What is the point of everything? What is the point of the Church? Why do we do what we do? Why do we show up on Sunday morning and listen to someone talk about the Bible, God, Jesus, and the Christian? Is it informational or is it transformational…or is it both? And then…once we hear these messages…do we even know what we are supposed to do about it? If Jesus is our model and example (the author and perfecter of our faith) who shows us how we are to be and what we are to do…then what exactly is he telling us and showing us? And then… if we finally figure out what it is we are to do…then how in the world do we do it? How do we experience it, live it out, and then take it out to others?
The weight of just one of those questions is impressive…but the weight of all the questions together is overwhelming. And in order to beginning working through and sorting out these questions in order to get to some actual, practical answers…it will take some time. That is why I am spending most of 2010 answering those questions. My hope and prayer is that God will work through all of this in order for us to become the kind of people God always intended…and that we may become even more united and alive in our faith…leading people in our community and in the world to a greater relationship with Christ…and closer to an abundant life here and now.
Growing up within the confines and context of church from the time I was born…I can confidently say that the answers to the questions above were easily answered with what I now call “church answers.” Church answers are surface level answers given to any question without any real thought or regard to a more substantive and robust answer. For instance, in response to the question, “What is the point of everything?” the “church answer” would be, “to save people so that they can be in heaven when they die.” To many, that is a satisfactory answer. And while that answer is indeed accurate, it doesn’t really give us much substance. It leaves many of us (of a younger generation)…just asking more questions in order to get a more substantive answer. Trite answers and simple cliche’s just don’t cut it.
But this is what we have seen in churches in our communities throughout the land. Our churches have operated and organized for the longest time around the idea that the central purpose of Jesus was to “get people to heaven.” And as a result…the primary function and purpose of the Church has become to save people in order to escape the flames of hell and get to heaven. And it is to that end that churches put enormous amounts of time…energy…effort and resources.
But let me be perfectly clear here…I am in no way diminishing the hope that we have in our future glory with Christ. The apocalyptic of John in Revelation 21 is a picture of the greatest hope that we have through our faith. That once and for all…God will make all things new and his dwelling place will one day be among man. Therefore…the great hope in which we long for and anticipate is heaven and earth becoming one. We anticipate a time when he will wipe away every tear from every eye and there will no longer be death, mourning, crying, or pain. The kingdoms of the world will one day become the Kingdom of God through and through. God will dwell among us, and we will be His people, and he will our God. Then justice and peace will prevail with sin and death being defeated and no longer having a sting.
That is the great hope of the Christian…and I do not want to diminish it at all.
But there is a present concern that we must address. There has to be more to our faith in Jesus Christ than just “becoming a Christian in order to get to heaven” in the future. There must be a purpose for which we are called presently…that shapes who we are and what we are to do. Simple answers will not work. I want to know the why’s and the how’s. I want to know what that means for me and the life I live RIGHT NOW…TODAY.
I am not content sitting around watching the world go to hell-in-a-hand-basket…or living a life enslaved and oppressed by other people, relationships, situations, addictions, or my own heart and mind…without doing something about it today. The truth is that we live real lives that are strained by the weight of an unforgiving world. We have bills to pay. We have relationships that are not perfect. And some of us have kids we are trying to raise. All of this…and we are told that the best we can do as Christians is to “live a Christian life” and wait for heaven. So yes…the church answer seems too narrowly-focused, under-developed, and not too concerned about our lives in the present. There has to be more to our hope and faith in the crucified and resurrected Jesus that means something for us here and now.
continue on to living beyond the church answer (part 2)…