I have a tendency to think that the things I am currently a part of are the best things ever. It makes sense, right? Cause why would I choose to be a part of things that I thought weren’t the best things ever?!
I also have a tendency to think that the things that I think are the best ever are the things that everyone should think are the best ever because they are THE BEST EVER!
And I want the best for you. I do.
The problem with this mode of operation, and I assure you there are many, is the tendency to think that because what I’m a part of is the best ever what you’re a part of must not be.
I think this happens a lot. It happens with good intentions when we invite our friends to the groups we’re apart of but it can also happen with poor motives when we dis whatever others are doing because ours is so clearly better.
It’s what leads to judgemental people and arrogance, this thinking that our way is better or my way is right or how can you think that’s awesome when clearly this is 7 times more awesome.
It’s what spurs on every single mommy war that has ever existed. I also believe it can spill on over into how we view churches.
I know there are a lot of kind people out there in the world, I do. I see it, I know it, I am friends with many of them and their kindness is a beautiful thing to behold. They are the encouragers, the you can do it-ers, the ones who say things like, “Tell me more about that cause I’d love to hear…” They care. They love. They want to know more about you and your heart because they aren’t threatened by your ways but rather see many ways as lovely.
Unfortunately, many of us are not that kind. Instead we feel like our way is THE way, our modes clearly superior and other ways deserve to be looked down upon for their simplicity and ignorance for not seeing so obviously that our ways are better.
You know how I know this is true? I haven’t always been a kind person.
I sat on our plaid picnic blanket atop a grassy hill yesterday and looked out at the church we attend while I munched down a samosa and pre-packaged rice krispie treat. I looked out at the church that we love. The church that has a fall kick-off. The church that has inflatable bouncy castles for the kids. The church that has our pastors duking it out in sumo suits. The church we once, many moons ago, swore we would never be apart of and, to our shame, we belittled.
Why? Because bouncy castles aren’t cool and evangelism isn’t about hot dogs and samosas. Because the huge church building isn’t how Jesus would have done it. Because it feels so corporate and sterile and couldn’t possibly be a place of authenticity. Because the rich people go there and wear their nice clothes and drive their fancy cars. Because the gospel clearly can’t be as effective on a large property set out in the middle of nowhere. Because happy and clappy isn’t possibly worship.
We were so smart. We had all the answers. We knew all the best ways.
Cleary grass roots and small living rooms were a better way to go. Clearly, urban and gritty is where the gospel can thrive best. Clearly if you’re poor and drive a junker you’re more holy. Clearly if you light candles you can worship more deeply. Clearly small and hip and arty is the superior way to go. Clearly music that is indie and emo and stirs something deep in you is the only way to worship.
Clearly, what we were was judgemental and arrogant. Proud and self-righteous. Haughty and rude.
God works in the very best ways possible though and he leads us to places that will expose all of our sins and our pride and our idols. He takes us to the places that we want to run from, the places that we call stupid and he blows open our minds and shows us that He is all that there is and us and our pithy ways are whats stupid.
He led us to the bouncy castle church. The fall kick off church. The church we didn’t ever want to be apart of and it’s there that He has taught us that it’s not about the building or the bouncy castles or the emo music or the candles. It’s not about city or suburban or beige or black. It’s not about arty or wal-mart or that you buy your clothes second hand. It’s not about any of it and if it is then we’ve got it all wrong.
It’s about Him.
Anything else that we think is needed or necessary is not. Any style that we think is superior to another is not. Any idea we have about how songs should be sung or how we should dress only serves to distract from the purpose of why we’re in any church building (or movie theatre, or bar or living room or park or whatever place you’ve chosen to gather together for the purpose of worshiping and the hearing of the Word.)
We’re no different in christian circles than Mommy’s are over cloth or disposable diapers.
We look around and see people doing it differently than we would and we judge and we belittle and we condescend.
I assure you this is of no benefit to anyone and only serves as destructive to the very purpose we gather.
It’s taken me so long to learn and I fear I’ve only just begun. I have so far to go. But what I do know is that making stances on things that don’t matter isn’t furthering our mission. Staking our claim on city over suburb isn’t the gospel. Scoffing at the church that has bouncy castles isn’t spreading the love and kindness we claim to seek in Christ.
What I’ve learned is that there are people in all of these places that love the Lord their God with all of their heart. There are people in each of these places who have given up much for the sake of Christ. There are people in each of these places that are sacrificing and striving and giving generously and reaching out and longing for justice and sharing their homes and leaving their homes for new ones in another land all for the sake of Christ. There are people in each of these places who rise early to pray and who feed the homeless and who offer shelter for the weary and who take care of the widow. There are people in all of these places who are living the life that God has assigned to them and that is going to look so different then the life that he assigned to you.
Let’s never think that God has assigned all of us to the same thing. He hasn’t.
Let’s never think that if everyone were wiser and holier they’d be doing it our way. They wouldn’t.
Let’s never think that God can’t and doesn’t use all things and all ways and all kinds of churches to fulfill his purposes. He does.
Let’s stop thinking that our way is more right or more beneficial or more godly than any other way. It’s not.
I sat there amidst the bouncy castles and RC cars and I looked at the faces of the people and I knew that God is at work here. He’s at work here in the suburbs and he’s at work in the cities and in the living rooms and in the streets. He’s at work. Let’s be apart of it, encouraging each other on, lifting each other up in prayer. Let’s avoid the lies and the sin of self-righteousness and instead focus on what should be focused on.
It’s all Him. Always and only Him. Nothing of us. Nothing we can bring. Just Him.
**Above verse found in 1 Corinthians 7:17