There’s a phone commercial out that shows a guy put in his headphones and start running.. he’s running alone, rocking out, and pretty soon he stops and looks around to see nothing but sheep and windmills. His awesome phone beeps, telling him he’s wandered all the way to Rio Vista… wherever that is.
One time I was in Kansas City with my room mate to drop another friend off at the air port. Being about 4 am we decided to skip on up the highway to the nearest Krispy Kreme, in time for the light to come on about 5 (shout out if you know what that even means). I don’t remember what we were talking about or listening to but pretty soon we realized that, not only were we passing St. Joe, but the sun was coming up on the wrong side of the car! We had made a series of wrong turns/exits/etc and ended up someplace we never meant to go.
I have a degree in “ministry”. I spent four years studying scripture and methods for evangelism and discipleship. I spent nearly 10 years in “professional” ministry. I’ve been a youth pastor, a worship pastor, a media/technology director, even an occasional preacher. I’ve written entire Bible study curriculum programs, VBS programs, worship songs, lead weeks-on-end of church camp and taken bus loads of kids off to places that made their parents start reviewing their insurance policies. I had a plan. My entire life focused around “church”. Along the way a few things happened that started to tarnish this idea I had of what ministry was supposed to be… I saw friends in ministry give up or get burned by irresponsible church leadership, I got burned myself a few times.. I saw men who should have been pillars abuse their influence for their own selfishness, I saw christians turn churches into private country clubs with ‘members only’ on the marquis. I’ve seen churches that were more about themselves than Jesus… and over time everything I loved about what I did began to distort.. I loved music, but I’ve watched it become an idol, more about a show and musical arrangement and than being literally knocked onto your face by the presence of God… I loved having community with other believers, but I’ve watched that become forced and planned until it’s nothing but another program we put into our auto-pilot lives. I love studying scripture, but it seems like every time we gather together to “study” we spend more time eating than studying. I love prayer, but I feel like prayer time has become talk-about-your-neighbor time and we spend more time taking prayer requests than actually praying…
I’ve been “out” of full time ministry for about two years now, and I don’t like to admit it, but I’ve become bitter toward what I used to love.. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jesus with my entire heart, and I love his bride the Church! I still want to spend my life in his service.. but I’m in a place I never intended to be… Sunday morning is no longer exciting for me… I dread it… I don’t look forward to it because I have to ignore so much around me and focus myself on why I’m there… I hang on every word of the sermon, because there’s only 18 minutes of it per week so I have to get as much from it as I can.. The music I loved so much now gets blocked out and I read the screen for the words, not the song… The people I used to enjoy being around all seem to have fake smiles and pay too much attention to what they’re wearing.. I don’t know if I’m looking for something more or maybe I’m just tired of all the extra stuff that Americans have added to our faith… it’s like we think everything that’s cool needs to be part of church… coffee shops are cool, so lets put one in the church.. iPads are cool so let’s preach from one instead of a Bible… flat screen TVs are cool so let’s put one on every wall… smoke and lights are cool so lets put them all over the stage..
Don’t freak out, I’m not saying any of that stuff is wrong, but I think we’ve gotten distracted and ended up in Rio Vista..
Have you ever been hungry? I mean, really hungry, like after a long road trip where you’ve eaten junk food for eight days straight and all you want is a heaping plate of your moms roast and potatoes and carrots… that’s how I feel every Sunday morning… I want to hear solid preaching for an hour and a half… I want to hear the murmur of a thousand people praying out loud… I want to hear singing, not see it… but I feel like all I ever get is a Twinkie… a Twinkie with filling that I helped mix…
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” Acts 2:42 … I honestly don’t think the first century Church looked anything like the twenty-first century Church.. I wasn’t around to see it, but strangely I miss it..
I am praying for myself and my heart, that I would not become jaded and cynical (which is difficult for me anyway, I’m a very cynical person and Jesus and I have talked about that a lot..) I’m praying that God help me (and everyone else out there who feels like I do) to not give up and go looking for something we “like better” or someplace we “click”, but to find a way to bring His people back to what we used to be… the strength of the Church is not our coolness or our popularity, but our Truth, our Way, our Life… our savior Jesus and our closeness to Him alone. We’ve put on our headphones and rocked out to our coolness and ended up someplace we never intended to go..