I grew up in the American Church system. I knew all of the churchy words and things to say to make myself look “righteous,” but little did I know that no one is righteous according to Scripture. I slowly learned that all of my good deeds inside of the church was making absolutely no impact on the lost world around me. I noticed that I, along with hundreds of other people just like me, were actually building something that was starting to look an awfully like a social club full of fat, selfish club members.
I wanted to share this concept with you, in hopes that it will challenge you to scrutinize your Christian walk. I believe that many times, we Christians, separate ourselves so much from the world that we are no longer capable of sharing Jesus with anyone- kind of like salt that has lost its flavor. But on the other hand, I believe that we have taken Christ’s message to an extreme in many cases, causing the call to be “not of the world” to the extreme of not even being part of it either!
So, to challenge you, I am giving you a short excerpt from Dan Kimball’s book, “They Like Jesus, but not the Church.” If these next few blogs interest you, I strongly suggest you get a copy of this book and read it. I read this book over a six month span, looking at my own life and the calling that Jesus placed on His Church. I noticed some inconsistencies in myself that needed confession and change, therefore, I share this with you in hopes that God would do the same in your life. I hope you enjoy!
“Have you ever noticed that once you begin thinking about buying a particular model of car, suddenly you start seeing it all over the place? It had been out all along, but you hadn’t noticed it before. This is what happened to me. As I began looking around, all I saw was Christian paraphernalia. People carrying Christian end-times novels with them everywhere, more than the Bible itself usually. People putting chrome fish emblems on their cars. While driving on the highway, I was a minivan that had two larger parent Christian fish emblems and two smaller children fish emblems on it. I wondered what that looks like to people who have no idea what the fish symbol means. They must think, “That family must be seriously into aquatic life.” Why are we compelled to put those on our cars in the first place? You can see all types of bumper stickers on Christian’s cars warning people, “In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned.” Maybe you have seen the rather funny rebuttal bumper sticker: “In case you get raptured, can I have you car?” I can’t blame them for saying that! We have created so many little Christian products and trinkets that you just look so bizarre from an outside perspective. The more I looked around, the weirder it all looked.
Then I began noticing what most of us talk about. Generally it’s the latest Christian band or concert or what’s happening at church. As I recognized that we really only socialize with our Christian friends, I also recognized that overall, we are complacent about those outside the church. We aren’t thinking about their eternal destiny. We aren’t concerned about whether they’re experiencing the abundant life Jesus offers. We are more concerned about whether there will be good snow on our church skiing trip than about the spiritual status of our neighbors and the people we work with every day. I became aware that I didn’t hear much concern about those who don’t know Jesus yet. We are all about making church better for ourselves and making our lives more comfortable in the Christian bubble we have created. I didn’t hear much about being a voice for the voiceless or being concerned with social justice, the poor, AIDS in Africa, and other pressing needs. (I am thankful that since then the church does seem to be awakening to the AIDS epidemic and other global issues of social justice, but we still have a long way to go.) As I was awakening to the subculture I had been sucked into and was a part of, I heard and saw Christian buzzwords and phrases that suddenly sounded so incredibly corny, phrases such as “food, fellowship, and fun.” And most disturbing was that when we do talk about the non-Christian world, we tend to point fingers and complain about the “horrible things going on in culture.”
I didn’t hear too much heartbreak for people outside the church among church leaders either. Church leaders are mainly dealing with complaints about last week’s sermon or complaints that the music wasn’t good enough, along with threats that people might go to another church where these things are better. When church leaders feel pressure from this kind of complaining, naturally the focus becomes having better programs, music, and activities to keep the people in their churches. Pastors face subtle pressure from Christian parents to have good youth programs to make sure that their kids stay away from the bad non-Christian kids and have the opportunity to meet other Christians. The whole thing feeds itself, isolating us from the outside world. It feels like we’re building this social, spiritual, and consumeristic infrastructure, and Christians are only demanding more of it, building a stronger and thicker bubble around us, protecting us from the outside while we create this very strange Christian subculture inside. But it had happened to me so slowly that I hadn’t even noticed it.”
This is an excerpt from the book “They Like Jesus But Not the Church,” Written by pastor Dan Kimball. Dan is the author of several books, including “The Emerging Church” and “Emerging Worship.” Dan is a pastor at Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California.
Dan Kimball, They Like Jesus but not the Church, Zondervan, Grand Rapids: MI, 2007.