“ For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”
A little more than forty-five years ago I walked into a church for the third time in my life. I was nineteen years old. My only frame of reference about Christian churches was that they existed to take the money of the foolish. I was not a drunk, not homeless, and not broken man. In fact, as far as I was concerned, I had just found myself and my life’s work. I walked out of that place without becoming a Christian and more than a little uncomfortable. It was all old music, people shouting, and a seemingly out of control preacher jumping and yelling. It was unsettling, to say the least. All that strangeness aside, I took away one thing…an unswerving knowledge that the people I found in there had something I did not and they liked it.
There was no question that they were odd. There was no question that they were out of step with the times. There was also no question that whatever they had, I did not. Whatever it was they did have seemed to be the reason for their happy, odd b3ehavior. While among them I was not assaulted verbally, no money changed hands, and no coercion took place. Yes, indirectly my life choices and morals were called into question by their philosophy. Yet, I felt no condemnation. I was kindly invited to join the oddness. It was offered for free, at least as much as anything is free. There was one catch.
There was only one way to get what I wanted. I had to strike a deal with God and establish a relationship with Him. The barb was the deal was to be wholly of His making. This relationship was on His terms or there was no deal…and there were no negotiations. His way or the highway. My personal comfort with the deal was of no consequence. In fact, in God’s view, my comfort was a hindrance to the entire process. God’s intention in all of this was the total transformation of my life and thinking…nothing else would do.
The church and the people I met there were as unimpressed with my credentials and comfort as the God they served. They refused to change the rules or their practices for me. I could have Christianity unaltered as it existed or biblically demonstrate where they missed the mark. There was no uncertainty about what I was getting into, who set the standards or what transformation might cost.
It has been at least thirty years since I have been to a church like that. Places of Christian worship are not like that anymore. Christian education and practice are grass swaying in the wind of popular opinion. Personal transformation has gone by the wayside, tidings of comfort and joy are the whole of modern Christian experience.
The problem is that transformation is the antithesis of comfort and a prerequisite of joy. The result of the modern church’s pursuit of being seeker friendly is the absence of transformation and the scarcity of that something that the world does not possess. I have traveled over a good deal of America in the last thirty years and have found a handful of churches that seem to offer anything that cannot be found outside on the street.
The solution to this problem does not build mega-churches nor does it make ministers and church organizations rich…in that the world does well to look with askance on the modern products of social, feel-good gospels and those that spew such nonsense. The solution to the problem is the great bugbear of modern thinking and intimidated Christians…religion, more specifically, the old-time religion.