I keep running into this pastor from a church plant who has a very specific language surrounding his new church. He uses lots of buzzwords that I’m convinced more and more don’t mean anything. Now don’t get me wrong, he’s a good guy and his church is in the more progressive camp of the Church of God, Anderson “movement” (we aren’t a denomination, apparently) which I like. My only problem is with the jargon that he, and many other church planters, is using. “At “insert church name here” we have this saying that…..” is a pretty common way for him to start a sentence.
I’m 24. If you know anything about 24 year olds it’s that most of us just got out of college where we thought everything should be a movement and that if we weren’t a part of some revolution we probably weren’t good people or didn’t love Jesus enough or cared too little about poverty. We now are, for the most part, out of college and having to figure out what it means to live out our convictions while working 40+ hours a week and most of us are finding that it isn’t easy. You can’t just join a movement. We’re finding that going to a benefit concert, no matter how well intentioned, doesn’t change the world and that signing up for an email from Sojourners or World Vision doesn’t actually propel us to do much more than ignore emails.
We are an entire generation of people who want to be part of something big. I think churches tend to prey on this. They use language that makes people feel that something more significant than paying bills will happen in your life if you become part of their church. You will join a movement, so to speak. So they buy cool screens that count down the minutes until the sermon on Sundays and drink elite brands of fair trade coffee. They watch all the right videos and sing all the right songs and highlight the few people that have a relationship with the church who are actually living gospel centered lives somewhere in the world. They see a generation thirsting for something beyond themselves and they offer them mediocrity packaged as revolution.
I remember reading an article a few years ago by an African scholar. He was criticizing hyped up Western events to raise awareness or money(One Campaign, concerts, etc.), saying that aren’t actually helpful (most of the money goes to corrupt officials and such) and serve mostly to make American’s feel good about themselves. I think something that my generation has yet to realize is that big doesn’t necessarily mean better. I think something that the church has failed to do is help young adults to understand this and have instead reinforced the notion that all good Christians are a part of something big that you can point to and make billboards about.
As I read Acts and as I read about the early church I’m always surprised by how upside down their revolution seemed. People were coming to the faith daily. Real disciples, many of whom died for it; thousands of people picking up their crosses and spending the rest of their lives pleading the case of the widows, the fatherless, and the immigrants. But there was no hype. They didn’t throw concerts, they didn’t have commercials with celebrities and they didn’t even have cool videos to watch. They met in secret. They would paint a fish on a wall so people would know where to meet. Women would open up their homes and they would share a meal and worship God. Every day they had to reevaluate where they met so they didn’t draw too much attention to themselves and every day more of their neighbors would come and see what it meant to be a people of God’s Kingdom.
I say all of this to point out one thing: God’s Kingdom is unassuming. Kingdom people are not people of hype because hype doesn’t represent God’s Kingdom. Kingdom people know their neighbors and serve in their local communities. Their revolution is one of love, and not some esoteric and unattached emotion but real, concrete, burden carrying, empathetic, difficult messy love. And it isn’t big. It isn’t something you feel towards people in Africa and it isn’t a cause that you can sign up for an email update about. It is small. Very small. It is doing the dishes. It is babysitting for free or voting against unjust laws. It is making cookies for your neighbors or teaching somebody how to read. It is eating together and hurting together and more importantly rejoicing together.
I’m just tired of people trying to sell me a revolution. I want somebody to model for me what it means to love and I want their jargon and their lifestyle to be about that.
“Anyone who does not love remains in death.”
-John, the apostle-