"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"They like Jesus, but not the church"

Yesterday I started to read two books that I've had for a few months now. One is The History of Islam that Basheer and his bookstore-working friend gave me when we were in Damascus. This is a three volume set and I foresee it taking a while to get through since I will likely read off and on as I read other books.

The other is a book I bought for Andrew, but I thought, too, that I would like it. It's called They Like Jesus But Not the Church by Dan Kimball. As the subtitle says, this book gives "insights from emerging generations." I've only read the first couple of chapters, but already I recognize myself and find myself challenged by what he writes. Especially about the Christian bubble or subculture. You know where you mostly hang out with Christian friends, go to Christian events, your church, your religious groups, your Bible studies and so forth. The author challenges us to see the heart of Jesus and how He went out into the world, listening to the people, spending time with them and meeting needs.

Dan remembers a time when he found himself in the church all week. He was there for staff meetings, he was there planning events, studying for his sermon -- all within the church's walls. He urges us to break out of our Christian bubble prison and engage with the world. He says he loves the heart of Jesus and how Jesus was willing to break out of the religious circles of His day. Jesus met with sinners because He knew it was the sick who needed a Physician, not the self-righteous who didn't even recognized how spiritually sick they were!

The author urges us to get to know the "natives" of our culture. He changed his ways by going to coffeehouses to prepare for his sermons. By going there, he met the workers, asked their opinions of things (which they LOVED!) and got to know the regulars. (This reminds me of my McDonald's days because I got to know many of the regulars and workers quite well so I can totally see this scenario that he describes.)

Asking people about Jesus while on a California university campus garnered very positive responses, however, questions about the church were a different story. "The church messed things up," and "They took the teachings of Jesus and turned them into dogmatic rules" and "Christians don't apply the message of love that Jesus gave" were among the replies. (pg. 37)

The author claims that we are so busy planning church events -- worrying if there will be good snow for our ski trip or how well the Valentine banquet will be attended -- that we feel complacent about those outside the church. We often aren't thinking of their eternal destiny or if they are experiencing the abundant life that Jesus gives; instead we often point fingers and complain about how horrible things are in our society. (pg. 41) Ouch!

"Jesus spent time with those who weren't religious. He talked with them, he listened to them, he cared for them, he cried for them. He died for them. . . . We need to have our hearts constantly broken for people, like Jesus' heart was broken. We need to look around us and see people through his compassionate eyes." (pg. 48)

The author asks if we are planning our escape from this prison of the Christian bubble. Like other books I've read recently and even a movie I saw the other day, the message seems to be: make relationships! Spend time listening to people and build friendships with them. Care for people.

And this is all just from the first 2 chapters....whoa!

5 comments:

Amber said...

I'm wondering if the author deals with the factor that most people like to hang around people who agree with them. It's why we break into cliques, etc. So we have a 'homebase'. People who will reinforce out opinions/beliefs. I think, for a lot of people, they don't *know* why they believe the way they do, so they don't like to step out into situations where they may be challenged. I'm looking forward to more on this book. :)

Carmen said...

"Jesus spent time with those who weren't religious. He talked with them, he listened to them, he cared for them, he cried for them. He died for them. . . . We need to have our hearts constantly broken for people, like Jesus' heart was broken. We need to look around us and see people through his compassionate eyes." (pg. 48)


Oooh. I need my heart broken for people. I know that I tend to be far too lacking in the compassion arena. My prayer should be to be able to see others like Jesus sees them.

If you think of all of the outcasts or highly disliked people that Jesus talked to (woman at the well), ate dinner with (tax collector Zaccheus)...you have to admit that Jesus didn't spend all of his days in the temple hanging out with the worthy and the religious. He mingled, got to know, and even befriended those who were unlike Him.

They, the world, like Jesus because He was perfect and in His perfection had pure motives in His hanging out with them. Sometimes, I think we can be so interested in getting the conversion that we forget there is a person, with hurts, needs, and real circumstances that just wants to be healed, listened to, and considered.

Carmen said...

btw, I love that you read so much because it helps me with remembering to think beyond my little world.

Marcus said...

I had a recent conversation with a close friend who is a pastor. He mentioned that he was going on vacation with family and friends and didn't want to go because they weren't Christians and they drank alcohol. He was afraid that someone might see him around someone that was drinking. Even apart from whatever your personal views on the use of alcohol, that perspective really bothers me. It seems to be the exact opposite of Christ, who intentionally sought these folks out.

In contrast, I know of another pastor who was almost put out of his church because he started visiting the local bars and offered his availability to the owners as their "chaplain" to call on when they or a customer were having problems and wanted guidance.

I'd much rather have the witness of the second pastor than the first. I'd also be much more inclined to listen to what he had to say.

Susanne said...

Thank you all for your comments.

Amber, great point about the homebase...hmmm. I'll let you know if the author addresses that. I think his point is that we need to intentionally break out of our Christian bubble/subculture - like Jesus modeled for us - so that we can build relationships with those who need Christ. That's not really easy for me, but within the last 3 years or so I have had opportunity for that a bit more. I would take my nephew to the local McDonald's because they have a nice play area. I would take a book to read, but gradually I started making friendships with some of the others who brought children or worked there. So I see how the author's coffeehouse experiences could work. Also being online with some nonChristians has been helpful. I actually have developed relationships with many people that way and my husband and I went all the way to Syria earlier this year to meet some of them! But I need to do a better job "in real life" - too bad I don't like coffee...hmmmm. *thinking, thinking* I enjoyed your comment...thank you!


Carmen, I always love reading what you write. I think of you and James as I read this book because of your work with teens. I remember my pastor talked about seeing people with compassion a few years back and I prayed that I would do that as well. Soon after God brought illegal immigrants into my life (people often hated where I live) and later Muslims from *gasp* "The Axis of Evil!" And, guess what? He helped me LOVE these people - truly! I adore them! You know how much I've talked about Martin and Samer and Louai and all the others so you know! :-)

Loved this from you: "I think we can be so interested in getting the conversion that we forget there is a person, with hurts, needs, and real circumstances that just wants to be healed, listened to, and considered."

Exactly! Samer told me many times how amazed he was that someone with all my (to Arabs and maybe many more, lol) negative labels (conservative, Republican, "evangelical") would actually be interested in his life and concerns and WANT to learn more. Never underestimate the power of LISTENING to people.

Thank you for your great comment.

Marc, thanks for stopping by and sharing what you did! I used to be more in line with the first person you mentioned, but I have been GREATLY challenged in recent months and years to be more as you described your desires now. I am a recovering Pharisee. It's hard to let go of those judgmental, self-righteous tendencies. I think this is why this book is stepping on my toes quite a bit because it speaks directly to what I see a lot in this area among believers. I know them to be kindhearted people for the most part, but those outside of our group see the negatives and we all know negativity speaks WAAAAAY louder than anything good. I want people to see the beauty of Christ reflected in us instead of hearing Pat Robertson types who say such nonsensical things about so and so having a stroke because he did this or such and such happening because of our wicked society. Those may or may not be true, but don't presume to speak for God as if you know these things and no one else does. Let's be known for loving God, one another and those outside of our social circles instead of being those hateful, judgmental people that we often are. I love how Jesus tells us to let our lights shine so people will see our GOOD WORKS and glorify the Father in heaven. So it seems we can love and serve others and people will glorify God. Shouldn't that be our goal instead of getting our political agendas passed? I just think we focus on the wrong things too often.

Again, thank you for sharing what you did. Enjoyed that! Great example!