I do not think I am wrong with the title of my blog. I have thought about the topic for a long while now. Actually it is a question that has been haunting me for nearly 20 years and I could not find an answer. About two months ago, it hit me while I was explaining something else to a brother. What was it that bothered me? Christianity in general :-) The poor quality of it. The “what is wrong with the Church” question. Everybody else seems to also have the same problem and of course “the answer” as I wander around on the internet. It tends to be more holiness and obedience on one side and more grace and love on the other side. A-ha!! You thought that this was what this blog is about? No and yes.
Very early in my walk I had the need for someone who walked before me, but there was no such person. We as a group of young Christians were on our own. The minister could not really help. He was “up there”, not really down here. And he had to take care of the whole congregation. How did the one pastor respond to me? “I simply do not have the time to be friends with everybody.” And he was right. So then….. there were the next bunch of people visible on Sundays. The deacons and the elders and the music people. They were there mostly as a function. To collect money. To pray for people. To sing. For many of them, it was part of the job. Job done….. Christianity into the background. The personal touch of leading young Christians to maturity… non-existent. During the week, there was no visible contact with church members, except perhaps Wednesday evenings. The babies had to take care of the babies. The generational maturity discipleship path…… non-existent.
Then there were of course the successful Christians with the winning example formula that everybody had to follow. Be like me!! Trust God!! The victory is yours!! How to be prosperous!! The “God came through for me” witness in front of the church. I should know…. I was “up there” for a very real witness once. I would call it the “results faith”. Look at how-it-worked-out witness. God works-in-wondrous-ways faith. Do I sound a little bit cynical at this stage? Actually I am not, I believe some of it. Which of it? Does it matter? The holiness and obedience side will immediately jump up and say “Hell yes, it matters what you believe!!” I’m glad you think so… but there is something more important than correct belief. (I can hear some of the buts….) The problem with the triumphant Christian life were always those in the shadows. The lonely ones. Those that were struggling. Those people where the “easy answer” dried up. Where Job meets world. Where God does not not do what we want Him to do. And yes, there are many of those in the church. What do we give them when words are lost in the pain? How to be a winner? The quick prayer of victory? Do we as the church really believe that to reach discipleship maturity takes the victorious-2-minutes-of-prayer route?
As you can guess by this time, I want to include my mantra, discipleship, in the discussion. The structured part of church does not have the knowledge, know-how or the will for any meaningful discipleship. How can I say that? Well, for one thing, the structure does not lend itself to a discipleship environment. The Sunday message is the high point of the week while the building is seen as a special meeting place. (I am not against these things. They are however hindrances of a discipleship life.) As long as the focus is a special meeting, we will miss Jesus is the everyday ordinary life where He was/is fond of living in. If our expectation is for a Sunday meeting with God, well then discipleship is not for us.
So what is bothering me? It’s a phenomena that I call “weird-Christianity” or “correct christianity” and it happens all over the Christian landscape. Let me paint one typical picture I’ve seen repeating a lot in the organised part of church(Charismatic circle). A person/s meet Christ and pursues God with everything. They literally shine with God’s glory and they are wonderful to behold. They cannot seem to get enough of Him. They love Him with all their heart, soul and with all their power. Nothing can stand in their way. They get a lot of talk time and for a time in their lives, everything turns into black and white, right and wrong, for me and against me. Sin is dealt with and revivals and mini-revivals can break out around them. The Bible is seen as a book of Life. It is a wonderful time.
After a while (1-3 years) however the glory begins to fade and the persons start to immerse themselves in the Bible as a source of “deeper knowledge of God.” This is where the weird and the correct starts to come into being. Somehow the person (correctly) contends with the fact that “there has to be more.” Who can phantom the Mystery that is God? Verses are flung together and theories are formed. Daniel and Revelations are studied. Just who is the beast? When will the second coming be? Just who is the remnant? The theories that are formed start to exclude certain people. The people in the excluded camp gets more in numbers as new criteria for holiness is found. Sometimes, to get closer to God, people opt for the Jewish route. The Sabbath, the seasons, the feasts, the customs and the law is explored, all in an effort to unlock the “deeper things”. And of course people are divided in camps. Us versus them. The people of right belief versus the people of little effort. They love God’s judgement and cannot wait to tell people of God’s judgement on the church/specific group/pastor/country/etc etc. Pastors and ministers will know these people all to well, because they have become argumentative. They will begin to speak against the church and the pastor and eventually they will leave in a bitter fit of anger. Sometimes they will be thrown out. Mostly they become loners or find a similar-belief small group which empowers them further to find the “deeper things of God”.
Why does this happen?
I believe the answer lies in discipleship or more accurately the absence of discipleship. What is discipleship again? The proses by which the character of Christ is formed in a person, helped by brothers and sisters who have walked the walk and continues to walk in the footsteps and example of Jesus in discipleship. And Jesus was known as?….. lots of things, but in the end the disciples found out that it was as servant that Jesus would reveal Himself. It was the washing of the feet that got to them. How can the Son of God do such a lowly thing? Servant…….servant-hood. What did Jesus say?
That’s the way it is with the Son of Man. He did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many people.”
Now, servant-hood is not glamorous at all. It involves time and effort to serve the “the least of these” where Jesus is usually found. Remember the sheep and the goats? They were separated on their actions and not on correct-belief. There is something more important than faultless belief. I think I will dare to say that the character of Christ is ONLY established in servant-hood. The Mystery of Christ is ONLY found in servant-hood. The “deeper things of God” are only found during and in servant-hood. The biggest lie in the church is that we think we can speak the truth without being a servant.
You can read my previous sentence and dismiss it, but I am very serious. The action of serving keeps us from becoming hypocritical. The action of serving frees us from ourselves.
Why is this important? Look at the holiness and obedience grouping of people in the church. They quote scripture, revealing how important obedience is to God. Lots of people are excluded. Especially those who do not believe according to Scripture. The pride is almost palatable. Thank God, I am not like those people. Where are their focus? It is definitely NOT servant-hood and how do I know this? No quotes about servant-hood on their Facebook walls and blogs. Only perfect obedience will do and humility is a topic to be talked about.
And the feel good Christians who changed the gospel into a me, me, me message. God came to serve me. Therefore I am important. I can now feel good about myself. Whoo-hoo!! God wants you to have your best life now. You are beautiful. You are affirmed. This is about you!! You love the message of freedom and grace because it gives you an excuse to sit there and soak in the warmth of God’s good feelings about you. Where are their focus? It is definitely NOT servant-hood and how do I know this? No quotes about servant-hood on their Facebook walls and blogs. Only quotes on freedom.
It was Jason Bradley that summed up the church of today perfectly. We want to be loved, but we do not want to be bothered.
Servant-hood is a non-negotiable. It helps us to find Christ in the grind of life and it helps with the formation of His character in us. And I am sorry to say, but servant-hood is accomplished by looking in the eyes of a person and holding them. Serving a group without touch is not serving. Please, please tell me where the idea comes from that spending an hour with people a week constitutes discipleship. We have hands, arms, legs and feet to serve.
The reason why we have weird-christianity is because people are not led into servant-hood by mature believers by example.
The reason why christianity in general seems off? People are not led into servant-hood by mature believers by example.
And the reason why servant-hood is lacking? No discipleship.
And if we were wondering…. servant-hood will cost us.
Perhaps the next revival is around the corner…. when we as church begins to serve as Christ has served.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage;
7 rather, He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death even death on a cross!
Look at those verses. Study them. “Nature of a servant” “I am the vine, you are the branches.” Godly life is found in Jesus who came as a Servant.