I started this year listening to Letters to the Church by Francis Chan, through Audible. It was an impulse decision, and what a book. I listened to it, and then bought a physical copy, because I needed a space to underline, highlight, and make notes. There are so many nuggets of gold in this book, that I’m going to write a post strictly about the book and the quotes, when I finish reading it.
This book has been so powerful for me, and I started this semester with the ideas from this book sitting in my heart. I’m taking a religion class dedicated to studying the Christian traditions. (With the amount of religion classes I’ve taken, I might as well just minor in Religion.) One of the things that really stirs my faith and my soul is understanding the Bible in historical, logical, philosophical, and geographical ways. I really value the tension between the way I understand the Bible and Christianity, and new information that may contradict and challenge those beliefs.
Letters to the Church focuses on the importance of smaller churches, the reality of God’s divinity and beauty, and separation of the modern church from the New Testament church. Chan also stressed the personal importance of Communion.
Class on Tuesday started with the professor leading Communion, and concluded with the class being broken into two groups with the goal of placing the complete books of the Bible in the correct order. It was a weird experience for me, to engage in Communion, in a school setting. Having read about Communion in Letters to the Church, my heart was ready to break into an emotional outpouring of love and praise to my God. But I felt completely unable from totally experiencing Communion because of being in class.
When we had to put the books of the Bible in order, I quickly realized that I knew significantly more than my peers. Students who had claimed to have gone to church their whole life didn’t know the Sunday school song about the books, and had legitimately no idea how to pronounce some of the books. I knew about 75% of the total books in correct order, and had the New Testament about 95% correct. (I’ve always struggled with the middle to the end of the Old Testament, so I wasn’t surprised when that section was wrong.).
After these exercises, my professor had us reflect on and write about our experiences, and then talk with a peer about them. I talked with a freshman religion major, who goes to a big campus church in my area. Her and I started talking, and I was struck by her comfort level in the church. She mentioned that she loved that she could wear jeans to church, could sit in the back and not be seen or known, and that she could choose not to go, week to week, and that it wasn’t a big deal.
This has kind of reverberated in my mind.
Why has church become a place to not be seen? Why has church become an “if I’m feeling like it”? Why has church become a place to be relaxed and comfortable?
When did churches stop teaching “how to know the Bible”? When did the church think children didn’t need to know theology? I serve in children’s ministry at church, and the amount of children who buck bringing a Bible to church is disheartening. I remember having posters upon posters of the books of the Bibles in my different Sunday school classrooms, but now, I don’t know where there is one.
Has this shift come as an attempt to make Christianity more appealing to the masses? Has true Christianity turned into a softer, easier, “less work required” version, in attempt to keep churches full on Sunday? How would the Church looked if it came back to its roots of Pentecost and the supernatural?
I have started going to a weekly young adult worship time with my fiance and some friends. This is at a church that walks in the Word of God like nothing I have every seen before. The worship is undignified and personal. The messages are seeped in Scripture, letting the verses themselves draw the conclusions, and not vice versa, of making conclusions and using verses to support the conclusions.
A few weeks ago, during congregational prayer, the speaker publicly called out words and prayers he had felt God was placing on his heart for people in the audience. When no one indicated that each of the words meant something to them, the speaker became visibly uncomfortable and fearful of continuing. However, he said that he was going to keep trusting the Holy Spirit. This was big for me to see, because I had never before seen someone, let alone a pastor or leader, publicly and completely trust the Holy Spirit in a time of awkwardness. Also, I should mention that it is during this weekly worship times that I have seen people healed through prayer and an incredibly profound belief and expectation of the supernatural.
Why has Christianity become “natural”, and confined to what we think is possible? If we believe in a god who we believe can do impossible things, then why is believing in the impossible and supernatural such a stretch?
Each week, I am encouraged to trust God in every moments of my life, allowing the possibility for the His impossible works to override my mundane. However, I have found that I have held a belief that God is reserved for special, important moments, and that I shouldn’t expect God to show up in the mundane.
I have whittled God down to functioning at certain times, instead of at all times. How many other Christians live with this belief? Is this what the Church shows non-believers, that God only does big things and not small things?
At times, I feel as if I come from a church where God is kept simple and watered-down. When I visit other churches, like the weekly young adult worship time, I experience God in new, divine, beautiful, powerful ways, ways that make Him real and other-worldly. Shouldn’t this be the norm? Don’t we serve a God who is not of this world? If so, why is our worship of Him, and our pursuit if Him through Scripture reading, not?
And why do we not seem to care?