When I graduated from high school, my family and I came back to the States after five years abroad. In a few months I was going to come to this great university and I planned on finding work. Sadly, those plans were thwarted and I spent most of my days eating oatmeal cream pies, drinking coffee and playing video games with my little brother. On second thought, maybe that’s not so sad. Tangent aside, this also meant I spent a lot of time at the church my mom and dad were working at.
I didn’t expect the church to be the same as it was in Ecuador, but after a few services I realized something: the church I was attending had American Dream-ed Christianity.
I expected a church so full of elderly folk to be a haven of wisdom and maturity. But it turned out to be a place with pews where people had been checking the box next to “Church” off on their list of things to do this week. The people at that church didn’t (and perhaps still don’t) take Christianity seriously in what it required: “Take up your cross and follow me.”
Instead they expected God to bless their socks off every time they made it to church 15 minutes early to mingle over coffee. They expected that God would magically make their employers give them a raise and a promotion when they put 10 percent of their income in a brass dish. They thought the truth of Christianity didn’t belong outside of the church unless it got a child a badge for bringing a guest to AWANA.
Apparently, it’s possible to be a healthy, wealthy, satisfied Christian, with a 401k of piety, and a big white mansion where people spend more time standing in awe of how nice the house is than truly digging into the Word of God. This American Dream Christianity makes one bend their knee to the most pious person in the room instead of the enormous wooden cross in the corner of the church.
I hope this doesn’t look like your church, because people who buy into this “vending machine” God are a drag to be around spiritually.
Charles Spurgeon, in his Morning and Evening devotionals says, “Far be it from us to seek a crown of jewels when our Savior received a coronet of thorns.” So how does one shift their focus from receiving blessing to selflessly pursuing Christ?
I believe something that is seriously lacking in our communities is a practice outlined in James 5:16: “Confess your sins to one another.” In the verses previous, James says that no matter how dire the situation, how crummy the mood or how euphoric the joy, we need to seek people with which to pray and worship. “Therefore,” James says, “confess your sins to one another.”
When people step into church or Bible studies, confession strips masks and fences that they put up in order to appear as if all their ducks are in a row. Acknowledgment of a problem is the first step in resolving it, and confession is that acknowledgment.
Confession makes people completely vulnerable not only to God, but to man. It’s risky, and hard, and it makes one even more susceptible to judgment. However, it’s the duty of the church, the family of God, to receive those confessing their sins, their struggles, their addictions, no matter how ugly, and lovingly point them to the Redeemer.
Confession, in my opinion, has the potential to make church less about being a home for the well-to-do and more of a hospital for the hurting. Confession knocks down the proud and allows humility to grow. It opens up the way for rebuilding, encouraging and bonding between the family of God.
The church has a long way to go before it becomes less about doing Christian things for God’s blessings. But I can’t wait to see what the church will look like when it’s less about what God can do for me, and more about what I can do for Him.