Tag Archives: Christendom

Don’t just worship Jesus, follow Him.

At the General Conference of the Brethren in Christ we were led, part of the time, by a talented team of young people fronted by Bishop Aner’s family. I think they are great. But I finally stopped singing with them. I just could not sing another rendition of the same skewed song. While it was a bit painful to come to this realization, I think I am pretty much over songs based on what I would call a triumphalistic mentality. Christian worship needs to be larger than the nation-focused worship of many psalms, and it needs to be smaller than the power-based assumptions of an empire. The King of kings is a suffering servant. Worship includes following him, not just worshiping him.

Worship the king

Their music was all about being granted the favors of a king. The songs kept repeating this, so they helped me focus on a tendency I had been noticing elsewhere. I decided to do some research, so I entered “worship the king” on Google. The first entry was for a worship team. They published a video. They had a cool backdrop, a drum screen, a word screen in the back, a lead singer in skinny pants, and even a white-haired woman doing the Pentecostal “jump” in the crowd. Corey Voss was trying to sell his new generic song on iTunes. It was the kind of music used at the conference. And yes, we were encouraged to jump there, too.

I think Voss’s song is nice. He could be alluding to Matthew 21:1-17 where Jesus presents himself as king. He could be thinking of Jesus as the kind of king he appears there, and on the cross, and not fast forwarding to the kind of king he will appear as when he comes a second time. There is a difference. Because the nature of Jesus’ kingship now is creating a season of salvation in world history during which people can still switch sides. There is still time for everyone to accept the amnesty that King Jesus holds out, and renounce allegiance to self, or country, or prosperity or whatever else rules more than Jesus. Or the emphasis on Jesus as king might be skewed from an empire viewpoint and it is all about getting power, defeating enemies, staying safe, and staying out of trouble with an overlord.

I love to worship and can generously use all sorts of music. But I have this terrible feeling that with a lot of songs Christians are using these days, Jesus has been transmuted back into the Psalms rather than the Psalms looking ahead to Him. All this king and kingdom worship makes Jesus an all-powerful emperor, in the image of Constantine (d. 337) or the latest strongman, rather than the suffering servant riding into town in a very humble, human way. You recall that his goal was not to be king of the world, even though people wanted him to be. Jesus is still washing feet through his people.

Jesus comparison

The Post-Constantine shift

I fear that we are still committed to the shift Christianity took very early on. A book I am reading (and recommending) talks about an inappropriate and unbiblical shift in the way Christians see Jesus. Here is a small summary quote: “The Christendom era has bequeathed a form of Christianity that has marginalized, spiritualized, domesticated and [diminished] Jesus. The teaching of Jesus is watered down, privatized, and explained away. Jesus is worshiped as a remote kingly figure or a romanticized personal savior. In many churches (especially those emerging from the Reformation), Paul’s writings are prioritized over the Gospel accounts of the life of Jesus. And in many Christian traditions, ethical guidelines derived from the Old Testament or pagan philosophy trump Jesus’ call to discipleship.” – The Naked Anabaptist, p. 55

I think I can can see this shift hanging on in the worship of millennials like Corey Voss. Maybe we can see the shift represented in the fact that four out of five Evangelicals say they will vote for Donald Trump, despite Hillary Clinton’s much more developed and demonstrated faith. That is not an endorsement of Hillary, since I can find a lot to doubt about her, but it is an interesting reaction. I think they may want Jesus the ruler rather than Jesus the servant. I think they may want to worship Jesus, not follow him. Perhaps they have come to like God, but they cannot tolerate the suffering, morally demanding, take-up-your-cross-and-follow-me Jesus. It seems to me that their cross is a sign of triumph, empty of Jesus and empty of themselves, a sign of victory over sin, but also over opponents, a cross jauntily held over their shoulder as a weapon like the imperial Jesus on the right above.

The life and teaching of Jesus is central to our faith. Circle of Hope has twenty years of experience in following Jesus as well as worshiping Him. Right now Daily Prayer :: WIND is exploring Jesus in the New Testament. I recommend it as a means to stay conscious in this mind-and-heart-numbing context in which we live.

 

 

5 reasons some people are tired of being a Christian

More and more people are just plain tired out from being a Christian. They feel a change in their world. They are uncomfortable about adapting.

I think they are feeling a nostalgia for a time that may have never existed: “Christendom” — a time when the state and the church had some kind of joint rule of the society. (If it ever really worked like that, it was a LONG time ago).

The privatization of the church accelerated after WW2 when science took over truth at government expense; now the day of the church being consulted about society is over.

I am not sure I feel that nostalgia, since when I became a Christian I changed my allegiance to the Kingdom and didn’t worry about how I fit into the “public.” But a lot of people did not see their conversion like I did, so they are hurting. Here are some reasons they are tired — and why you might be tired of being a Christian, too.

  1. Leaders are fighting to fill the post-Christian vacuum

Regardless of how it happened, the church as an institution in society is not as important as it used to be. (Of course we have always thought that being a mere institution under the umbrella of “society” was wrong anyway!). I celebrate the end of the unholy allian

post christian
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ce — it marginalized Jesus and distorted the Gospel. But the end of it does leave a cultural vacuum – and a lot of Christians spend a lot of time getting sucked into the debates over ideas, theology, and the relationship between faith and a changing culture.  If they are Americans, they tend to think their culture is crucial and their ideas extremely important. So their leaders talk about what to do now all the time (like I am) and get them to fight for the soul of nation (like I hope not to do). Conflict makes people tired. Any time there is some kind of cultural vacuum being flooded with a mixture of new and old ideas, there will be conflict. We hate conflict.  It makes us tired — tired enough to switch on the tube and binge again — or something.

  1. Christian tribes are splintering and dying

Christians have been breaking off into tribes since the early days. Early disciples had debates about whether to follow Jesus or John the Baptist (John 1-3), Paul, Apollos or Peter (1 Cor. 3). 1500 years later the Church experienced the magisterial and radical reformations. Since that time, the Church has splintered off into somewhere around 40,000 denominations. Even broad categories such as “progressive” or “evangelical” even Mennonite are now seeing an emergence of splinter tribes who often shoot their own people for aberrant views. People tend to take their thinking from the present democratic philosophies about identity that is creating tinier subgroups every day which then get hardened by niche marketing. This leaves many people feeling like there’s no place where they can just exist and wrestle in emotional safety – most of the time they expect to get shot so they just become masters at hiding. It is tiring to be on the run.

  1. With another presidential campaign looming, despair is rising.

When the first presidential candidate officially kicked off the 2016 presidential cycle, some people wanted to cry. It seems like the last election just ended a few days ago. Some people care about this circus and some people decidedly don’t. The people in the middle get squeezed from both sides. Christians join right in with the quadrennial feast of lies and judgathons and judge, ostracize, and write-off other believers on the basis of which candidate they prefer. Politics married off to Jesus divides his people – the people called to live in unity and love. It is tiring to feel judged.

  1. The current of Christless culture is getting stronger and most people are not used to swimming upstream.

One of my acquaintances posted this on Facebook yesterday: “Two days ago we were walking down 40th St and walking towards us is a young Dad and his maybe 6-7 year old daughter, and as we pass each other the little girl turns to me and says, “Hey sugar.” Then yesterday at work our customer’s special needs daughter told me I looked like Jesus Christ with tattoos. I don’t know what else to say besides, Yoga?” Hot AND beatific – an

ex good christian
Click pic for more. This really exists!

d all due to Yoga. He was being funny (since he just started Yoga). But it is a new era.

Life in much of the Church was so tied to the old, modern culture that it was never counter to culture. Now that it is essentially excluded from hyper-modern culture, people don’t know what to do. They used to own the culture and bought the false belief that somehow Kingdom priorities were aligned with the priorities of empire. Not so. Passionate Jesus followers who want to live and be the words of Jesus are finding themselves at odds not only with much of the dominant culture, but at odds with the church, which has spent almost 1800 years trying to make the world work as part of the government. Counter cultural faith is beautiful – but it can be tiring. Most Christians don’t have much stamina built up for going against the current, in their brains, hearts or habits.

  1. Authentic, real-world relationships and community are hard to find. Virtuality doesn’t cut it. Consumerism is boring.

Being countercultural and at odds with both post-Christian culture and institutionalized church, leads to  isolation all around. Some Jesus followers are finding churches who are doing wonderful Kingdom things and who are refusing to collude with empire (I hope we are one!). Others are not finding churches like that and have to settle for “online” community because they’re often ostracized from a local body of believers. Unfortunately, for whatever benefits one gets from an online community, they are hardly a replacement for real world, show-up-at-your-door-with-food relationships.  Live this way long enough, and it’s a straight shot to Christian burnout.

Are you feeling like any of this? What are the things that are leading you to how you feel? What suggestions do you have for easing the trouble a radical Jesus follower might face?

[Much of this was suggested by Benjamin Corey]