For whatever reason, I tend to read at least one book a year that speaks to the depths of my soul. Right now I’m reading “So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore” by Jake Colsen. The pages are seriously melting my heart…and I’m only in the first third of the book. (I imagine I’ll be a puddle on the floor by the end of my reading.) The author is really pointing me to Christ and making me strip off all the excess garments I’ve tried to put on to please a Lord that already loves me.
This book is about the author (Jake) and a random guy (John) that appears in his life at different points over the years. John has this amazing way of asking questions, pointing out God’s truth, without making the author (and also the reader) feel condemned and judged. I really want to learn how to dialogue like this guy (who has really mastered a Christ-like communication style). For example…
John: “In this kingdom you really do get what you seek. That is the point of the whole thing. If you are looking for a relationship with God you will find it.”
Jake (author): “Then why don’t I have it? I thought that’s what I had been seeking all along.”
John: “No doubt, it might have been at first. But this works the other way around as well. If you look at what you’ve ended up with, then you’ll know what you’ve really been seeking!”
When I look at where I have ended up, I honestly see a “Pharisee-life” more than a “Christ-life”. How does this happen? What was I really seeking? I didn’t start out seeking a life that mimics a Pharisee!!! Damn It. Where did I go astray? A few paragraphs down, the author continues with…
Jake (author): “So you’re saying everything I learned bad about God I learned in Sunday school.” I could hear the mockery and frustration in my own voice.
John: “Well, not quite. I didn’t say it was all bad.”
Jake (author): “How could it be? We teach the kids about God and the Bible, and how to be good Christians.” My voice faded out as it dawned on me that learning about God and what it means to be a good Christian was not the same as learning to walk with Him.
The problem I have with myself right now is that I know most of the stuff this guy John is telling the author. However, I end up spewing tons of crap to people…trying to get them to be a “good Christian” and sprinkling the conversation with words like “Jesus” and “Holy Spirit”. Lord have mercy!!!
I realized this week that I’ve been a Christian for almost two decades. Let me repeat myself…two decades. And all I have to show for myself is a life full of rituals, religion and formulas. This year, I am on a quest to strip all the bad doctrine, inconsistent living and overall ugly mess that I’ve picked up from well meaning Christians on how to live a life that honors God. Specifically, I think this book will help me with issues that I currently have with the church. With quotes like this, the author leaves me sprinting toward the Cross of Christ…
“Then most of what we’re doing here [at church] is incredibly misdirected. What would happen if we stopped it all?” We had come back out now by the sanctuary and the closing song filled the foyer as the ushers threw the doors open ready for the congregation to exit. Had I been gone that long? “That really isn’t the issue, is it Jake? I’m talking about your relationship to the Living God, not fixing this institution. Sure it would make for a drastic change. Instead of putting on a show, we would gather to celebrate His work in the lives of His people. Instead of figuring out how we can get people to act more ‘Christian,’ we would help people get to know Jesus better and let Him change them from the inside out. It would revolutionize the life of the church and the lives of its people. But it doesn’t begin there,” he said motioning toward the sanctuary doors, “but here,” as he tapped himself on the chest.
However, the words of Saint Augustine seem to be taking up space in my brain today: “The church is a whore, but she is my mother.” It is the same she who taught me about Jesus. How can I complain about that? I also know that the Bible is clear when it says Christ loves the church and that He gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:25). That’s a preeminent reason why I dare not decide that I don’t need the church. Christ’s church is called his bride (2 Corinthians 11:2), and His love for her makes Him faithful to her even when she is not faithful to Him.
I wish I was more faithful to Christ.
The song “Wedding Dress” by Derek Webb (Caedmon’s Call Lead Singer) just popped in my mind…I will end this rambling blog post with his song. “I am a whore, I do confess…I put you on just like a wedding dress and I run down the aisle…run down the aisle…to You.”