Would Jesus Go To Your Church?

Day 23/30

For a few years I’ve been thinking about the purpose of the Church and I’m convinced it’s growing up. Jesus called it discipleship. Paul called it being transformed. Moses called it loving God with everything you have. Whatever. The point is that the Church should be helping folks become more like Christ and, by extension, helping the world look more like his kingdom.

That, of course, led me to thinking about how that happens.

Lots of folks from Jesus to Paul to James to Piaget to Ericson to Rohr have done great work on human development, observing levels and processes. It’s too much to talk about in this kind of blog but one thing I’ll note: It seems we think spiritual things shouldn’t take practice, that enough emotion or a walk down an aisle should suffice. This, of course, isn’t how we treat the rest of life. We expect learning math, hitting a baseball, and playing piano to take years of practice to perfect then a lifetime of regular practice to stay sharp. This, also, isn’t how Jesus or any of the apostles modeled discipleship.

At some point I started thinking about how well the church is faring with making disciples.

That led me to Christian Schwarz’s research that I shared on Day 2/30. In the great words of Hoyt from the John Boy and Billy Big Show: “Not too good!” People learn by doing. Church operates by sitting and watching. There’s more to it than that of course. But by and large the programs that encourage sitting and listening (worship/Sunday School) far outnumber in attendance programs that get your hands dirty.

And that led me to the question at the top of this post: Would Jesus go to your church?

To be fair, I think the answer for every church I’ve ever served is yes and no. Yes he’d visit. Every church I know of does a lot of great work. Some have great music, others great preaching. Some have great programs for children and students, others feed the hungry. And no, because I think he’d grow bored of conversations over carpet color and vaccines.

In the gospels we see Jesus going to the Temple, arguing with the religious leaders, then going back out into the back alleys or countryside to do stuff. Then he’d go to a synagogue in some backwoods, Dadeville, kind of town, read from a prophet the bit about turning the whole economic and political systems on their heads, preach a one line sermon, then sit back down… making folks so mad they wanted to kill him.

What we never saw was Jesus settling down, taking membership vows, claiming his pew, and being promoted to Admin Chair.

And that led me to an even more uncomfortable question: Then why do I?

Maybe I get something out of the sermons. Maybe it’s for the kids. Maybe for the familiarity or friendships. Maybe it’s to fight for change from within. No one can answer that question for you. But a lot of pastors are trying to figure it out right now. Because when people braked for Covid, a lot of us started asking these kinds of questions. And capital campaigns depend on churches having motivating answers.

And here’s some free advice for church leaders: It’s not more guilt or buildings or programs or overhead expenses. At least not for me. It’s meaningful conversations over a good glass of wine. It’s meaningful work promoting justice and equality. It’s care for God’s creation and learning to see God in it. It’s simple worship services. It’s teaching folks that the most Jesus thing they can do isn’t the funnel we’ve created of attracting visitors, making them members, teaching them our doctrines and naming a class for them. It might just be expecting them to come, stay a while, upset the apple cart, then follow Jesus right back out the door into the slums and the farm towns, and the ends of the earth.

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