I’ve been listening to the newest cd of one of my favorite bands, Caedmon’s Call. There is a song on the album called Expectations that has really struck me. The song describes a young man’s struggle after “church” turns out to be different than what he thought. With lines like, “And he heard that Jesus would fill him up. Maybe something got lost in the language. If this is full then why bother,” the young man’s thoughts are brought out as he recalls what attracted him to “Christianity” in the first place, and where all that has left him now.
The chorus is especially meaningful: “This was not the way it looked on the billboard: Smiling family beaming down on the interstate.” Apparently the young man wanted to be part of a family, to belong somewhere, to be filled up by Christ, but “the reaching of the steeple felt like one more expensive ad for something cheap.” The song ends in suspense, telling us that the young man “dressed up nice for the congregation scared somebody’s gonna find him out through the din and the clatter of the Hallelujahs, and stained-glass Jesus scenes.”
I suppose the point of the song is that we need to be careful to live up to the image we portray. Or maybe it is that we need to make sure no one slips through the cracks, going unnoticed and untaught while we go about our “churchy” business. But, I think the problem, generally speaking, is much deeper, and much worse.
Does the church you attend have this problem? Maybe “church” has become sermons, potlucks, game nights, Sunday and Wednesday Bible classes, youth groups, and the occasional service project. And, maybe the “din and the clatter” of all this “church” activity has deafened our ears to the cries of the lost or even the growth-less Christians.
It’s easy to think in terms of reputation, advertising, and getting people through the church doors. It’s easy to come up with “fellowships” and programs. It’s not so easy to convince people to commit the rest of their lives to following Christ. But, the latter is our commission. Are we filling pews or making disciples? [Matthew 18:18-20]
I am not opposed to building improvements, advertisements, and programs. I am not opposed to fellowships, potlucks, or youth groups. I am opposed to allowing ourselves to think that all of these things are what the church is all about; at the expense of souls.
Ask yourself, your fellow Christians, and your church leaders the following question: Is this making disciples? Ask the question in regards to everything you do as the church. Is the ad in the paper making disciples? Are these potlucks making disciples? Is our youth group making disciples? Are we maturing Christians and/or reaching the lost through this or that program? You may be surprised to learn that these things, by themselves, do not make disciples. But, they can make disciples if you intend for them to.
You may discover that your potlucks need to be refocused so that the purpose is to invite lost friends and family, or to get to know people in the church you don’t know so well. You may discover that your potlucks need to be dropped in favor of something more effective. Don’t get stuck doing things that you’ve always done simply because you have always done them. Traditions are great, but ineffective traditions are just habits.
The words of Paul, though having a different application in their context, are, nevertheless, meaningful to this issue: “So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil.” [Romans 14:16] Don’t let the “din and clatter” of “church” drown out our Lord’s commission to make disciples. There are souls to save, so we better get busy.