Have you ever attended a local “faith” community (I dare not call it church because seldom do we see The Church in action on the typical Sunday morning “services”) and at some point you began questioning what the person up front was teaching, or you simply had a doubt about the genuineness of the message or those in attendance? It’s not that you didn’t believe in God or that you don’t truly connect with the words and message of Jesus, it’s more about the people who blindly follow a leader of that community and question nothing, all while compartmentalizing their faith to any given Sunday morning in a building paid for by the people who gather there weekly. As I contemplate this behavior, I have some thoughts I’d like to share.
God is way bigger than the words of a single person speaking out on Sunday morning. And dare I say, God is bigger than the words recorded in The Bible alone. To think everything God desires, thinks and leads us to in this life is written down in words of people who encountered God at one point in their life is the epitome of placing the entirety of God in a little box and claiming we know all there is to know about the Creator of the Universe. I believe He can and does work as much now as He did 2000 to 5000 years ago when the scriptures were written. And maybe, just maybe, He is asking us to write our story and have us question His Grace and Love for this generation, not just look back to a generation that looks and behaves entirely different than we do in the 2,000’s! Maybe God is big enough for us to take our doubts to Him about what other people are saying about Him so that He can express to us who He really is in our life at this time. We can also learn that we are to take relationships to our communities and not to a building one day a week to hear a regurgitated message from a time of years gone past! Yes, we can learn from the scriptures, but it can’t stop there! God is bigger than that!
I have witnessed over the past 15-20 years something interesting, including in me. I have seen people give their lives for Christ, as defined by the local faith community, and want to grow in that faith. Over time, we begin to ask questions or have thoughts contrary to the teaching we are hearing, or we begin seeing behaviors contrary to the grace and love we read from the words of Jesus. When we discuss these questions, we are usually told we are mistaken or even worse are told to just trust the leadership because they are better at translating what God is telling us as the gathering than we are at actually reading the Bible on our own. Who are we as we begin seeing the world through the eyes of grace and love? Basically, people indoctrinated by the leadership of a local faith community blindly follow a person or people instead of actually developing a genuine relationship with Jesus and the people around them. So, they either leave that particular community and search for God on their terms, or they drop faith all-together because of poor leadership and terrible relational values in that faith community. I also have a theory about the leadership as well…
When a person goes to college to get a degree so they can become a minister, they are taught how to run the business of the church and are given the basics of faith and some limited deep theological teaching, again regurgitated by a single person or group of people with a specific bent of their own. And then, they go into a faith community, or start their own, and teach the same thing they were taught without actually letting God teach them through their life. They forget how to question and doubt and so they pass along that others should not question or doubt. This says something very telling – this person with a degree believes they know all there is to know about an infinite God, and cannot learn anything new that God may want to teach them. They have forgotten that God is big enough to question and doubt, and truly that doubt is the only way to truly grow into a better understanding of who God is and how amazing His Grace and Love truly is. And that is a huge reason why people who are trying to grow in their relationship with Jesus leave the local faith gathering because that does not look anything like what Jesus called His Church to become. His Church is lead by Grace and Love, not by bigger budgets and gatherings at our local brick and mortar to hear the same old message that has no legs in the culture we currently reside – a culture in which relationship, grace, and love is desired and sorely needed by a hurting people, and the local faith community is arguing about how to spend their money and get more people to come to their building so that they can get more money to grow their kingdom. There it is – it’s all about creating a local kingdom, and if they need to use the name of God to build their kingdom, so be it! There is a good reason Jesus said the kingdom of God is within us…
So we now get to the crux of what I believe we are seeking, in which the local “church” has not been able to fulfill. The kingdom of God has nothing to do with a local building where people gather. The kingdom of God is in us and can be spread through us. Follow me here for a minute…
For many of us, as we connect with God and seek to know Him and His character more, some of us begin sensing a calling in our life. Often times that results in someone going to school to get a degree and then fall into the trap of every other pastor or priest by teaching the same thing they have been taught and the circle of confusion continues. However, I feel Jesus gave us words as to what this calling looks like when He taught His disciples to pray. Jesus says this:
Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
He says, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, ON EARTH as it is in heaven.” So what if that calling we desire to pursue is simply bringing out the kingdom of God that is within us here on earth in the life we have been given, and sharing that kingdom life with those around us through whatever it is we feel called to do?
When we tie it all together, Jesus incredibly guides us to love Him and love people, extending grace and love in any and all circumstances. He gives us a desire, a calling, to pursue grace and love relationships through the very vocations or calling we pursue. And when we get it right, we see the convergence of heaven and earth – the kingdom of God is within us and being extended to others through the grace and love of relationships we foster through our calling or vocation. And that my friends is community – a space I deeply desire to be a part of right now! I pray others will want to join me in this quest of creating a space where grace and love lead all conversations, where inclusivity and cultural differences lead to deeper friendships and genuine relationships in which everyone feels valued, loved and heard.
As I continue pursuing this kind of community, I hope to have many conversations with others on this journey and look forward to the relationships that will bloom from a desire to simply know and love!
Grace and Peace my friends!