A few days ago I took my vehicle in for some routine maintainance. It was the second time I had taken it to this guy, an idependent mechanic who seems to be a very honest man (a great quality for someone in his line of work). As we were test-driving the car (after the repairs had been made) he dropped this question on me: "How long have you been a pastor?"
I wasn't necessarily surprised by this, as I had given him my card at the previous visit. So I answered his question. He then told me that he was a "P.K.," which I immediately understood to mean "preacher's kid" (I'm one too, in fact... And I have four, myself). When I mentioned that my father is a pastor, as well, he offered that he hadn't "followed in his father's footsteps." I thought about that statement for a quick second, and it raised question in my mind. Obviously he hadn't followed in his father's profession... did he mean something else? So I asked if he meant his father's faith. His response was to ask me if we really wanted to have this conversation. Then he continued.
He told me that he believed in God, but had a problem with "organized religion," as he put it. He explained that his experience of growing up in the church had exposed him to the judgmental, hypocritical side of Christianity... and left him believing in God, but wanting little to do with the church.
I couldn't help but agree with him.
It astonishes me the things that are done or said in the name of Christ. "God Hates Fags" campaigns; "turn or burn" tactics; rejoicing over the death of a criminal (even an enemy)... I have serious doubts whether any of that has anything to do with following Christ at all. The truth is that we don't even have to look that far... just look at how we treat each other! Why are we surprised when "outsiders" want nothing to do with us?
I've read a couple of books lately that have stirred something within me - an inkling that goes back a few years, but was fading from my consciousness. The books are Love Wins by Rob Bell, and The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. I haven't come away from these books a Universalist. But I have come away from them with a renewed fervor to love Christ completely, and to therefore love completely like Christ. As flawed and imperfect as I am, I want to be a part of the bigger movement among those who desperately want to change the perception of Christianity around the world. No more doing church... I want to start being the church.
What if we really started being the hope of the world? What if we stopped worrying about who's in and who's out, what color the carpet is, and the style (or volume) of the music, and just started loving people - all people? What if we were more concerned about living Jesus than talking Jesus? These are just a few things I'm wrestling with.
When my mechanic mentioned the things he'd encountered - things that ultimately turned him off to church altogether - I just nodded my head. "I completely agree with you," I said.