One of the great joys of my life is the diversity amongst the people I call friends. I think life would be so boring if we were all the same, thought the same, believed the same or lived the same. It is a constant source of learning and challenge for me, and it enriches my life. My friends force me to think outside the box, or in some cases, to throw the box away and start fresh.
In recent days I had 3 separate conversations with 3 different friends around faith issues. And because I’m not the sharpest tack in the box, it sometimes takes me a while to ponder what I actually think about statements made during such a conversation. So the first of these conversations was back at the end of summer. The second was a few days ago where I was able to articulate what I thought right on the spot. The third was last night where I actually didn’t engage at all.
“Jesus said to make disciples. If you are not into that, you are not following Christ”.
I will acknowledge my own bias right now, this statement got my back up. I resist against such declarative statements. However, I’ve learned to ask better questions to get folks to articulate more clearly what they mean. We talked about how this was the crux of his church plant vision, how this was Christ’s call to us and how he tries to get people to live that out. All good stuff. Except I don’t think I agree.
When I look at a statement like that, I feel like we are in danger of reducing following Christ to one dimension. This statement (to me) doesn’t give room for life. It narrows a life of believing to one standard of “Are you doing it right?”. It is a quantitative measurement of whether you are a good Christian or not. For a while I wondered if I was just projecting my own worries that I’m not doing this life well…how does one figure that out? And if I really thought God was keeping track, I’d feel OK about my tally. I’ve ‘led’ people to Christ, prayed the prayer etc. I’ve got notches on my bedpost of conversions. But what if I never led another person to God? What if I lived my life, as best I could, faithful to God and never made another disciple? Have I failed as a Christian? No.
Maybe I’m two dimensional, but Jesus says, Love God, Love your Neighbor. It is not up to me to make disciples. It is God at work in the world that makes disciples. It is my call to live a life that points to God at work in the world, and I do that through loving Him and loving others.
“I need to go to a church that make me feel good, meets my needs”
As a disclaimer, the person who made this statement was not near as narcissistic as this statement makes them sound. It was an honest statement from someone who is desperate to find community and worship that resonates with them. I deeply appreciated their willingness to be so open with that longing. This statement came about when they asked me what I did for work and why I go to the church I do.
This past weekend I had the pleasure of preaching at a dear friend’s ordination. A woman speaking to another woman who is being ordained to pastoral ministry…it was a great honour. So this friend asked why I go to a church that would never let me preach. It is a question I get often and I do my best to answer it honestly. I truly believe that church is NOT about me. If I needed to go to a church that met all my needs, I might never step foot in a church again. I believe church is a community of people trying their best to follow Jesus. It is a messy, painful and often beautiful place. I know that I don’t believe the same theology as the person beside me in the pew, but I do know that we both long to live a life that honours God. And that can be enough for me. Let’s be real, there are times where I get frustrated at what is going on, and I’m sure I’m a source of frustration for many people at that church too. We don’t live in isolation when we are part of a church, we are one body with many parts. Everything we do affects another and we are foolish if we think otherwise.
But….to fall into a trap where we start thinking that this building we call church should meet all our needs, it is then that we need to check our spirit. So maybe it is not so much that I need church to meet all my needs, but it is a cry for community, for a sense of belonging, a desire to be known and loved.
I know that is the cry of my heart.
“I don’t believe Jesus is God”
This statement was thrown out in conversation last night. I didn’t engage it all at for 2 reasons, I don’t think I was supposed too and I was really enjoying the dinner that this person had prepared! I am a big believer in hearing what people think and being OK with it. But it made me stop and think…because I know the ONLY reason I’m a Christian is because of Jesus.
I don’t resonate with God the Father. I know there is a lot to be read into that…suffice it to say I have family origin issues. If I had lived in Old Testament times, I’d probably not have bought into the whole deal. But, Jesus. Jesus I get. Jesus got down and dirty with people. He took hard truth and turned it on its head. Jesus makes faith accessible to me. Jesus makes it real. Jesus calls me to a life that is bigger than what I can see in the here and now.
I am so thankful for friends who make me think, who make me articulate what I believe and why.