15 Oct 2009

God is not a salesman

One of the things I love about Jesus Club is that it has been challenging my perception of Church and where we find God. Traditionally in Northern Ireland Church is a Sunday morning do. It's when we meet together and sing songs, and listen to a sermon. Pray a bit and then have coffee. And there is nothing at all wrong with this. It can be a beautiful thing.

But I have started seeing Church as more about people than theology, or Matt Redmon songs. (Yep you heard it here first, you can have a legitimate Church experience without Blessed Be His Name). The thing I love about the group is that a few guys who agree and disagree on a lot of things can meet and talk about God and not end up with black eyes at the end. I see Jesus Club as a place where we can meet and talk and respect each others opinions and be open to having our beliefs challenged instead of being defensive about out our beliefs.

Jesus Club is by no means an official name for our small gathering. But I like it. One of us started calling it that and I like it because its not cool. In fact it sounds like something I would want to stay away from but in its uncoolness lies its inherent beauty. Sometimes Church tries to be cool and edgy but as Don Miller once said "Chrisitianity will never be cool". Or something along those lines.

His point being I think that Jesus is not about being cool because cool is something that the world dictates. And Jesus is true and cool changes and so how can it be true. Jesus offers an alternative, a better way, a real way. I'll take that over cool thank you very much. But I digress.

What church should look like is something that Chapter 4 of Blue Like Jazz talks a lot about. I'm not going to review the book in this mini series of mine (again...you NEED to read this book), but bring up some of the stuff that was brought up in Jesus Club.

In the chapter, Don's friend Penny didn't feel like Jesus would like her and this was mainly down to how she viewed other Christians opinions of her. As judgemental and that they were trying to sell something.

Unfortunately church is a lot like that sometimes. Sometimes even Christians to Christians. We judge people because they believe slightly different things to us instead of stopping and listening and trying to see what it is exactly the other person is telling us. We are very precious of some of our personal beliefs.

And I think at Jesus Club we are trying to be the opposite. To listen and learn from each other instead of being quick to attack. We have disagreed about many things but somehow we still like each other, there is no awkwardness or distance between us because of our disagreements. If anything our honesty about our disagreements is bringing us closer. Honesty doesn't allow room for fake.

And I hope that our differences are also helping us to change the perception of people who don't follow Jesus (might take up a few more words but I have never liked the term 'non christian') from seeing Church as closed to people who don't subscribe to everything that Christians do. Not everyone in the group is a Christian but I honestly think that everyone likes the idea of Jesus. Just maybe not always certain aspects of Christianity.

And there is sadly often a lot not to like. What I love about Penny's story though is that her journey to know God did not happen in Church. It began by her spending time with one person who showed Jesus through her actions. She didn't try to persuade her she was wrong. Or judge her. She just loved her. Wow. Sounds so simple. So why do we not get it sometimes? Why do we insist on adding on our own requirements to be loved by Jesus? Jesus didn't have any.

But it was that simple. Her view of Christianity changed because her view of Jesus changed through one person showing her what Jesus is really like. She read Matthew and in it she read about Jesus and what he was like. Not what Christianity is like, or what it has been like over the years, but Jesus. The perceptions she had started to slowly change.

And actually when I wrote that Penny's journey to know God did not happen in Church, that is wrong. That is wrong because Penny and Nadine was Church. The two of them talking and one of them who knew Jesus loving the other one, with the only agenda to make sure that the other is loved, is Church.

And that is why I love how Jesus club is changing my perception of Church. Because we are a Church. The fact that some of us differ doesn't change the fact we are Church one bit. Even though we don't sing songs or collect an offering doesn't change that we are Church. I hope and pray we are inclusive. You don't need to believe in the 'right' stuff to be a part of it.

I hope that everyone in the group will see Jesus in each other. Not because I want to 'win' some of the guys for Jesus. Not because I want them to agree with my theology.

But because I want them to know what it's like to be loved by Jesus so much that when I repeatedly do something stupid never seemingly learning from my mistakes, he still loves me.

Or when I face a hopeless situation I know that it's not really hopeless.

Or when I can't see my purpose he shows me.

Maybe we will see something amazing happen in our communities and lives when we start to love each other like Jesus loves us. Unconditionally and finally learning to set our own agendas aside.

Maybe when we open up church so that it doesn't judge you then we can allow Jesus love to really be experienced by everyone.

Now wouldn't that be just Heaven?


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