Saturday, July 11, 2009

When traditions become barriers

Today I preached a funeral sermon that included a backyard pig roast and beer tent. Suffice to say, it was not my typical funeral experience. Well over 200 family and friends gathered to say their goodbyes to a husband, father, and friend. Few in attendance were believers.

And yes...I preached the Gospel.

The family had told me the event was going to be informal and encouraged me to dress accordingly. In fact, the deceased was an avid hunter and they told me I would fit in best if I wore jeans and camouflage. Yet as I got dressed I couldn't let go of my suburbanite values and put on a suit jacket (with jeans...I did try). The people who came were hunters, bikers, construction workers, and 'hardy' Northern Michigan folk. It was a great time with a bunch of great people--none of whom knew how to relate to the only guy at the event wearing a suit.

After the service (and after praying with the family and providing some pastoral care) I eventually left. On the drive home, however, I quickly became overwhelmed. Pulling off to the side of the road I spent about 15 minutes sobbing---weeping over the lost who were still gathered in that backyard. So many were without Christ--not just at this funeral, but in the entire area where I live. Only a small fraction of this area's population actively attends Church, and fewer still have been redeemed in Christ.

Once I regained the strength to drive I made my way back to the Church. The entire drive home I reflected on the tremendous disconnect between my Church and this non-believing culture I was invited into. This problem is not just found in my own congregation, but is typical of most churches in the United States (most, by the way, that are stagnant or dying).

Think about this:
We wear clothing styles they don't even own.
We sing with music forms they have never heard.
We preach in a manner disconnected from their everyday lives.
We use language they do not understand.
We embrace a formalism they find cold and impersonal.
.....all the while making the ludicrous claim that our way is "godly" and "reverent".

We've abandoned Jesus' great mission of taking every effort to "seek and save the lost", satisfied instead with a church service that was designed only for ourselves. In short, we've willingly sacrificed commission for comfort and activity for idleness.

I had been given the opportunity to meet a group of people at their level, but instead I did what I felt was more comfortable. The occasion called for camo, but I insisted on a suit. I was a fool--and a selfish one at that.

Far too many of us are. Sunday morning has become our most selfish day. What we call 'bringing God glory' is little more than an exercise of the familiar and safe.

The question is, when will stop making excuses for our comfort-craving and join Christ in His great mission?

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  1. Hey Josh,

    Note, my tone here is of inquiry, but my question is serious. Now that you know the problem, as a shepherd, what do you suppose you do to address this issue? Shouldn't action arise out of need, or shall I say desperate need? For the Gospel sake?

  2. So what is your vision for making Sunday morning a "selfless" day? What is your practical solution for this dilemna?

  3. Both of these are excellent questions, and the only way meaningful and authentic answers will emerge is when the congregation begins searching for answers together.

    It has to be something the leadership and congregation desires--to do whatever it takes to reach the lost with Christ's truth.

  4. I appreciate your brokenness Josh. When the church gains this burning- things will change. It doesn't matter that we dress and sing different. If we really love lost sinners, they will know it and they won't care about our differences. The formalism is indeed a problem.