After five months of gray skies—welcome to Ohio—you can’t blame a guy for being a little morose. A few years ago, I realized I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, and mid-February is the nadir of my experience.
So perhaps I’m coming at Rick Ianniello‘s Facebook post with a bit of a glum philosopher’s perspective, but I don’t think I’m alone. Maybe you’re a glum philosopher now too.
How is it possible for Christians to propagate the following.
“I really want to go to church this Sunday. Could you find one that won’t try to change me?”
I don’t think that request is impossible to understand. It may not seem logical, but sometimes the illogical still makes sense.
I believe that most people are burned out on change.
We Christians think we have cornered the market in change given that we talk about repentance and sanctification all the time. But the truth is that our secular culture has more than one-upped us. The message we Americans drown in daily consists of little more than a perpetual torrent of change requests. They go something like this:
1. “Your _____________ is not good enough, so change.”
2. “You are too_____________, so change.”
Into #1, we can fit
Into #2, we can fit
When it comes down to it, most of our daily existence as Americans consists of dancing to the pied piper of change. We live in a perpetual conga line of following some leader as he/she/it takes us to the promised land guaranteed by change.
Is it any wonder that some people are desperate to stop the unending jig their life has become?
Int0 this comes the Church. We put means of salvation into #1 and sinful into #2. Our message becomes “change or go to hell.”
Sounds like more of the same, doesn’t it?
This is not to say that the Gospel is wrong, only that perhaps we have to start leading with something other than the “you better change or else” portion of the message.
See, unless our reasons for change lead to something meaningful, constant change in and of itself only leads to despair. In truth, when we distill most of the message we Americans get from our culture, it seems impossible to avoid the belief that life has no meaning.
I’ve been a Christian for a few decades now, and my constant struggle, even to this day, is the search for meaning in life. I realize that most of that struggle is because I’m bombarded by meaninglessness. And most of that comes from the constant message of change.
I am continually convinced that we Christians in the America have got to start leading with love first. Because the Bible tells us that perfect love casts out fear, especially the fear of meaninglessness.
Yes, at some point we have to get to the part of the message that includes the change of repentance, but I believe most people are so burned by change that we have to give them something else before we can get to the change part of the message. This is not to say we bury change, only that we temper it. Pulling a bait and switch on people (“Okay, we gave you love, now you won’t get more love until you change”) isn’t going to work.
I know a couple where the wife is bipolar and the husband is a church worship leader. He’s been the rock. Just recently, he was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.
In the life of that couple, what speaks most to the meaninglessness of life? Are we going to ask them for more change? Or can we offer better?
I look around and no longer wonder why people don’t want to be a part of the Church. The Church isn’t meeting their need in the midst of the message of change, whether that’s the world’s change or the Church’s. When I hear the heart cry of someone lost in meaninglessness, I understand their lament of “I really want to go to church this Sunday. Could you find one that won’t try to change me?” I get what they mean.
Because for all our talk of godliness, repentance, and so on, it seems that we’re missing where most people are at right now. Yes, people are sinners. Yes, they need to change.
But are we giving them any meaningful reason to?