This one is for the person that grew up in the church, became disenchanted because of “church people”, has pretty much given up on their spiritual journey, probably hasn’t attended church in years, and just kind of shrugs their shoulders at the whole notion of GOD and ends the conversation with “I’m a good person and God knows it, so we’re good.” This one is for you.
It’s for you because you are where I was. For a long time I was there I’m coming to learn.
I suppose that I didn’t really know it, either. I wouldn’t have classified myself as an angry person, but I suppose that I was pretty irritated with the church. Virtually every experience I’ve had in church has furthered my disenchantment with it. Hypocritical people. Cliques. Weird little rituals. The way money is spent grated on me. And I guess that somewhere along the line, I stepped off the playing field onto the sidelines and remained there for a really, really long time.
Removed from any sort of Christian fellowship hardened my heart. Without knowing it, you sit down one day and realize that you haven’t really prayed in months. Or years. None of your friends go to church. You don’t know where your Bible is. I saw a plaque one time in a guy’s office that said, “If you were on trial for your faith, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Hmm. I’d have gotten off scott-free.
Something happened for me that changed my perspective, and I pray that it happens for you, too. A few years ago I met someone that is tattooed from head to toe. He wears bandanas, has a goofy looking goatee, and has earrings. He rides a Harley, lives out in the sticks, and has 6 kids. Oh, and he’s a pastor, too. He was a guest speaker at the church that I randomly attended, and I hung on every word, because his message was so “anti-church”. Let me explain.
I got to know that pastor pretty well over dozens of lunches. During his sermon he said that he had prepared a sermon, but that God told him that somebody needed to hear something else, so he threw the sermon out and crafted a new message. Over a lunch a few days later, I explained to him that the message was for me. You see, he was the very first “church-person” I had ever met that preached from a position of “You’re a mess. But not as bad as I. So let’s be a mess together and figure out how to be better people.” And that might sound ridiculously simple, but if you are anything like I was, it was also like taking off the blinders to what “religion” and “the church” truly are. “Church” can all too often become praise music full of lights and smoke and screaming guitars. It’s crappy hypocritical people giving testimonies about how wonderful they are, when YOU know that they are blatant liars and thieves. It’s offering plates (and sermons about it).
But my friend ultimately taught me that NONE of that is what church is about. He made me laugh one time when he painted a picture of church as “a bunch of dusty, smelly dudes that would sit around in a desert and listen to Jesus. That’s what church is. These guys were a bunch of scumbags and yet they showed up to listen to Jesus and talk about what scumbags they are. And all they did was get up when Jesus did, follow him to the next rock in a desert, and sit down to talk again about how stupid they all are. And Jesus loved every one of them, and so if He can love them, then He can love me too. That’s what church is. Broken, stupid people that come together to talk about how bad they are, while sharing the ways that they’re at least trying to do better.”
So armed with this perspective, I was able to say, “But friend, I’m struggling with my anger!” And he would say, “Dude, me too!” I would share “Today sucks. Let’s go to happy hour and be stupid!” And he would chuckle and say “Nothing sounds finer. Instead, let’s pray for a minute and then see what God says.” So I’d say, “Blah. My wife is just making me nuts and I’m broke.” He would nod his head and say “Buddy, let me tell you about how irritated I am with my wife!”
There were two stupid, smelly dudes having church. We were sitting around complaining about how stupid we were, and then talking with Jesus about it and waiting for Him to speak to us.
Welcome to CHURCH.
I go to church nowadays. Not every week, but dang it, I do attend now. I still grumble when I see people I don’t like, but I have to remind myself that they don’t like me either. I still roll my eyes at some of the “production” of church, but it doesn’t bother me as much anymore. This building I sit in isn’t “church” to me anymore, it’s simply a rock in the desert where I can sit and listen to Jesus. I’m surrounded by stupid, smelly people and we’re all there for hopefully the same reason.
If you’re as I described at the beginning of this, know that you’re not alone. But also know that you don’t have to stay there. There are actually people out there that are just as messed up as you are, and are the first to admit it. Embrace your brokenness, your stupidity, and your smelliness. Find someone that will just say “Man, me too!”. Then pray.
And watch what happens.