes. This is what people are saying when they say the world is so divisive right now.
One of the struggles of living in the Christian world is the inability of many Christians to be flexible about their beliefs. This is due, in no small part, to the enlightenment, coupled with “modernity” and its belief or philosophy that we can know everything as humans. So science can tell us everything we need to know about the world or the Bible tells us everything we need to know about God. This was of course the response of mankind to the middle or the “dark” ages where only a few special people, whether they were kings or priests, held the keys to knowledge or spirituality.
This morning at a wake someone looked at me and said, “I have no idea what to say, I just stood there and cried and hugged.” Across the room someone listening in to the conversation replied, “Perfect! They need your presence right now more than your words.” I don’t know why Solomon wrote this, but in Ecclesiastes, the king ponders, “A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.” It is a stunning declaration that there is something “better” about what happens beyond death than what has happened in life. This could point to the afterlife but it also could communicate how important the memory and the connection of the loved ones community is the world after that person dies. When someone you know dies, who can you connect with in their family or friend group that could benefit from your presence. We live in such an individualistic, my life first, and death opens us up to our mortality, and that we are better together.
A popular church word people throw out these days is the word “authenticity”. It speaks of those in the gathering being real and speaking their mind, but ironically in many of the churches who speak of this authenticity, no one actually speaks anything at all of their mind. Lights go out. Band plays. Cue Video. Pastor walks on to the stage, tells a cool story, combined with a quick Bible verse about love (makes us say “awww), forgiveness (makes us cry), or giving (makes us cringe). In the end, a few stick around to talk about the weather or sports, but most leave quickly because of the things they have to do in real life.
The times in our lives where we felt closest to being the New Testament Church were when we had a small group of people at our home. We broke bread, we prayed, we worshipped, we read God’s word together… we reached out and blessed others… we met each other’s needs. We were a church.