“Many have traveled this road before. I see their tracks in the dirt. But maybe I don’t agree with where they are leading…”
– Bethany Dillon, Revolutionaries
The Church in America is dying. You can look up the stats and figures on Google if you would like. Most of it is depressing and leaves a feeling of defeat. The very tool that God intended for His glorious news to spread around the world, is failing miserably. Why? The reasons are numerous and layered. But, simply put, I think the Church has stopped being the Church.
A lot of people want to blame society, the government, the “way the world is now.” The reality, however, is that if the “light” were being the light it has been called to be, the darkness would not have spread so far. Light disperses darkness, not the other way around. I was fortunate enough to spend a weekend or two in the panhandle of Oklahoma while I was in college. The land out there is FLAT. I mean, most of Oklahoma is flat, but the panhandle is extremely flat. And the area is super rural. You can see for miles. Literally. At night, it is pitch black dark. No light pollution from the city, no cars around for miles. Just you and the blackness. As we drove around, I remember asking about the light in the distance – is it a city? A town? Nope…it was a cattle farm, that was miles and miles away. A single cattle farm and the light was visibly noticeable…for miles! Talk about pushing back the dark!
Light expels the dark. We cannot blame society for the death of the church. We have only ourselves to blame. So what is the issue? Again, I don’t think there is a singular issue. It is multiple things, with deep layers, and some good intentions. I actually started to write out some of what I believe these reasons may be…but the list got a little long and I felt like I was a bit all over the place (so those thoughts may or may not come as their own posts in the future…).
I was born and raised in the church. I loved it then. I love it now. I love the Church because I love Jesus. And I know what the Church was meant to be. I know what we can be.
What I want to focus on today is where my heart is in all of this. I know that a lot of people misinterpret my passion and the passion of others as something different. It can come across as a power play or as controlling or manipulative. And, as a people pleaser, this can often keep me up at night. And it has, tears and all. I wish that everyone could see my heart, could know my intentions. The unfortunate reality is that they can’t. Only God can. It is to Him I am held accountable. And I have to remember that on my bad days….AND on my good days.
My heart is broken for the community that surrounds me because they don’t know Jesus. At least, not like I do. The perception of the Church in the society around us is not a good one. Whether from poor personal experience (childhood or otherwise) or from the media – the picture that comes to mind of the community of “Christians” is grim and distasteful. We have become less than palatable. And the very image of the Church, whether we like it or not, is how people see Christ.
I want to change that. I want the world, especially the community I am in, to see the Jesus that I know. The loving, compassionate, never-gives-up-on-me, Jesus. The man who constantly gives and expects very little in return. The man who gave His life so that I might live. The God who is big enough to hold the sun in the sky and yet personal enough to care about even my simple hurts. I want my community to see Jesus through me and, ultimately, through the Church. Because the Church, when functioning in a healthy way, is capable of being absolutely beautiful.
I was fortunate enough to attend a conference in April with a few others (Exponential – it’s amazing, you should go if you ever have the chance). One of the speakers that week, Muriithi Wanjau, from the Mavuno Church in Kenya, shared his story and it rocked our world. His hope for his church was that if the government were to try to shut them down, that even the Muslims would try to prevent it because of the difference the church made in the community.
We left with that same fire. If we were to disappear tomorrow, I would want the community to care! I want the community to notice if we are gone. And to fight for us to stay! Because that is truly what Christ intended. If we are to be a light on a hill – will anyone notice if the light were gone? They should! Or we aren’t being bright enough.
As Muriithi ended his time with us, he prayed a prayer over everyone in that room – “May You (God) lead them into a season of holy discontent.” The idea was that we would no longer be okay with the status quo because the status quo isn’t working. His prayer was that God would stir our hearts so much that we would be discontent until HIS purpose and HIS will was being played out in our communities.
And that prayer has been answered in our lives. We can’t sit still, we won’t sit still until we have made such a difference in our community that everyone would notice if we were gone. It isn’t easy. In fact, one of the others that went on the trip said to me the other day, “I’m going to go get on a plane right now, fly to Africa, find Muriithi, and make him to take it all back!”
This “holy discontent” stuff is hard. It is a cross I often don’t want to carry any longer. I would gladly pass it off to a more willing participant. There are many days that I feel like giving up because no one gets it. Or someone else misunderstood my intention. Or it has led to yet another argument in my marriage because we don’t see eye to eye on how things need to be accomplished.
But I won’t give up. I won’t back down. I will claim this holy discontent and let it fuel me. Because I don’t want my life to go back to the status quo. I don’t want to go back to the normal mundane maintaining of the “American Dream.” To quote The Afters, “I’m never going back to okay. I’m never going back to easy.” I want life to mean something. I want the Church to have a holy discontent. I want the world to know my Jesus. I want my community to know my Jesus.
Because He has changed my life for the better, in ways that I cannot put into words. I am forever grateful. And I want to live my life in such a way that my gratitude is expressed in my every action.
Thank You, Jesus, for this Holy Discontent.