Monday, September 10, 2012

A Tale of Two Churches . . .

Thanks to everyone who has been commenting or emailing me with thoughts about how they are processing the warm embrace of Romney evangelicals are giving him that I posted my concerns about in my last two posts. I appreciate your thoughts and value your opinions as I work through it all.

Yesterday at our service I introduced a series I will be teaching through in which we will be examining different foundations/beliefs of our faith from the perspective of not trying to be too deeply theological but rather from the angle of, "So What?" I don't mean that in the sarcastic, bored, disinterested stereotype teenage response, but in the deeply interested way of, "Okay, so you believe [fill in the blank], so what? How does that belief make you different in the world you are called into as light and salt and the image bearer of Christ? How are you different and how do you become different and take thoughts and feelings captive to that truth, because of that truth you believe? How can we formulate questions for our life that will help us take our thoughts, feelings, priorities, choices captive to that truth and make us different for that truth?" Believe the right thing is the basic first step, but it is not a guarantee of any eternally valuable walk. We must not only believe something, but let that belief alter our walk and our attitudes and our feelings.

After the service a man came up to me and shared why that question, "So what?" had affected him so much. With his permission I share what he shared with me . . .

Last week he'd been in a city in Southern California. He works in making companies more energy efficient. Dressed to include a button down shirt and tie he went into the facility of a large, non-denominational evangelical church in a nice neighborhood to try and get contact information for the facility manager so he could set up an appointment with him to discuss the facilities energy use and how he might help them scale it back.

There was a large coffee shop book area with a sign that, though the offices were on the other side of it, you can't pass through it to get to them, but have to go outside. He asked someone who curtly told him, "You have to go outside." Doing so he encountered a locked door with a buzzer. After ringing it a voice asked his business and after he explained it he was buzzed in without any words being spoken. He was met by a security guard with the words "SECURITY" across his chest who escorted him to the receptionist. She, in a very business-like way without much fluff or seeming caring of him as a person, asked his business. He told her. She, without warmth, said, "Do you have an appointment? He doesn't see people without an appointment." My friend repeated he was trying to simply get contact information so he could set up an appointment, to which she repeated that he didn't see people without an appointment. Finally, after going back and forth, she handed him the manager's card and the security guard escorted him to the door. Asking the guard if they'd have problems (the neighborhood looked nice) the guard got apologetic and said it was just their policy. They then talked and shared a bit.

Heading down the street he saw a Catholic church which had classrooms and a decent-sized facility and he stopped there. The doors were wide open. Going into the sanctuary he saw people in it praying and he paused a moment to pray as well (not to the Catholic symbols, but to Jesus). He'd been there but a bit and he felt a hand on his shoulder and looked into the eyes of a man who kindly and gently said, "I'm Father ___. Would you like to confess your sins or is there something you'd like to talk about?" The difference between the two receptions (and my friend is not Catholic), was like night and day.

The point in sharing it was that my friend had just had that experience and then he heard me asking, "So what? So you have that belief, how are you different?" His heart had been wounded that day. He'd thought maybe he'd have even bump into the pastor of the church and have a moment to pray or gotten a word of encouragement. He'd had a hard week. Here they have this huge facility and a nice coffee shop and tons of resources . . . but, "So what?" He was greeted by uncaring voices, people who treated him like an object to be gotten rid of or dealt with, security guards, and locked doors. Down the street he met open doors and kindness and caring.

"So What?" So what difference does having Jesus and our beliefs make to us. What do people meet when they meet us? Which church best represents us, our fellowships, our homes? Which one best shows Jesus to the world? How do people feel when they come in contact with you or your fellowship or your home? These are questions to ask. Americans may have more access to knowledge about God than any other nation, and yet statistics about American Christians are shamingly close to statistics about unbelievers in marriage statistics and other areas. "So What?" So you and I have all these correct beliefs about God that we can spout out easily. "So What?" How are we different because of those beliefs. It is a question I ask myself regularly as I seek to take my thoughts and feelings and priorities captive to what I believe about God and His promises and His character and His Word. My flesh still wants to rule. I don't want it to. I must let my beliefs make a difference in my life, even if my first impulses don't come forth from them.


  1. Erick,
    Awesome post! I can see myself in both sides of the situation. In America I think we've become comfortable as affiliates of Christ rather than disciples of Christ. We have "personal space" around our consumerized Christianity and like to maintain our brands. If those intruding bear gifts we gladly let them in. But those who are in need better head to one of our outreach centers where we don't have to get up close and personal. May God change our hearts.

    Thanks so much for sharing this and I am definitely going to ask our young adults this Wednesday night, "So what?"

    Rejoicing With You In His Grace,

  2. So right, Glen. Thanks for the comment and for reading. I tend to think the "church" Jesus would like is a "church" few others would. I've always told people our "church" (I don't like that word because we almost have to use it to mean a building/service instead of the body it truly is, hence in quotes for the building/service impression of it) that it is not a museum, but a workshop, and we are family with all of our warts, bumps, etc. I feel like often we are one wrong word away from someone being angry at someone with so many different personalities, etc., but I think it is far better than sanitizing our faith and all going to our little buildings that match our social class, worship style, way of dressing, etc. May God pour out on His people and remind us we are His body, not our own. Missed yacking with ya, it is good to do it again. God bless my friend and keep up the good posts on your site. It is a blessing.

  3. "so what"...does it cause us to speak/do/think/believe?"

    if our "affiliation" with Christ hasn't brought change in our hearts by the work of the Holy Spirit, which then leads to change in works/actions/attitudes, perhaps it's only a reasoning and not a rebirth.

    1. "For His Glory"—Thanks so much for your comment! We, as Christians, truly make astounding claims (God, the Creator, Himself came to earth as one of us, died at our hands, rose again, and now He lives in us and through us). It is a fair question to ask of ourselves and for others to ask us—with that claim, am I any different? I always broach the question carefully, knowing we all slip at times and not wanting to add any performance to the astounding message of salvation by faith, but shouldn't there be some evidence in the pattern of our life that what we claim happened really did? And, shouldn't it be truths we believe that make us different day to day, not just "get us saved"? Again, thanks for reading and commenting. I love hearing from readers!


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