Words like ‘Christian’ and ‘Church’ are often found being used in sentences synonymously with words like ‘outdated’, ‘judgemental’, ‘hypocritical’, and just plain old ‘boredom’. In post-modern society, it is pretty standard to be nervous or unsure about what it means to be a follower of Christ, for most people. This is a current truth that deeply saddens me, if I’m honest. Unfortunately, in the West, we seem to have weaved together a drab story to the world of what it is that Christ showed us to be and do; very often, his story and our story have quite a few holes between them. Let’s look at the example of the Church, collectively. Regrettably, it seems we’ve clung to extreme stereotypes: on the one hand, we have the camp who are picketing outside funerals of homosexual soldiers to grieving families, and on the other hand, we have the non-committal, experiential and shallow camp who are, as Dallas Willard described ‘Vampire Christians’, in other words, only interested in Jesus’ blood (him coming to forgive them and nothing else, no transformed life). Comfortable living with a few extra morals is not what we’re here for. It’s no wonder the world has a bitter taste in her mouth. We haven’t given her much to be intrigued about.
In his third instalment of ‘Seasons and Reasons’, Dave Belfield espoused that ‘the church isn’t necessarily in a place of apathy, but consumerism and materialism’. He went on to say that for many, the church has become like any other shop that we frequent. We come together in community, bring our list and our plans, and hope to continually be gratified, satisfied and pursue desperately a better life for ourselves and our family. Basically, we find ourselves at a point in history where too many of the church have become accustomed to conforming to the patterns of the world, rather than being transformed and renewed.
Surely, when we live out, and tell the true gospel story, it should either capture us and have us awe-struck, or deeply offend us! The more I think about it, I can’t imagine a completely neutral response to a robust gospel.
If we desire change and restoration in this area, perhaps the question is:
How do we ditch our religious self-righteousness or selfish tendencies to make everything comfortable for ourselves? Consider these things that Dave pointed out:
*Ask what is filling your well
In Genesis 26, as part of an attack, Isaac’s enemy went after stifling his livelihood by blocking his wells of fresh water. This would have been essential to the health of his tribe and his livestock. Metaphorically speaking, we all have wells, things that either keep us alive or eventually kill us in a spiritual sense. As followers of Christ, Proverbs teaches us to ‘watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life’ (Proverbs 4:23). Where is your life source coming from? Is it from your family, your career, or the stuff you accumulate? Is it tired ideas and mindsets you’ve carried around without being restored?
*Ask who you are modelling your season on
As impressionable beings, we usually follow whatever seems right or is popular. Sometimes we haven’t had the best role models in what it looks like to navigate through a particular season, so we go with whatever we see around us and hope to come out in one piece on the other side. Maybe we need to ask who we are modelling ourselves on in the season we’re in. Just because a friend took particular cautions in raising their baby, does it mean we should? If a family member felt it was best for them to retire from life in their stress, does that mean we should, too? Although it is a special resource to be able to learn from those around us, often we imitate blindly, rather than turning to Christ’s Story, and asking the Holy Spirit, ‘what is the wise thing for me to do?’.
If we want our world to see the truth, grace and mercy of Christ, we have to first question what it is they see when they see his followers. If we are being refreshed consistently by the way, the truth and the life (Jesus himself!), then we stand a chance in awakening a thirst for genuine life and freedom which can only come from one source. What does the world say about you?
Author: Rachel Calland