Nothing is truly ordinary

Sitting on the Sidelines

Football sidelines2

You ever have the feeling that in spite of all that you do (or have done), that you really haven’t been in the game?

When I was a kid, I played soccer (I know, that’s a football picture above…get over it).  Because every kid plays a sport that’s not popular in the U.S. unless you’re a kid.  So I played it.

Well, I wanted to play it.  Truth is, I was about 6 inches shorter than all the other players my age, so I sat on the sidelines.  A lot.  I didn’t necessarily “suck” at soccer, but I lacked the power and speed of my taller teammates.

So I got used to the sidelines.  Sure, I got to play once in a while.  But I stood there many games, watching other people lose the game for us (and yes, the fact that the bigger, better players lost a lot made me feel better…repenting now).

***

I have been a “professional” Christian for most of my adult life.  By “professional,” I mean that I have chosen ministry as a career.  Many years ago, it was the result of an obvious calling by God to engage my whole life – even my career – in the ministry to others.

I volunteered.  I went to school.  I got a degree.  I’ve worked on several church staffs.

Before I continue, I must say this – that I’ve seen God move mightily and powerfully in the congregations I’ve been a part of.  Nothing I’m about to say negates the reality and power of those experiences.  When people come to faith for the first time, when an alcoholic is knocking at your door wanting to overcome his addiction, when a woman who’s been through a divorce finds a community to be a part of (and on and on and on) – these things are POWERFUL!

God moves in the local church.  So what I’m about to say is not an indictment.

Wait.  Maybe it is.  But not just of the church.  It’s easy to cast stones at established institutions.  It’s much harder to realize you have to throw the same stones at yourself.  All because i asked a question that I cannot get out of my head.

Here’s the question that made me mad when I heard it.  Here’s the question that will probably make you mad, too.

“Are we even in the game?”

If you know me, I got defensive…at myself…for asking it.  But it’s stuck there, spinning in my head like the Bohemian Rhapsody (yes, try getting that song out of your head once you hear it).

I’ve built a career around Sunday mornings.  I’ve built a career around the importance of what is called “attractional” ministry – designing services and environments that make unchurched people feel as welcome as possible.

(And there’s nothing wrong with this.  I think there’s still a strong need for it, but for now, I’ll leave that as the subject of another post).

But what about Monday?  Tuesday?  Wednesday?  The rest of the week?  Have we reduced the Christian experience to Sunday mornings?  Have we reduced our need to serve other people to whether or not we serve on a team at church?

What about the poor people who live one neighborhood away?  What about the lonely people who go home everyday to no one and have no comfort?  To use a Scriptural parallel, who are the “widows and orphans” that I’m content to believe someone else is taking care of?

And this is just the beginning.  This week I read about Christians in Egypt being killed for their faith.  I read that slavery and human trafficking is at an all-time, world history high.

“Are we even in the game?”

Shut up, Kevin, I heard you the first time.  I keep hearing it.  Why do you keep asking?

And just when I think I really might just have psychological issues, I realize:  That GOD is asking.  Not me.

Kevin, you have been content to have church.  Are you willing to BE the church?

Kevin, you have been content to gather the body of Christ, but have you been willing to become the hands and feet of Jesus to the world beyond the Sunday service?

Kevin, you consume church-culture.  You let it feed you.  But are you willing to feed others?

And like Peter on the shore with Jesus, I want to cry out, “Come on, Jesus, you know that I love you.  I’ve done this…and this…and this!”  And all he replies is:  “Feed. My. Sheep.”

***

What I’m feeling is not a desire to jump on some trendy ministry bandwagon that sounds good.  “Feed the poor.”  “Fight injustice.”  Heck, it’s hard to even say those things without it sounding like I’m about to become some Christian hipster driving a VW loaded with bumper stickers with catch phrases.

No, this desire is far more primal in my faith.  It’s a groaning deep inside to take church beyond the walls.  I’m tired of having church.  I’m tired of “playing” church.  I’m tired of being on the sidelines while others are in the game.

As I already said, I don’t want to discount the good that IS happening in our Sunday morning services.  But what I am asking is, “is that it?”  “Is that all we’ve got?”

The bottom line is this:  It’s time we learn how to BE the church to a world that needs not just the message of Jesus Christ, but the embodiment of Jesus’ love, alive in its people.

We need to get in the game.

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