From 1994 to 2008 my life revolved around the platform. I was either preparing for being in full-time vocational ministry or in it. God had called me to teach and as a result I felt fulfilled in that mission when I stood on the platform teaching. But in 2008, all of that changed as I transitioned from up-front, vocational ministry to my current role training, encouraging, and resourcing those in vocational ministry.
From 1994 – 2008 I would tell you that one of my primary spiritual gifts was teaching. Now? Maybe I express it differently, but I rarely teach in a traditional setting anymore.
And that transition– from platform to pew– has put me in a unique spot. I know, quite well, what it’s like on the platform. I feel more native there than I do in the pews. So, while I am now a pew-sitter in church I strongly identify with those on the platform. And sometimes, sitting in those pews, I make observations that I feel like I need to share.
In this case, this observation has sat in my draft folder for more than 2 years! It’s my heart but I’ve been fearful of sharing it for fear of the backlash. I hope it’s somehow useful to you.
As a guy sitting in the pews I can’t help but be stricken by the passive life you are calling me to.
Come to church and sit. Listen to the staff talk. Sing some songs. Listen to a 40 minute sermon. Sing some more songs. Go to Sunday school and listen some more. Every point of application is so simple, so packaged, and so…
I see how you did that. Your message pointed me to the cause of the week. Aw, shucks. You’ve made it so easy. Loving Jesus is so… easy, packaged, simple, and conveniently located near a camera so we can celebrate next week.
And yet, when I open my Bible and read nearly any page I see this stark contrast: There is action from Genesis to Revelation. The entire book of Lamentations is an admonishment for sitting and doing nothing while the world is upside down with corruption.
We Like to Teach… You Like to Sit… The Disconnect
That seems to be the narrative. Come and get information. We don’t care if you ever live it out. Just come back next week for the next installment.
Yet, when I zoom out the lens on Jesus’ entire message for how to live He seems to point people away from a Temple lifestyle, one where you engage with God at a place in packaged ways, He admonishes over and over again— “This Temple thing ain’t it, friends. God’s at work in the neighborhoods all the time, not just for a couple hours on the Sabbath.”
And so we have an inborn disconnect. I’ll go about my day, I’ll go to work this week… you know, with the sinners. And you’ll go to your work this week… you know, sit in the church and think about what life is like with the sinners. God’s called you to help me with my life but you don’t really have a clue what I even do day-to-day.
I look around and see blue collar types, people who get their coffee at 7-11. And you hang out at Starbucks.
It’s a disconnect which leads to two epic streams of bad assumptions. I know you truly care so I assume you really get me, but you don’t. And you seem to assume I don’t really want to do anything, that I’m too busy, but I’m not.
I don’t just need the Good News to be true for me on Sunday’s. I need to see the Good News alive in my daily life. And my neighbors? Holy moley do they need Good News to be for real.
What would happen if Sunday morning stopped being a passive call to come back next week or deeper levels of involvement with [insert whatever busy work your church has for me] and started being a call to action to live like Jesus?
I wonder what that would even look like? Actually, I dream about it. Please release me! Get me out of this passive spot.
I don’t like being counted. Why are you always counting? You preach and I get counted. I go to a meeting and I get counted. Come to a potluck and someone counts. When I teach Sunday School seemingly the most important thing to do is count.
What if we started counting things that mattered? Like, wouldn’t it be cool if you counted on me not being there? Isn’t that what it means to live out my faith? Shouldn’t what I do between your incessant counting actually matter? How about we count that?
Why don’t we do that?
I’ll tell you what would happen. And why you shudder at the thought. People would get so busy living out their faith that they would stop coming to your Bible studies, your youth group, your choir rehearsals, and your clean-up Saturdays. You are afraid that if people really live out their faith your count will be effected.
Sometimes I worry that the whole reason we do this is not so that I’ll do something but so that you can teach.
Don’t worry. You won’t be useless if you start teaching people to be active. Quite the opposite, because I’m really going to need you then. And when we gather it’ll be a monster celebration of what God is doing. And if you think about it, this will make your teaching so much more important.
So please, count on me to do something more than sit on my hands.