I’m sure it has happened to you too. You go somewhere social with your spouse or a friend and they introduce you to someone. “This is Bob from the office and his wife Lulu.” Now you stand there for the next five minutes and you make small talk.
Unless you find a common thread with that person or hear a story that really hooks you, chances are before the next company gathering you will have forgotten Bob and Lulu. Ok, maybe not Lulu because how many of those are there in the world? Or if you are one of “those” people who can remember every person you have ever met and an interesting detail about their life.
The thing is unless you find a connection with that person they don’t really impact your life much do they? People start to make a mark on our lives when we really connect, spend time, and truly get to know them.
Faith is the same thing, right? Someone can introduce us to Jesus and tell us His story and about His grace. What happens if they walk away then? They’ve introduced us but what next?
Now let’s say you and Lulu make a connection. She shares the same love of coffee you do and you talk about your favorite coffee shop that Oh My Goodness! just happens to be Lulu’s favorite too! Next week you bump into her there and you make small talk as you wait for your orders and then you move on. And this happens once a week for a while. But never beyond small talk.
Faith can be like that too. We are introduced to Jesus and His saving grace. We start to go to church and we pick up our “worship order” every week and we move on. But we never get beyond the small talk.
But one day Lulu asks you to sit down. And you have a real live conversation. She shares with you; you share with her. You REALLY connect about life and faith. You laugh together and you make plans to meet again. The very next day. And it becomes a daily thing. To the point that when she messages you one morning and you hear that she is sick and isn’t going to make it, you don’t just feel a little sadness. You go to the store and you get the meds and tissues and supplies she needs and you haul tush to her house to make her better!
Faith SHOULD be like this. There should be such a connection between our hearts and God that to even consider a day without conversation with Him is devastating to us. We should crave Him like that morning coffee or that afternoon chocolate pick me up.
This is where I feel like Christians need to kick each other in the tail. I don’t usually provide commentary but on this point I feel like I need to speak. I recently finished a study based on Kyle Idleman’s book not a fan and I loved the premise. The church (speaking in general terms – I pray yours is different) has gotten into the habit of being more concerned with make the introduction than in developing the relationship.
I had a heartbreaking conversation with someone recently who said, “What did you expect? The church is like any other business – in need of new customers.” I wonder how many people share that sentiment. Does this mean I don’t believe in evangelism? Absolutely not! The last commandment Jesus gave was “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15) Much of the book of Acts is dedicated to recounting church plantings all over the ancient world. Evangelism is critical for growing the church.
But imagine if Peter and Silas and Paul and Barnabas had never written a single letter back to one of those young churches. What if they had never revisited them? False teachers rose up quickly to cause dissent and dismay. Arguments about how things should be done and who was eligible for salvation had to be addressed. Constant instruction had to be provided. Correction had to happen. Paul had to tick a few people off quite honestly!
We have tried for several years to grow a garden. Every year I try to grow peas. But here’s the thing about peas. They need guidance. I have to provide some form or structure for them to climb. If I don’t they just lay on the ground and tangle themselves into a big mess and produce nothing. But not just any structure will do. I have tried to just run some yarn between to plant stakes and let them go at it. Without fail a stake will fall over, the peas will outgrown the rows of yarn I have strung, or the yarn will simply break. It’s just not substantial enough.
Just the same, our faith needs guidance. Not just “Hey here’s your Bible – enjoy!” Not just “Here’s a list of small groups – pick and plug in!” Our faith needs substantial support. And just like I need to occasionally reposition a pea plant to keep it connected to the trellis, sometimes our faith needs a correction.
Hey church. It’s ok to tell people they are out of line. It’s ok to NOT be accepting of every behavior that society deems “politically correct.” It is time for the church to go beyond the introduction. Jesus wasn’t in the business of making the religious people happy. I think what angered the Pharisees and Sadducees the most about Jesus is that He asked them to be more. More than just a Sabbath order in the Temple. More than just a list of observed laws. More than just some memorized scrolls. That wasn’t enough.
Walk with me. Know me. Pray with me. Take up the cross.
And He (Jesus) was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
So I ask of the church. Teach the word. Stand for the truth. And take your people beyond the introduction into relationship. It is my prayer that our churches will become ironworks (Proverbs 27:17) creating disciples who will keep one another’s faith sharp so that we may be honest, true and worthy representatives of the King.