"Jesus did not come to make us Christian, Jesus came to make us fully human.”
- Hans Rookmaaker
I have many friends that are struggling with their faith, and have been doing so for a long time; I’ve been there and continue to visit that place from time to time!
It’s been my experience that faith is always a struggle when it is taken seriously.
I've had many discussions about the disappointing state of Evangelical Christianity; about how the wave of "culturally conforming" Christianity that has come out of the Mega-church movement has begun to unravel and diminish the message of the Gospel.
When it first began, the "Seeker-Friendly" movement was good. It brought people, who had felt abandoned, or had been “wounded” by their church in the past, or those who had no interest in “going to church,” into a more personally relevant understanding of Christ and the Gospel.
In my case, I may not have ever considered the truths of Christianity had it not been for the outreach approach of Willow Creek Community Church back in the mid 80's. But, where it failed is in its ongoing education. Once the message has been delivered, there must be a means of growth; more emphasis on discipline and mature understanding. This is not just through classroom type learning which promotes knowledge, but through the deeper ancient liturgical practices that open the heart through worship; where emphasis is not on the self; not on individual self-development, but on inner spiritual growth in and through a community. This is where wisdom grows, and where humble obedience that leads to repentance and transformation replaces "head knowledge" that often only leads to self-righteousness and spiritual arrogance.
To be fair, Willow Creek did try to cater to a deeper level of spirituality through its mid-week “New Community” services. But this affected only a relatively small core of the larger community, which really did not “grow” despite the staggering numbers of attendees at the weekend “seeker” services. Most attenders were content to stay on the surface while those that sought spiritual maturity often felt lost or confused about where to go on their journey of transformation.
What seems to be pervasive among many Christians that I encounter is this sense of entitlement. The message of many “popular” Pastors these days is that “accepting” Christ makes you a “special” person - as if Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was all about granting personal fulfillment and privilege. There is a blessing in being a Christian - but it is not a material gain.
- It is not a promise of better circumstances or greater wealth.
- It is not a guarantee of problem-free living.
- It is not a “get out of jail free” card that permits hypocrisy.
- It is not a philosophy that endorses and authorizes the government to assume responsibility for our lives, or the right to demand that they make laws that preserve our particular morality.
“Popular” Christianity, in so many ways, has been reduced to a RELIGION that allows its members to dictate laws to those on the outside. Thus we have “Christian” politics, “Christian" ethics, “Christian” this and “Christian” that. As if Christianity is not a way of life, but a form of government.
Christianity in its true sense is not a religion.
Religion is the invention of man - illustrated, in principle, by the legend of the tower of Babel, where mankind sought to reach God through their own efforts.
Christianity is a way of life that unfolds in relationship with Jesus Christ, who is God descended and incarnated as fully human to reveal true-humanity. It is about conforming to the image of Christ by trying to follow his example. It is living life in the world with others from the perspective of a transforming relationship with God and humanity.
- It is not about being perfect, but rather about enduring repeated failure, and beginning again with repentance and forgiveness.
- It is not about demanding rights, but rather offering love and acceptance that nurtures and edifies those we disagree with. Not with ulterior motives for conversion - but rather for reconciliation.
- It is not about proclaiming God’s expectations to others - but rather about self-observation and honest confession.
In my deepest heart I believe that the Church was never intended to be a form of government - but rather a community of acceptance and healing; a kind of spiritual hospital. Not a place for perfect people who want to dictate to the outside world how things should be, but rather a place where people go to learn how to be like Christ - who gave up who he was in order to demonstrate how things could be, if we lived up to the full expression of our divine humanity that is his gift.