Monday, June 9, 2014

The Advantages of the Secret Church

  I feel I must start this  post with a disclaimer that everybody already knows; I overthink everything.  Now that we have that out of the way...
  It's that time of the year in the America South  where  local churches are having their vacation bible school programs.   You can see these signs on the side of the road advertising the 'theme' for this year, and since most VBS  programs are  a pre-packaged  curriculum purchased from some  church  curriculum publisher warehouse, complete with promotional posters and  handouts, it's not uncommon to see the same poster on the side of the road for different churches.  It's not even that rare for different denominations to have the same program going on, at the same time.  Secret agents are big this year, in case you were wondering.
  I'm not against VBS.  There is one put on by a local church that my kids attend every year even though we don't attend their church.  It's the closest thing to a date night that  my wife and I usually get.  I'm not against VBS workers who take   every night of their lives for a week or so  to spend time with  other people's children,  including mine.  They labour, unpaid, in an attempt to  reach the lost and encourage the saved.  I think it's probably better to have an activity like a VBS than it is to not have it.
 Having said that, I think the  church of Jesus Christ  loses something when it becomes mainstream.  It's hard to imagine the  early church putting signs on the side of the road advertising their  summer program.  It's equally  hard to imagine the  early church meeting in opulent buildings with padded pews.  It seems to me sometimes that  the norm of biblical Christianity should be  a certain amount of persecution, or at least disdain from the locals.  When you lose that, you lose something that is so nebulous that I don't even have a word for it.  It seems to me that 'real Christians' (like a missionary friend of mine in China right now) should be  existing just on the edge of being thrown in jail for their beliefs.  In those  scenarios, there are no lukewarm believers because their faith actually costs them something.
  I think that biblical Christianity can be  the victim of it's own success and when the believers are a substantial part of the population, there is no need to hide.  But with no need to hide, you lose an essential part of what it means to  be  a follower of Jesus Christ.  Within a generation or two, you have a  body of believers who, having grown up without persecution, don't see it as essential, and  therefore avoid it a at all costs.  A generation or two later, and you have a Joel Osteen rear his toothy head.
  But back to VBS.  It's equally difficult for me to  imagine the early church  catering specifically to the children in their midst with  pre-packaged  programs that  try to impart biblical truths by linking them to spacemen or secret agents or safaris.  Part of  me recoils a bit as if God somehow isn't interesting enough to stand on his own.  Do we lose something  when we try to make God relevant?
  I am  familiar and  sympathetic to the argument (advanced by my wife when I start overthinking it) that the goal of evangelism is to  'turn the world upside down' and  one of the  hallmarks of  having some success in that area is that the local community isn't always burning us at the stake.   Signs on the side of the road are progress. We've done the  job and  won  the  community so there is  no longer any need to meet in a cave or in a catacomb. But I am also painfully aware that the Bible says "all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" and I  just don't think I've done much suffering.
  I think , even as a street preacher who takes his fair share of  verbal abuse from the community, my persecution  level is so low that it doesn't even register. I sincerely believe that at that judgment seat of Christ, people like me will be told that we received our rewards down here, and therefore  don't receive so many up there. After all,  I will drop my children off  at a  comfortable, climate controlled building where modestly  dressed women and spirit-filled men will take time with them and teach them some bible truths.    If that's not the easy life, what is?
Post a Comment