I was recently involved in an event that caused me to pause and think deeply after it was all over. It involved a number of other believers and a series of short, friendly conversations, a lengthy conversation, and then an opportunity to just sit around and listen to the conversations going on around a large table as people drank coffee and ate.
I am mindful that it was a group of believers talking to each other. But, I was also mindful that others in the facility could hear us even though they were not part of the actual conversation. I was also mindful that these believers came from many different Christian backgrounds and so viewed many aspects of the faith in a different light. But, we were all Bible-believers and leaders in various ministries and churches.
As I pondered the 90 minute event afterwards I was deeply aware of a number of things… just observations and not wanting to be negative or condescending towards any particular branch of the Church.
1> Christian leaders are seriously focused on their ministries and what great things are happening through them. They don’t seem to want to let others see their heart and their hurts.
2> Christian leaders apparently prefer to stay on the “professional” side of their life and don’t share about how they are doing personally in life and in their walk with the Lord. It is like ‘plastic people’ sharing a ‘good old plastic Jesus.’
3> Conversations centered on the latest, the greatest, and the biggest. The next guest speaker, the conference they just attended, the retreat that just finished (and the guest speaker at the retreat) and seldom seems to focus on what they are personally learning or where they are personally growing.
4> Leaders are very careful – maybe too careful – to be politically correct and because of it the conversations remain on the surface and tend to be somewhat plastic. And, when in the public eye and being heard by others – it seems that the greater the “political correctness” the less empowered the conversation and the more watered down the Gospel becomes – reaching the point of powerless to change lives.
5> Maybe we are really not that different than those who don’t know Jesus. Not sure as personal thoughts and aspects of our personal life were simply not shared.
6> The Christian faith appears to be a thin veneer that is coating regular life. In other words, scratch the surface and we live and act like those who don’t believe in Jesus except we maintain a respectable Christian persona when in public. Which, by the way, appress seriously unreal.
7> Any non-believer listening to us speak might have wondered who and what the group was all about – strange language, some were dressed strangely for the time of day and the location, and just ‘other worldly’ and somewhat unreal.
8> It seems that we are simply a sub-culture of the regular culture and no longer a radical and revolutionary counter-culture as we are called to be.
9> There was a sense of the spiritual or religious that caused the conversation to lack any contact with the reality of those who do not know Jesus personally as Lord and Saviour.
10> There was a lack of listening. In my mind it seemed liken one was really listening to anything anyone else was saying. It was like others were an interruption and they simply did not respond to what was being shared – jumping right into what was on their mind about their ministry.
11> Walking away there was no feeling that anyone had connected with someone else and we were simply leaders who did not really care for each other and who preferred not to connect and care.
The day before this experience I had met with a group of young people. In contrast to the meeting above the conversation was real, realistic, enjoyable, with fairly good depth, dynamic in its own way, everyone was real and no one was trying to impress anyone.
Just a group of people hanging out together sharing life and being real, open, transparent, and honest. Everyone was challenged; people were connecting with each other; personal things were being openly shared and discussed; compassion and concern were expressed and received. And, it left people feeling affirmed and accepted. Those involved – all non-Christians except me.
Sometimes I sit and wonder. Sometimes I just sit. At times I stand in amazement at what passes today as “Christian.”
Just some pondering as I sit and drink one too many cups of good coffee…