Thursday, July 23, 2009

A 21st century church system failure

So at the end of May I was on vacation with my family in Seattle. We had a rental mini-van and it had a gift from God just to me: Sirius satellite radio. Jazz, 24/7. No talk. No commercials. No breaking for NPR news. It was pure grace. For 2 weeks I didn’t hear the news. I had no idea what was going on in the outside world and I liked it. Why? Because the world is too much with us and its fun to get away and escape.

When I got home I had some catching up to do. So I went to the usual places to find out what was going on in the world. I don’t take the local city paper or any other paper. One of my former colleagues used to cut out the articles for me so I could stay current. She was like my own private clipping service. But I don’t have that anymore.

I trust one network to give me a synopsis of the news; one website to keep me current on what’s happening in the greater culture; and one or two magazines to give me an update on everything professional.

There simply isn’t time to process all the information that’s out there. I want the gist and if I’m interested, I can go find out more. So I rely on a few select outlets to be a kind of clipping service for me.

It occurs to me that one of the serious systems failure we have in the church is that I, the preacher, have become a kind of religious clipping service for my flock. They come for an hour a week and expect me to download the gist of what they need to be christians for the week.

But following Jesus doesn’t work that way at all. You can’t rely on others to give you the gist. You have to relate to him personally. He didn’t say, “get the gist from the preacher and follow me,” he said, “Deny yourself daily, take up your cross and follow me.” In other words, you can’t do discipleship from a church clipping service. You have to live it, breathe it, work it, struggle with it, deny yourself and pick up your cross yourself. No short cuts.

The systems failure comes about in that I think we who do church professionally play too easily into people’s desire to do faith easily and then move on to the next thing. Thanks for reading. God bless. PJ

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