I’ve seen it happen again and again. I pray that by the grace of God, I will never be a part of this.
I’ve seen something die in Christian people. I’ve seen men and women lose their joy, their fire, and their passion for Jesus. Usually this is a slow process that happens over a period of time.
It is possible to get stuck in a kind of religion that eventually kills instead of gives life. I know. I’ve been there before. Here I am, a minister, saying all kinds of "God-words," identifying with a church, devouring religious material, etc. Yet, it is very possible to be a part of something that contributes to a slow, lingering death instead of life.
So what happens?
- We become more wrapped up in our religious systems, church systems, etc. than the life-giving Jesus.
- We spend our time and energy talking about our systems. "How will we get this done?" "When is the next meeting?" "Are you on the sub-committee?" Blah. Blah. Blah. Meanwhile, we may find that we can be in meetings (teachers, elders, staff, etc.) and talk with others for hours before anyone ever mentions Jesus or asks whether or not he is pleased with what we are about.
- We complicate matters as we try to will everyone to do or see things our way. Instead of praying and seeking God ourselves, we spend endless hours talking about how our church needs to pray more, etc.
- We lose our passion and our fire for the things that matter: Jesus, his kingdom, and his desire to incarnate his people and live in our communities each day.
- We experience less open, vulnerable relationships. Instead, issues of control and manipulation often become all too common.
- We take on a dullness as the last few embers of a living faith are smothered.
- We gradually think that our bland, lifeless faith is just normal.
I am not fussing at anyone. I am just describing the realities that many of us are in. This is very familiar territory to me. I have gone through moments and even months when I thought I was going to die spiritually. The irony? That happened while I was spending every waking hour thinking about how to deal with messes in a church system.
I blame absolutely no one for any of this. However, I don’t ever want to return there. I don’t ever want to think that tinkering with the machinery of a church system is going to necessarily move us closer to what it means to be Jesus in our community and beyond. Nor do I think that everything will finally come together when the church gets it together. Some believe that if only we could do church right then everything would be good again.
Meanwhile, I am thankful for the life-giving Jesus. Being with Jesus and spending time with him doesn’t make a person weird. Rather, he makes a person fully human. Over and over again, that life-giving is seen in the encounters with people that are seen in all four Gospels.
I am convinced that he is the true source of life. I have found in him a zest for life, a joy that is deeper than my happy moments, and a passion that makes me feel like I am living instead of just existing. On Sunday, I will preach. There will be a difference in my sermon if I have spent time with Jesus during the week or if I have just spent time trying to fix a system. Not only does that make a difference in what I preach but it makes a difference in my heart and spirit as I preach.
Do you relate to this at all? What is most helpful to you in staying focused on the one who gives life?