Sunday, April 26, 2009

Taking Our Church To The Moon

During the offering today, we played a short, parodic song by Sara Groves called "To The Moon":

It was there in the bulletin
We're leaving soon
After the bake sale to raise funds for fuel
The rocket is ready and we're going to
Take our church to the moon

There'll be no one there to tell us we're odd
No one to change our opinions of God
Just lots of rocks and this dusty sod
Here in our church on the moon

We know our liberties, we know our rights
We know how to fight a very good fight
Just grab that last bag there and turn out the light
We're taking our church to the moon
We're taking our church to the moon
We'll be leaving soon

I think this is such brilliant satire about the way we as Christians have sought to use the church as a vehicle to insulate ourselves from the world around us. That impulse, while perhaps understandable, is always wrong.

  • Christ calls his followers to be agents of his kingdom in this world, actively bringing salt to the decaying and light to the darkness. The church is an outpost for his kingdom, not a retreat center for us.
  • Christ himself, as our model and example, gave primacy to the needs and nurture of the people he encountered each day--from his disciples to his benefactors to the crowds of people to the random person he might come across. He never struck a posture of retreating from the world and its needs, but rather charging headlong into them. In fact, if his object had been shelter from the world, he need not have come here at all, but simply stayed in heaven.
  • To the degree that one views the church this way, it mitigates even the possibility of mission. The more removed the church is from the world, the more impossible it is to call anyone out of the world into the love of God found in Jesus Christ.
We would never be so ridiculous as to take our church "to the moon." Instead, we just take it to the suburbs, where we don't have to deal with homeless people, racial tensions, or poverty. Or we might not physically relocate, but we could take our church out of the life of the community that God has called us to reach--present in architecture, absent in impact, absorbed in our own internal machinery. It might as well be the moon, which I believe is the point of Sara's song.

Our church... our opinions... our liberties... our rights...

Our language is revealing. Where is God in this song? Is he leading, directing, moving, working? Is his power evident? Hardly. This is a song about a group of people who have come to see their church as their own private possession--an asset to be handled and manipulated by mutual consent for each one's own personal benefit. And now, these ingenious innovators have discovered the most effective way possible to achieve their aims of isolation and irrelevance... simply ditch the planet!

This is all (ostensibly) part of fighting the good fight--quite a twist on Paul's original idea in 2 Tim. 4:7. Whereas he had lived his entire Christian life for the purpose of bringing as many as possible to a saving knowledge of the Son of God, these "Christians" of the Church On The Moon have lived their entire lives for the purpose of avoiding anyone who might challenge them, change them, or bring any kind of discomfort to them.

It's easy to laugh at these simpletons in Sara's song, but are we really laughing at ourselves? Why do we call our meeting room a "sanctuary"? What does it provide sanctuary from? What do we mean when we say "our church" or "my church"? How often do we moan about the perceived loss of our rights? Why are there 193 million hits on Yahoo! for the phrase "church politics"?

The Immediate Vision of Pathway Community Church is to trigger a dramatic reaction between our neighbors and Christ in a fusion of real needs and real love. It is a vision designed to shield us from many of the errors that are commonplace in Christ's church in America these days--isolation, alienation, introspection, apathy, selfishness, arrogance, irrelevance, and more.

It's an antidote to The Church On The Moon.

My only hope is that it sinks down deep into the fiber of who we are so that we truly are immune against the sicknesses that have infected Christ's church, so that we can become the church he is calling us to be.

There will be no blog posting next week. Tanya and I will be headed to a pastors' retreat center in Wisconsin for a much-anticipated week of just-us-time.

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