What does that look like when you chisel away all of the centuries of extraneous stuff, and it’s just you and Jesus in real life? If you jettison the hierarchy, the cathedrals, the massive church campuses, the official clergy, the budgets, the billions of dollars, the stereotypes, the expectations, the power and the politics, what’s left?
How real is our faith? If all of the crutches were knocked away, what would we do? What if it were illegal to assemble, and the church buildings were closed, and the pastors imprisoned, how would we live out our faith, if were just up to us?
With all of the outsourcing options gone, would a sense of personal responsibility kick in? Could we keep our faith a rather “normal” part of daily life? Would there be enough real spiritual vigor to normally, naturally, and some times radically, live out a Jesus-inspired life that would inspire others?
Some Christian leaders think such conditions as I described would be horrible and spell the end for the church. I think they would give birth to something a lot more real, and more like Jesus.
Every time a new study comes out indicating the rapid rate that Americans are turning from religion, the aforementioned folks shake their fists at the inclusive, secular culture they believe is destroying the church and threatening the very existence of western civilization.
Some of the cooler Christian leaders who accept the reality of the changing demographics of belief among Americans, explain how we can reach out to the younger generations, and make our church more attractive to them. But all of the reaction to these “alarming” trends seem to be geared toward growing, maintaining, and protecting an institution that needs a much deeper evaluation.
For me, the whole faith life thing is one big experiment in living. I don’t have it all figured out, but I do have a pretty decent handle on what it isn’t.
If I have to use special terminology to discuss my faith, it’s not real. It’s an intellectual exercise. The shoptalk terminology only alienates people further. How can it be real, if we cannot articulate our faith in way that is understandable to the uninitiated?
If we have to keep pulling ourselves out of regular life to be continually indoctrinated and pumped up, how is that real? If it is real, we will assume responsibility for our own faith expression, and it will be part of how we live everyday.
If it takes a whole bunch of “special” stuff (dedicated buildings, trained professionals, and endless programs) to keep us going, how is that real? If it is real, we will do just fine without that stuff.
If we keep ourselves as isolated in a sub culture (Christian schools, Christian music, and only Christian friends) as much as is possible, how is that real? If it is real, we will be immersed in culture.
That’s the easy part.
What does the experiment look like, with faith and life joined at the hip? I can only answer from my personal experience.
I understand a vital real life faith to be expressed naturally and normally.
It’s about letting God out of the box and seeing him at work wherever he is, and in whomever he chooses. I used to think all that only happened within the church.
It’s about seeing opportunities to express Jesus-like love wherever they arise. I used to look to church programs for this.
It’s about making peace with yourself. We need to accept his grace for ourselves, and learn to be ourselves, rather than trying to live up to expectations. I guess I have spent most of my life being very concerned about the expectations of others, and having an easier time extending grace than receiving it.
It’s about figuring this stuff out for yourself, rather than relying on someone else to do that for you. Most Christians outsource their spiritual expression to the church.