Christian Living

Jesus Calls Us to Action, Sunday Morning is a Call to Passive

My Observation

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.

It is…

My Lament

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.

My Hope

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?

Your fear

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.




Christian Living

Stop learning and start acting

Photo by Meredith Farmer via Flickr (Creative Commons)

I’m surprised how much listening and reading we are expected to do as Christians.

  • Listen to a sermon each week – 35-45 minutes
  • Read from the Bible each day – 15-30 minutes
  • Listen to people read Bible verses and sing songs at church – 60 minutes
  • Attend a weekly mid-week service, small group, or youth group – 30-60 minutes
  • Listen to podcasts of even more sermons – 60-90 minutes per week

Is the Christian life just about listening and reading or is it supposed to be about learning?

Because if it’s about learning– I don’t learn very much by listening and reading in other areas of my life.

  • I have only read 1-2 books and maybe watched a couple of television shows about parenting, but I’ve learned how to parent.
  • Outside of the Bible, I can’t think of any non-fiction book I’ve finished… ever. I start books but never finish them.
  • I go to a job each day where I learn lots each day, and I’ve never read a book or listening to a lecture on almost any of it. “On the job training” has defined my work life.
  • I’m learning how to garden, but I haven’t read a book about it and I wouldn’t even know where to start to find a lecture about it.

On and on. In most areas of my life I learn mostly by doing and almost never by sitting passively and listening or reading the same book over and over again.

The Christian life is so passive. It is repulsive. We believe all of the right things and act on none of it.

Who is all of this instruction for?

The people hearing it or the person teaching it?

If I’m honest, I learn way more when I’m asked to teach from the Bible than I do if I just sit on my hands for 30 minutes and listen. And yet pastors teach and everyone else is expected to just listen… and even if we learn something no one is ever going to ask us to put it into action, nor follow-up with us, nor hold us accountable. Each Sunday is a new data dump. There will never be a test. We’ll never be asked to write papers. No one ever asks us if we are actually learning.

If the Christian life were a class– church is the lecture series we audit.

Did Jesus die so I could go to church and listen to sermons I’ll never put into action?

Is that what we really believe? All of the empirical evidence seems to point to that. Our systematic theology says no, but our practical theology says yes.

For all the messages that have been preached to me, the thousands of hours of Bible study, and the thousands of hours of mid-week teaching I’ve received you’d think, the hundreds of thousands of dollars invested into me– at some point, someone would look at me and say, “Dude, you know everything you need to know. Get out of here and live this stuff. Stop learning and start doing!

That’s never going to happen. Why? Because we measure passive activity and mislabel it as success. We lie to ourselves by rewarding the wrong people, we label passive reception of God’s word as good, and putting the Word to action is tertiary.

It’s not supposed to be this way.

James, who knew Jesus’ teaching well, was right. He addressed this danger directly.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

James 1:22-25

Get out and live the Gospel. Stop learning and start acting on what you’ve learned.

Jesus didn’t die for you so that you could go to church and hear people preach. Of course you don’t believe that.

Live otherwise.