12/16/15 Jason 32
Is it possible to "graduate" from church? To have "been there, done that" and move on to something else? What else is there to move on to? Jason, 32, whom I met at a coffeeshop and who shared his long, interesting and at times tragic story of church involvement, told me how he had “graduated” from church in his early 20’s. He had grown up heavily involved in church and was warned that he would fall away without it. He remembered how surprised he felt to find out his faith in God didn’t end abruptly when he cut off his church attendance. But as he told his story I could tell that slowly, little by little, his ideas about the God he had believed in have changed. His beliefs are no longer based on the God revealed in the Bible. Without the anchor of constant exposure to scripture, and with the constant pressure of worldly values and influences, his once solid Christian foundations have crumbled. He is left with designing a god of his own imagination.
But had he really “been there, done that”, experiencing everything church has to offer? Jason did grow up in church, sat through hundreds of sermons and Bible studies, and experienced a church culture that dominated his life. He began to feel the teachings were always the same. What more was there to experience? A key verse, I believe, comes from James 1: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says”. It’s one thing to listen to a sermon, quite another to share it with others. It’s one thing to talk to God about people, quite another to talk to people about God. And to be changed by church culture is not quite the same as going out to affect change in the larger culture around the church.
Ephesians 4 is about the difference between being an infant and being mature in faith: “Instead (of being infants), speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” I believe Jason and others like him, hoping to experience all that church was meant to be, need to get out of the church walls and onto the streets and “speak the truth in love” to all who will listen, inviting them to Christ and to His Church, setting an example for new believers to follow in the process. We were made for a mission so much greater than sitting in a building, an ongoing mission that will never leave us saying we have “been there, done that.”