When did the local church become like a spiritual truck stop along life’s highway? A little gas, a trip to the restroom, a soda and a couple of Twinkies, and we’re good for a few more miles, looking forward to our final destination.
As I mentioned in last week’s post, Jesus came to make temples out of people, not buildings. But in the course of history, for various reasons, millions of believers respectfully declined the honor, assuming God would much prefer to live in arched ceilings and stained glass to our broken down minds and bodies.
In a similar way, we feel like God prefers a trained theologian in a raised pulpit to some check-out lady in a grocery store. Or that he prefers a passionate young missionary in a remote village to some aging auto mechanic. We say that he loves us all the same, and saves us, and continues to be patient with us, but deep down he really must prefer full time Christians to laypeople, though . . . he can use anyone, right?
Where did this kind of distinction come from? Sure, we can find support for a variety of church leaders in Scripture—pastors, deacons, prophets, and so on. But I’m not finding a category for pew warmers. Where does Scripture allow an individual Christian to be . . . regular?
What do I mean by that? Regular Christians are people that are generally committed to their churches, maintain high moral standards, and try to raise their children with the same values. They are tithers, they consciously avoid certain movies and books, encourage themselves with Christian music and decorations, and try to hold to some kind of discipline of study or fellowship.
There is nothing wrong with being a regular Christian. But there is a danger in it.
What if we start to believe that getting saved, going to church and going to heaven really is the Gospel? Did God really send his Son to the grave and raise him from the dead so that a person could become a tithing member of Sun Life Community Church? Did Paul risk life and limb to plant churches throughout Asia Minor so people could get together once or twice a week to sing songs, listen to a sermon and get back to their regular lives?
Many Christians struggle to study their Bibles, feeling unmotivated or unqualified to get to the meat of it. Why? They’re not theologians, they’re just regular people. Are they going to discover something that is going to get them more into heaven? No, they’d rather leave all that Scripture wrangling to the experts, focusing their attention on the basics—conversion, baptism, moral living and the pearly gates.
I don’t believe in regular Christians. I believe that anyone who has become a child of God is a unique and critical part of Christ’s body. If you are truly born again, a genuine new creation, you are expected to be the temple of God in your private life, in your family life and in your public life. There are no exceptions.
Full time Christianity is not about income. It’s about living every moment in a new reality. Every believer is a full time Christian, but not every believer understands the condition of their conversion. Imagine a person signing a marriage license for the insurance benefits with little to no understanding of the marriage itself. What would that marriage look like? How would it play out in the long term?
I can make a strong case that when Jesus told the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, he wasn’t talking about money or natural abilities. He was talking about the Holy Spirit, the valuable deposit he planned to leave with his disciples, expecting a useful return on his investment. In the parable, each individual was held responsible for his own ‘talent.’
How have you invested the deposit that was given to you? What about me? We didn’t just get our names in some heavenly book, we were given a flame of fire and expected to go into the world as lamps of that light.
Can we honestly say that the Holy Spirit has made a critical impact in our lives and the lives around us? Or have we buried that valuable ‘talent,’ insulating ourselves against our responsibility with tithes and church attendance and moral choices?
Remember what happened to the servant that buried his talent? I’m not talking about refusing to play piano in church, I’m talking about a person that has the life of God in his own body and never lets that light shine. If God truly wants to get himself into every corner of the earth, and he placed his Spirit inside his people in order to accomplish this, how can we defend an impotent life?
Let’s use the church as a place to encourage one another in the serious business of living as children of light in a dark world, not as a place to reinforce the extraordinary illusion of living ‘regular’ Christian lives.