Can we talk?
In my experience, the church (by which I mean church people) has always been afraid of honest dialogue. By that I mean, we have been afraid of forthright give-and-take that may even include some degree of criticism. The two churches that I have been involved with in my time as a Christian, although very different, have had this in common. With regard to themselves, their practices and beliefs, they are insistently positive. The first was able to keep honest criticism (along with dishonest) at bay simply by condemning every speck of criticism as clear evidence of heresy. My present church, on the other hand, is simply awash in positivity and happy-talk. You know, every song is "anointed," every message the best ever, every thought that pops into our heads an "impression" from the Lord ("I'm getting a picture..."). A more measured response seems like faith grown cold. C’mon, fella, where’s your joy?
Oh, well. The last thing I want is to come across as God’s official church-corrector. But there’s something about all this happy-talk that seems decidedly un-Biblical, un-Christian. Last week in church we sang five or six celebratory worship songs, not one of which mentioned Jesus nor intimated the real reason why we should be happy at all? All of them were insistently, even perversely, I-centered. You know the type: I’m happy, I’m free, I’m dancing, I’m singing, I give you all my heart, all my soul, etc.
So you might think I’m suffering from a little happy-clappy overload, but that’s not really the problem. I can be as happy-clappy as anyone. But I have this nagging feeling that week after week we’re simply not hitting the mark, nor even aiming at the right target. Something is missing. A plain-spoken sense of our own inadequacy, and Christ’s all-sufficiency. The Gospel, straight up. My need, and God’s provision in the cross of Christ.
When we first came to my church, we were frankly church-shopping. We were looking for freedom, yes, and expressive joy, and sold-out faith. But at the bottom of all this, at the foundation, we knew, would have to be Jesus. I remember telling Laurie, “I just want to hear about Jesus.”
And now it seems to me that with all the fervor and enthusiasm and mission-trips for the youth, etc., Jesus is, while not entirely forgotten, not entirely central either. It amazes me that a people that made such a fuss about Mel Gibson’s Jesus-movie can in actual practice have so sidelined the Savior. Is there a cross in your church? Not in mine.