I grew up as a preacher’s kid. I have known the name of God all my life and I have attended church since I was born. I love much of it and at the same time can’t stand much of it. I find myself in conflict constantly between what it means to be a Christian and what I know about being a Jesus follower.
As a pastor myself, I look at Christianity and say, “It’s become too safe…too slick…too polished…too commercialized…too business oriented…too focused on programs…too concerned with paying the bills…too professional.”
Professionalism is one of the worst things that could ever happen to Christianity. No, I’m not railing against education nor order nor having a vision nor any of that. But when the movement of God becomes a business, housed in an institution, ran by professionals…the resulting mindset too often becomes “promote and protect our ‘product’ at all cost.” As a result, the “obligation” we push on the people in our care is to the youth group or to the church or to the ministry rather than to Christ. The goal of living a reckless life of love – love of people because of our love for our Father – somehow gets lost in the ever-present need to keep the machine running.
Whether we say it or not, we end up functioning with the mindset that we can’t REALLY send people into the world, away from us, because we define maturity and faithfulness through our programs. And if we send out our best, what would happen to our churches? What would happen to our budgets? Our paychecks? This struggle is one of the many reasons why the missional/organic movement of Christianity is so popular. A movement that has so many challenging truths for every follower of Jesus to consider – whether you find yourself reaching out to the man at the bar or the woman sitting next to you in worship.
Question: Is it possible for an organized, institutional body of Christ to escape the many traps of professional Christianity and simply follow Jesus?
I say, “Yes!”
I believe that I am a part of a community that is intent on doing just that. We don’t do it perfectly and we will make many mistakes but our target is clear. We are after Jesus. We want to know him. We want to become like him. And we want to show people the way to him.
We are an institutional church…we have a building, ministry programs and a staff that includes both volunteers and paid professionals. We don’t see these as enemies of the kingdom but tools to reach our culture. We speak constantly that these things are not the point. That we are not building our kingdom but his. That the success of our programs is not the issue but seeing people find true life with Christ is. We realize that the kingdom is so much bigger than us but that we have a significant role to play. And we are intent to partner everywhere we can for its expansion, while sending and planting other expressions that are needed. Some of them will be national church plants, some will be international ministries, some of them will be local organic movements that don’t look like what we know church to be and will never enter our walls. We celebrate them all, look for new opportunities and send people out!
We live on a mission, with one real purpose: to love God and to bring people to him through authentic love.
This is what being a Jesus follower is all about. It is where life and purpose and meaning are found. If we chase his kingdom and not our own, he will be with us. He will bless us and use us as his partners in reaching a desperate world. In this process, people who have been wounded by Christianity and have given up on God will be drawn back to him by our love.
There truly is no better way to live!