Lately, I've been thinking about my life and what it has become, as well as the possibilities of where I'm headed. Before becoming a believer I had to have been an incredibly liberal dude chasing the pendulum of the social consciousness to its extreme of liberality and what I thought was freedom. I remember the days after I came to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. I was so ultra conservative I get sick just thinking about it. Yet, having chased the pendulum to the far right and left has given me some insight into that type of thinking. Today I consider myself a moderate because I'm conservative about some things and liberal about others, but I seek balance in all of life. That's ironic because I love extreme sports and living on the edge.
My life has changed through the years since becoming a believer in Jesus Christ. I've seen the devastation the American Church has wielded on society and those who disagree with her philosophy. We've forgotten to express grace and mercy. My heart continues to break and ache for those scarred by a philosophy that follows the "kill'em all and take no prisoners" mentality. Yes, the American Protestant Church, to be exact, has lived in that realm since the time of its inception. They have ridiculed those who don't follow their way. I've seen websites of Baptist churches that blast anyone who is Catholic. The Church should be the picture of diversity, love and acceptance. We, yes we, have stifled and corrupted The Reformation, and the result has been what we call the American Church.
I remember my days as a youth pastor. Some days were wonderful, while others really sucked! It was great having the opportunity to minister to kids trying to find their way through life. I learned a lot about what NOT to do in ministry. I learned about the politics of ministry and the limitations of vision when people lack faith and life dreams. It burned me out so badly that I told God, "I don't want anything to do with ministry ever again. I'll take my family to church and worship you, but I don't want to lead ministry again. The price is too high." Well, that lasted from February 1996 to November 2003.
God was very patient with me. Through that time I learned a lot about Christ, Culture and creating Community. Not once did I think of, or desire entering the realm of ministry leadership during that time. When God shook my cage there was one thing I told Him I wouldn't do. I told him if I walked in His calling I didn't want to do traditional church stuff. Guess what? He said, "Okay." What I learned from that conversation is that God really does care about what I think, feel and desire. Of all beings, God is the last one who wants us to live in traditionalism.
It breaks my heart that the Church has allowed herself to fall into the trap of traditionalism. The traditional American Church has fallen asleep at the wheel and it's running over a lot of people for the sake of keeping its privilege to drive. Now, I'm not talking about tradition. I'm speaking of traditionalism. See, tradition is of great value when it leads us to a closer and passionate relationship with God. Traditionalism, is when we love the traditions of the Church and place them at the same level as God. For instance, many people love the idea of being great people of prayer, but forget the one they pray to; others love the idea of great worship services with great music, but forget the one they worship; while others love the idea of traditions themselves, yet they forget why they follow their traditions only to be trapped by narrow minded thinking.
What happened to having freedom in Christ? I'm not talking about the freedom to do what we want. I'm saying that the American Church has lost her first love. The first love of "being" in love with a great God and "being" a vital and productive part of the Church as a whole. We're too orthodox and not organic enough.
The Church of today has become too reactive. We should be proactive by engaging with our culture and community. Simply put, we must develop relationships with the "least of these," those rejected by society and the church. God wouldn't have it any other way. He never has and he never will. We are the ones who have stunk up this thing we call Church.
Why do we chase the pendulum? Is it that mesmerizing? Are we that gullible?