Earlier this week I opined the the Religious Freedom order signed by the president was a good thing, but that it also presented a temptation. The temptation of my concern is a single symptom of a broader issue that was addressed in the daily email devotional that I received just this morning.
We have our sacred space where we revere God and sanctify a space for him in our hearts. Then there is “our time and space” where we do “life,” including our work.
I think this is really true. I find myself wondering where this temptation comes from. Sure some of it comes from the now so misunderstood idea of “separation of church and state.” Some of it comes from bosses or just job settings that demand more aggression from us than our faith might deem appropriate. Some of it is just the plain old temptation to sin.
But a lot of it springs from the fact that most Christians today do not have a really good idea of what Christianity is supposed to do in our lives. We think of it as a set of beliefs and activities. Sure when we are at work, we still believe, but that’s not the time we are doing the activities so, of course, it is somehow different. But that is a very limited vision of what Christianity is about in our lives.
Christianity is not, at least directly, about what we do. It is about who we are. What we do is just an expression of who we are. Christianity seeks to change who we are on the most fundamental of levels. As a result of that change what we do may change, but often simple how we do what we do will change. There is a difference between a Christian office worker and a non-Christian one, but its not the time they take off for church stuff or the work they are willing and unwilling to do. It’s in their attitude, their demeanor and their character.
Churches often foster this mistaken “activity based” view of Christianity by programming the church to death. We want to offer programs for everybody and thus grow. I see the same thing in many parents today – they view their job as to supply their kids with a breadth of activities so they can make an informed choice about their adult lives, but they don’t concentrate on making them in good adults. There is a difference.
But that was not Jesus’ approach. He never wrote a mission statement or a program plan. In very few instances do we have a body count from an event – and when we do it is to emphasize the number of witnesses to a miracle. But we have a lot of stories about Jesus shaping the character of those closest to Him. Have you ever considered the fact that a fisherman – not exactly a white collar, leadership kind of job – is the person upon which Jesus said His church would be based? Somewhere in those year hanging out with Jesus a lot happened to change Peter. Peter did not get that job because of having punched all the right tickets in his professional development – it was not about activity. Peter got that job because of who he was and who Jesus helped him to become. We give people lots of tickets to punch in church anymore, but are we helping people become better people?
Just a little while ago, I complained that the church may be too focused on the individual instead of building a healthy organization. Have I changed my mind? No, not at all. The fact of the matter is the church should be big enough to do all these things – simultaneously. One of the ways to accomplish that is have a large, but decentralized church. If the church makes good people then those people can be set free to do good things, good things best matching their abilities and inclinations, rather than have an organization so tightly knit that the organization matters more than the people. It’s a balance.
In point of fact it seems like Christianity has become very narrow focused – focused on evangelism and not spiritual maturity; evangelism and not cultural engagement. Evangelism is important, very important, but it is not all there is to being a church. The way to carry Sunday morning into the Monday work day is to become fully what God wants you to be, not just a ticket puncher. The way to engage the culture is to fill it with people being who God wants them to be.