I knew that starting this online presence with writing would mean that I would need to try to embrace this whole taking pictures thing. But the truth? I feel really awkward, uncomfortable and unnatural as the single subject in a picture. Justin usually had to get me laughing to get a good picture. I’m just not cool at all. How freeing would it be if we didn’t feel that pressure?
My plea is really in the title.
And I don’t want to provide any concessions, qualifiers, or apologies. I’d like to simply share some thoughts on the topic and let us wrestle with it for a bit.
We are in such an interesting age of Christianity and I believe there are (very broadly stated) two camps that most people who say they’re Christian reside in:
1. Let’s make Christianity cool, relevant, relatable
2. Being a Christian is comfortable
I personally have a foot in both.
First, let’s address the “cool” category.
Churches are popping up everywhere trying to find the best way to make Christianity cool. Worship leaders are tatted up, wearing the coolest clothes (kind of vintage with a mix of 80’s and 90’s these days?), and putting on rad concerts every Sunday.
Pastors throw on their best flannel and skinny(er) jeans and say a few appalling things on stage here and there to get people riled up and maybe a tad offended.
Student ministries are full of kids who search for the popular crowd, spend hours getting ready for church, and attend the sweet parties thrown by the hip youth pastors.
Modern Christianity has become a culture. We wear the same things, say the same things, listen to Hillsong, Elevation and Reckless Love. We put on a light show, make sweet graphics and videos. We hire people just to handle the social media. To be in the worship team means you’re the coolest of them all (I mean, you’re in a band after all). We worry about being attractive and relevant to the world and we try to do that by dressing a certain way, throwing cuss words in our speech occasionally (or all the time), and creating outrageously fun and crazy events.
We throw around phrases like: “take it to the cross,” “give it all to Jesus,” yet most of us have no idea how to practically do that and the rest of us have no idea what that means.
But if we really read, we can see that Jesus wasn’t cool.
So that brings me to my second camp of people: the comfortable people.
Many of you may read this and you’re all like: “Yeah! All these millennials think we need contemporary worship with lights and loud music! Just give us the word of God! Just give me the pews and a pastor who will preach the word!”
However, we in this camp of people have made Christianity so comfortable that it fits so neatly in our schedule. We faithfully attend church every single Sunday and we block out a night of the week for a bible study (or maybe two Bible Studies. Or five). We sit in the same place for service every week. We talk to the same people. We’ve been in the same Sunday school with the same group for 30 years. We listen to what the pastor says and post some things about Jesus on Facebook, but we’ve never discipled a soul.
We’ve made following Jesus into our carefully planned calendar events, a place to attend, or maybe even something like a moral country club— and we are so comfortable with it.
Ok. I warned you I was writing this with no concessions.
So what’s the problem with all of this?
There’s nothing wrong with any of it. Of course, until it becomes a culture of Christianity that we follow as we neglect the very man where the name “Christian” was derived.
It doesn’t matter how you do church. It doesn’t matter how many bible studies you are in. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve attended one church. It doesn’t matter what the building looks like. It doesn’t matter what the pastor wears. It doesn’t matter who sits next to you. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the band. It doesn’t matter if you raise your hands during worship. It doesn’t matter who you’re friends with in church. It doesn’t matter where you serve at church. It doesn’t matter how often you serve. It doesn’t matter how many friends you have or haven’t invited. It doesn’t matter how many instruments are on stage. It doesn’t matter if you sing hymns or Hillsong.
It matters if you love people like Jesus did.
“For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love on another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:11-16 NIV
Really take in those last two sentences.
In fact. Reread the whole thing slowly.
That’s some strong language to describe the life of a Christian.
Why can’t we work to make Christianity cool? Because the world hated Jesus and we shouldn’t be surprised if it hates us. Be weary of being liked and loved by all (which is tough for people like me who want to please everyone). Jesus had tons of people who thought he was a lunatic.
Why can’t we make Christianity comfortable? Because the way we can even know if we truly have passed from death to life is if we love each other. Loving people like that is uncomfortable.
He then goes on to talk about how hate is the same as murder.
And how do we know what love is? Jesus laid down his life for us, so we lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
What would happen if we stopped worrying about how cool Christianity was and we trusted that Jesus holds life to the full and he’s willing to pour it out on anyone? Just come and receive.
What would happen if we stopped scheduling our relationship with Jesus and, instead, inconvenienced ourselves to love someone?
What would happen if we woke up praying for people instead of spending hours in front of the mirror trying to look our best?
What would happen if we sat with that person who is always sitting alone at church? Would you risk people staring at you? Would you risk the awkwardness?
Laying down our lives can’t be scheduled. It’s inconvenient and messy and unpredictable and confusing and difficult and beautiful. It requires sacrifice. It doesn’t look cool and it’s not comfortable.
Jesus did not come to make us cool. He did not come to give us a more comfortable life. The cross was not cool. It was not comfortable.
So, I don’t care what you do to live out your faith in Jesus. Go to a mega church or join the tiny Baptist church on the corner. It truly does not matter. Why? Because when Jesus left, his parting words were: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
That’s what we are all about. And it’s personal. So many of us join a church and think we are living the Great Commission, but all we are doing is donating some time and money to a building and its pastors, all the while we withhold our love from our brothers and sisters. We never actually invest in people’s lives like Jesus commanded (with authority).
The radical love Jesus calls us to is much greater. We love people in the hopes of walking with people from death to life. We invest in lives. We get our hands dirty with the messes of other people. We make disciples.
It’s not cool. It’s not comfortable. It’s Jesus.
Here are a few more passages of scripture to read on this idea:
John 13:1-16, 34-35
1 John 2-3
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
And search the Gospels for every time Jesus contradicts what a religious person (Pharisee, Sadducee) believes. It’s uncomfortable for them, but it’s especially uncomfortable when we see ourselves in these religious leaders. We so easily see ourselves as the disciples in the stories, but I think we’re more like the religious leaders than we assume.