In spite of being sick this last weekend, we took the boys to an indoor waterpark this last Monday to celebrate the start of Spring break. The anticipation and excitement about the trip was overwhelming for the boys demonstrated by the constant questions if “today was the day” and “are we there yet?”. Once arriving, the celebration and amazement in their little minds was priceless. One even commented: “I’m shaking because I’m so excited”. What happened next was a priceless illustration and lesson for all of us.
My boys are fearless experimenters…there was no telling what they would try to pull when it came to using the waterpark equipment. Yet, while being fearless experimenters, they were fearful experiencers of the waterpark. The boys were fearless in using all the equipment in the ways they were NOT meant to be used. Climbing up the outside of the cages, running in the “Do Not Run” areas, walking up slides backwards-all demonstrating a fearlessness in trying to experiment the bounds of their fear. To add to the mix, they could care less that their behavior was having an effect on the other kids at the park trying to use the slides and other equipment correctly. Yet, when it came to using the water park the correct way-they were terrified. Slide down the slide the correct way? No thank you! Screaming and tears were the result of that attempt at fun. Walk up the steps to the equipment? No thank you! More of the same fearful behavior. We had to laugh at this entire predicament because of the fearless bravado seen moments before in trying to climb up a slide, but to slide down the slide like it was supposed to be used, reduced that bravado to a scared whimper. Of course, once we went down the slides with them a couple times, and walked on the equipment a couple times they found fun and excitement in using the waterpark the way that it was meant to be used.
As I sat there and took this in, I had to think-how much this depicts the American’s use, or should I say abuse, of the church. There is no doubt in my mind that we are in the midst of what is called the “Post-Christian” church. The church exists to be a place in which Christians find fellowship, instruction, accountability, and opportunities for worship, yet many are fearful of the institution itself.
This in turn leads to a dangerous set of behavior traits where the church is marginalized, accountability is hated, Christian fellowship and community is scorned, and truth-filled instruction is sacrificed on the altar of personal experience.
Thus, there is no true commitment to fellow believers in this organization called the church. There is such an “anti-institution” or “anti-organization” mindset that pervades pop-Christianity that Christians place themselves into a position of harm spiritually and doctrinally by rejecting the organization of the church. (Hebrews 13:7-17) Beyond this, just as my boys were abusing the equipment with no seeming care for how this hurt those that were using the equipment for its intended purpose, so do those that abuse the church. A lack of commitment to and personal participation in the institution in which Christ died for, made the foundation for truth, and promised Satan’s loss to ultimately hurts and harms those that do. Those that abuse the church criticize it most, absorb most of the shepherds time, soak most of the resources of those committed-all to the harm of those that truly desire to be a part of the greater Kingdom work of God through His church. I see it in the eyes of the faithfully committed-they ask and beg-why aren’t they more faithful and helpful to the spiritual work to the needy hearts in our community and assembly.
This is not merely a call to stop abusing the church by abandoning it-this is a call to join up with the church in the use of the organization whose establishment and mission are given by God. The boys found great fun and lasting memories when they began to realize over time the proper use of the waterpark equipment. So can Christians everywhere see lasting fruit, helpful accountability, loving fellowship, and truthful instruction by committing themselves to their churches. Will every experience be pleasant and thrilling? Probably not.
Just as not every trip down the water slide was a perfect 10, so week in and week out every trip and every interaction with your fellow believers may not be a perfect 10.
Yet, in the greater scheme of things God is working through His church and in His people for a greater Kingdom-one not of this world, not held by this world, and not described by this world. So, what are you doing this Sunday or Wednesday? Heading to church? Need someone to go down the waterslide with you?
After this last weekend, I’ve got a lot of practice helping the fearful go down.