I drive the streets of my city every day. I love my city (see post “City Love,” for more on that) and few things inspire me, more than praying for and seeking the heart of God for its redemption through the gospel. I love eating at local restaurants, giving big tips to career waitresses, and seeing the smile on the face of a new small business owner as he passionately shares His big vision for this now small establishment. I love the way local bars and coffee shops are working so hard to create spaces for people to be. This is what makes a great community
What I don’t like?
Religious Businesses and churches that have clearly identified their constituency as, “anyone who sees life like we do.”
Very few things make me more frustrated when I drive the streets of Omaha than seeing people use the church for personal gain, or to create spaces in which they can shelter their lives, and ideals from a world they are scared will steal from them something they never owned to begin with.
The ugly truth is this, Christians have become really good at creating spaces for, “us.” Sure, others might be “welcome,” to join in, but only if they are ready to conform to our belief system and our set of ideals.
The church was never meant to be a space that naturally created an “in” crowd and an “out” crowd. The true gathered church doesn’t seek to create more spaces for Christians to, “live out their religious freedoms”, but a space for people.
That’s it, just people.
What does it say to our world that we, the organized church, have gone to such great lengths and spent massive amounts of resources to create Christian co-ops, Christian singles websites, Christian youth sports leagues, and dare I say it… Christian schools.
I even saw a billboard the other day advertising auditions for “Christian actors and models.”
Seriously!!! What is that??!?!?
The Christian world has created a whole separate genre of music, most of which isn’t very good. We have radio stations dedicated to playing only this genre, guaranteeing it will always leave you feeling, “positive and encouraged,” and even have our own little awards show to celebrate and worship the artists that produce this music. And we do it all in the name of Jesus.
We have successfully created a bubble large enough that if you were really dedicated to the proposition, you could raise your kids without ever participating in anything that isn’t “Christian.” Church, school, music, sports, dating, and arts.
There’s a “Christian only” activity for that.
As I drive these streets, and pray for something different to lay hold of this beautifully broken community, my heart cries out…
There has to be another way!
My heart is drawn to the lifestyle of the man all of these homogenous activities are being done in the name of. My heart is drawn to the heart of a man who sought out inclusive community, not exclusive organizations. My heart is drawn to a life that chose brokenness over health, and poverty over wealth. He sought out the sick, the needy and the outcast. He maneuvered his way into the lives of the most broken people he could find for the sake of loving them as only He could.
I can’t help but ask myself. Would Jesus listen to our radio stations? Would Jesus participate in our church services? Would Jesus send his kids to our Christian schools?
I don’t for a minute assume to know perfectly the heart of Jesus. My intention is not to make a huge generalized inditement against all Christians schools and anyone who sends their kids there. That is not my point, but if you are so dedicated to the form of isolated living that I am talking about you have probably already tuned me out, or quit reading altogether. If you are still listening,
My point is simply this…
The spaces we as the gathered church are cultivating have got to become spaces for people… not for Christians. We must value immersion as a lifestyle, not for our own personal gain but for the sake of being the light of the world. For the sake of carrying the hope of the gospel, the power of His grace, and the potential for the mending and healing heart of Jesus to consume our city streets
Why do bars, beer and whiskey do a better job of cultivating real community than those armed with the hope of salvation?
I want to create a space for the celebration of the beautiful mess created by the interaction of God’s perfect grace and my inherent brokenness.
A good pastor friend of mine tweeted this last week…
“Jesus was called a drunk, and a sinner, by the religious elite for the company He kept. May we all have such tarnished reputations.” – @mosaicpastor
My prayer for the churches in Omaha is that we would, together, unify around the desire to create spaces for people instead of spaces for Christians. I pray for our churches to be more about loving the world, then loving our morals. I pray that the reputation of the “Church,” in Omaha would be one Jesus would be proud to have as a representation of His great name.
This one’s for you Don! Thanks for being such a supportive brother