On Saturdays, I’m going to start writing my thoughts on sermons I hear. Today’s entry was inspired by Mark Matlock’s sermon given at Irving Bible Church titled “Rewriting The Story of Our Work.”
The message was subtle but it was certainly communicated.
At the age of 16, I had came back to church after a parenthetical exilic period. An oft told story here at The Diner, but my Episcopalian upbringing fell by the wayside after my dad died (when I was in middle school) and my sophomore year of high school a couple of men cared enough about me to try their best to teach me about Jesus and an abundant life.
I had a pretty good high school life going, too. A bunch of folks to hang out with that I liked. Concerts. Ball games. An after school job. A pretty great girlfriend. A cool car to drive around in with the music up. Plenty of extracurricular stuff. On occasion, I’d find some time to panic-study to make a C (or wish for a B) back when a C was average (and a B was above average and an A was excellent…now anything less than an A is failing, but I digress). I wasn’t hurting for stuff to do.
And I was trying to figure out how to walk with Jesus. That mattered to me. I had a lot of questions, and my Monday night small group meetings at Big Dave’s house became a high priority. They talked about Jesus and stuff. Just neophyte me and all the Bible church lifers who had heard all the stories and read all the books.
Then the subtle message started getting delivered:
Aren’t you coming to Sunday School this week?
Are you gonna hang out with the youth group and go get ice cream after the meeting at Sunday night?
Why don’t you come sit with us at church?
You wanna come sit with the youth group at the football game on Friday night?
You’re going to the beach with your friends instead of church camp?
On and on it went. The bottom line was they wanted me to come and be a part of their group. What they didn’t get was that for a kid like me, who identified a great deal with the fringe movements and the people that made them up (even if outwardly I was a part of the general comings and goings of the high school life)…I didn’t really *like* Christians. They seemed so…
…khaki and republican and naive and vanilla and boring and narrow and…
…nice enough, to be sure. And polite. And genuine. I mean, this was who they were. Fair enough. But I never felt “gotten” by them. And I surely didn’t “get” them, either. I felt like we could do business together because they seemed to be wanting to follow Jesus like I wanted to follow Jesus. It just seemed that I was going to acquiesce to becoming like them to do that.
But back to the message of these genuine and nice and polite and vanilla and boring people. The unintended but certainly alluded to message: Get out of the “world” and into our group. A world where Christian became an adjective.
So, it resonated deeply with me when Mark said this during his sermon:
A lot of times when people that are executives or whatever they become Christians, they think that they need to then, you know, start a ministry. Or, I’m a television executive. I should start a Christian channel. Or I’m in the music industry. I should start a Christian music industry. And that’s not it. Transform the place where you are at. Align your gifts and motivations in what God has given you to do.
Such a great thought for people to get their heads around.
I mean, I wonder if my spiritual growth would’ve been accelerated if my youth pastor and small group leaders had ever said to me, “Brent, why don’t we get our heads around about how you can teach your friends on the baseball team about Jesus?” Or, “When you’re at work, how do you think you can show the folks at the movie theater the love of Christ?” Or, “How can you take the love of Jesus to your punk/skater friends?” Or, “Make sure to sit with your friends at the ballgame on Friday night because those relationships are vital to the Kingdom, okay?”
Nope, that subtle message was come to church, do the Christian things, get out of the worldly movies and music and TV and books and such, and hang out with only kids that won’t cause you to sin. Insulate yourself for your own good.
Which is why I’m glad Irving Bible Church thinks the way Mark continued:
At Irving Bible Church, coming here to this service, this is not what the church is about. It’s part of it. Assembling, worshiping together, being community…but it’s also saying ‘How do we restore the world with what we do? How do we change the world? How do we live on earth as it is in heaven?’ And that only happens when we transform the work that we are doing.
We need each other. The true spiritual life is lived in community. We need to be together. And, yes, Sunday morning is a vital part of that. But our inward realities should, and will, have outward manifestations.
None of which involve using “Christian” as an adjective.
It should only be a noun in our vocabulary…and Mark is right, man. It’s about seeing the world as needing Christ and us taking it to them. “On earth as it is in heaven,” right? Erasing that line between the secular and sacred is vital to our growing in Christ…
…and vital to reaching those that don’t know Him wherever they happen to be at the moment in history that we’re in, no?