I am reading Francis Chan’s, “Letters to the Church”, and it is challenging me. For one, it is confirming, yet again, that I do not love you the way I should; the way God does. But it is also addressing and helping me flesh out some of the reasons why I am so frustrated with you. For example, here is a passage from chapter 3:
There is a simple exercise I walk through with church leaders. First, I have them list all the things that people expect from their church. They usually list obvious things like a really good service, strong age-specific ministries, a certain style/volume/length of singing, a well-communicated sermon, conveniences such as parking, a clean church building, coffee, childcare, etc. Then I have them list the commands God gave the church in Scripture. Usually they mention commands like “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12), “visit orphans and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27), “make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:19), “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2), ect. I then ask them what would upset their people more—if the church didn’t provide the things from the first list or if the church didn’t obey the commands in the second list.
This has been one of my biggest struggles with going to church. And I have got to a lot of different ones over the last year. I have gotten to the point that if I walked in and it is clear the service is going to be a big production, I just walked out. Maybe I missed a lot of good substance, but I just can’t stomach the form any longer. I’m still trying to figure this out. Please, be patient with me. I am trying.
I am lucky in my job that I get a chance to work with widows, orphans, individuals from many different nations and occasionally I am invited to share in their burdens a little. I would love to see, you, the church have no fear of the secular so that we can all serve these people all week long. When you do work like I do, you worry about kids and families over the weekends. You and I, we should be there for that.
This passage from Chan also makes me think about the social justice implications behind giving up that second list (and in reality our first love, Christ, see Matt. 25:35-40), in favor of the first.
I can’t help but wonder, if we were more concerned about loving one another, would generation after generation be fleeing the church? If we were more concerned about the widows and orphans, would we have time to post to social media that ‘all lived matter’? We’d simply be living it. If we were spending our time making disciples of all the nations would we then have any care for a wall that separates? We would welcome the alien, right? If we were bearing one another’s burdens would baking or not baking a cake for someone we disagree with seem trivial and silly? We could listen to their story at we apply the frosting.