Part 3: The Church Bubble
In America, we mostly believe that Christianity is about our comfort. You may ask: How do I know?
Because we’ve made salvation, in various subtle ways, more about “getting into Heaven one day” than about dying to yourself to follow Jesus.
Because we’ve made being the church about a once-a-week large group “experience” and not about serving and sacrificing for others.
Because we’ve made the Christian life about what Jesus can do for me and not our obedience to what Jesus taught us to do in faith.
Because we’ve created a bunker mentality where we are afraid to expose our kids to the world instead of modeling for them how to live as missionaries in it.
Follow the leader
Whether we want to admit it or not, this mentality starts with leadership. The more comfortable and insulated a pastor becomes, the more comfort seeking and insulated the congregation will be.
Here’s a question that ultimately gets to the heart of the issue for me [for those who are pastors especially]: Are you in intentional relationships with those who would never come to your church? Or any church for that matter.
This is a question of utmost importance because it gets to the heart of what it means to be Christian – or “little Christs.” If we are only in relationships that are reciprocally beneficial to us, then we aren’t being like Christ (Romans 5:10; 1 Peter 2:24-25).
It is interesting how Jesus spent his time on earth. Have you ever thought about it really? Especially when you compare it to the routines, schedules, and expectations we have, and even set, for most modern American pastors and church people.
Jesus was consistent in 3 things: (1) His own personal time with God, (2) His highly-relational time with those closest to Him, and (3) His time among the people of His day. You know what He literally never seemed to spend time doing? Preparing for large gatherings of followers [read: “church people”].
This last thought is particularly interesting to me considering how the entire “life of the church” today, in your typical church, is centered solely upon gatherings of “church people” (usually in a “church building”).
When did such a shift happen? And why are American Christians seemingly so obsessed with large gatherings of people in buildings that they own? (You could argue it started with the commandeering of Christianity by the Romans – but that’s another post for another day…)
“The Church Bubble” is a real thing. And a real problem.
Pastors find themselves in it.
Church people find themselves perpetuating it.
And ultimately it works against the spread of God’s Kingdom on earth because it funnels everything not thru the model of Jesus, but thru the model of western (Americanized) organizational structures – which are widely based on human governments or businesses.
I believe the reason the priorities of the leaders of a church community are so important is that they ultimately determine the direction that community will take in fulfilling the Great Commission.
If the leaders are: (1) following Jesus’ priorities of spending time on their own relationship with God, (2) creating highly-relational contexts with those closest to them, and (3) then living in intentional relationships with those in the community who do not themselves know Jesus (yet) – I think we could reasonably expect the entire church community is more likely to follow that lead.
Why? Because they are seeing it consistently modeled and taught.
This Lent, and moving forward, may we seek to change these behaviors so that we might actually reach the most “unchurched” & “dechurched” generation in the history of America so far.
I will close with this corporate confession:
we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have failed to be an obedient church.
We have not done your will,
we have broken your law,
we have rebelled against your love,
we have not loved our neighbors,
and we have not heard the cry of the needy.
Forgive us, we pray.
Free us for joyful obedience,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.