Who sits in the pews on Sunday in the United States? Americans or Christians?
Don’t answer too quickly. I did, and I answered it wrong.
The deeper I get into reading David Platt’s Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live, the greater my discomfort is growing. Not with the book; not at all. My discomfort arises from the growing certainty at how much American culture has captured the Church in the United States.
Two major strands of cultural influence have fused in the church today – American individualism and American consumerism. If we’re not toting around our focus on self and trying to discern “God’s plan for my life,” we’re telling ourselves that we’re not “into church” but we are “into Jesus,” and we go shopping for the right church to meet our needs (Platt and others refer to this as “dating the church”). Or we choose to abandon church altogether and stay at home on Sunday’s with our bibles and internet worship services.
It’s not about determining God’s plan for your life, Platt says. It’s about living each day expectantly, knowing that God is going to do something with you, and likely something surprising, and being open and available. A friend of mine (a young pastor) once scandalized older pastors and elders alike when he said that 90 percent of missions was simply showing up.
“So we go to him,” Platt says. “We spend time with him. We sincerely listen to his Word as we walk in obedience to it. As we do these things, God leads us and guides us according to his will, and suddenly we realize that the will of God is not a road map just waiting to be unearthed somewhere. Instead, it’s a relationship that God wants us to experience every day (emphasis added).”
And if you’re truly “into Jesus,” you’ll know that church is not optional. It’s designed by God, and we are all parts. It’s how the work gets done. God’s work. Not by people sitting at home by themselves, but by people in community, who come together with all their hopes and joys and aggravations and dreams and irritations and failures, and somehow God creates something beautiful out of all it.
Church is not about meeting our needs. We’re looking at this through the wrong end of the telescope. It’s not about us. It’s about what God wants us to do in the world.
The church is supposed to be countercultural – that what has given it its strength for than two thousand years. It runs into trouble when it embraces the culture, whether that’s culture left or culture right.
We’ve been embracing the culture for a long time. Too long. We need to stop, and be the church we’re meant to be.
We’re discussing Follow Me over at The HighCalling. Visit the site to see what today’s post is about and what’s happening in the comments.