Out of the Abundance of the Heart

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Building People of Substance for Works of Power

Keep it real, Friend.

On a recent flight into Tucson I was seated next to a young man whom I found fascinating. He was a large man with a beard. He was well-dressed and well-spoken. He appeared to be in his mid-twenties. Throughout the flight he was glued to his tablet, playing games and watching videos. As soon as we hit the ground he was on his phone texting, checking Facebook, and playing more games. His techno-obsession reminded me of many recent conversations about reaching a generation that is a bit of a mystery to many of us. Those who grew up in the 90’s have never lived without a cell phone or a computer. The little ones born since 2000 are clueless about life without the internet. They don’t recall a day when divorce was an oddity, cohabitation was risqué, and public prayer was not considered an imposition. The challenge of making Christianity palatable to this crowd has spawned a good deal of polling and opining. One complaint tops every “Why Don’t They like Church?” article: It is the old dictum, “Church people are hypocritical and insincere.”

Well, Sport, we know that. Most of us have already complained about that before you were born. We have just lived long enough to realize that we are ourselves flawed and less than perfect. That being said, I have a few thoughts on how we might achieve a higher sincerity rating:

1. How about we preachers quit putting on our superhero alter–ego for church? A little transparency seasoned with a dash of candor goes a long way. If I fail, I fail. I live life by faith one day at a time just like you. The only people who get offended when I act human are religious bigots. Let them go and make room for some new blood, folks who may still have the humility to be moved with compassion.

2. Quit trying to be someone you are not. (That is, by the way, the essence of hypocrisy) I am 65. If I spike my hair, pull out my shirttail and wear designer jeans hangin’ off my rear, I look like a bad ‘80’s sitcom. I am an elder of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Young people need me to act like one. (Grace displays dignity without being distant.) How else will they ever see what maturity looks like? They need me to be wise, not cool.

3. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to examine the sincerity of our beliefs. We talk a good game about living by faith and loving people, but does our lifestyle reflect our convictions? The poor are still hungry and the lost are still hell-bound. Do we order our lives to reflect compassion and care, or condescension and detachment?

The best first response to criticism is self-evaluation: Maybe they are right!? If our faith is not real, then I don’t blame a young person for wanting no part of it.

Somebody Said: Hypocrites in the Church? Yes, and in the lodge and at the home. Don’t hunt through the Church for a hypocrite. Go home and look in the mirror. Hypocrites? Yes. See that you make the number one less. Billy Sunday

Scripture Reading: But the one who keeps God’s word is the person in whom we see God’s mature love. This is the only way to be sure we’re in God. Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived. (1Jn 2:5-6 MSG)

At our church we have a slogan: “The Word and the Spirit…Keepin’ it real.” A faith that doesn’t change us is no faith at all. To know the Word and not do the Word is religious fakery. To avow the Spirit and not experience the Spirit is just pitiful and sad. My prayer is that we strive to live the words, not just revere the idea.



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