Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fake Story

This morning we had an all-church-family gathering, where we talked about some of the challenges and obstacles that face our church body in this current climate. I was so proud and grateful for the Real Community we enjoyed together, as we had people asking hard and honest questions, receiving hard and honest answers, and telling their very personal stories about what God is doing in their lives. We took off our masks and intereacted with one another as real people. It was an awesome time together.

As people opened themselves up and shared their stories from their hearts, I was struck by the realization of how the combination of Real Spirituality (our authentic relationship with God) and Real Community (our authentic relationship with one another) really does serve as the foundation for Real Story (our authentic relationship with the world). When God is active and working, and we are sharing life with one another on a personal level, we have something relevant and attractive to share with the world around us. I want to remind everyone who was here this morning to remember to share the stories you heard with the people that you come in contact with this week.

Real Story is sharing with other people the real difference that a relationship with Jesus makes in our lives. Real Story is talking about the problems of a life without Jesus and how knowing Jesus makes all the difference in every way that matters. Real Story is sharing about our own journeys and the journeys of others we know in a way that the people around us can relate to it, and then inviting them to come consider a life with Jesus.

But when we're living lives of Fake Spirituality and Fake Community, we can't talk about how Jesus makes all the difference--because he makes hardly any difference at all. We haven't made the decision to obey God in every area of our lives; we pick and choose what we want to obey and what we don't. And our lives look just like everyone else's lives. Our biggest fear is having our masks ripped off to show our hypocrisy. When that happens, all we have to offer the world is Fake Story.

Fake Story is trying to attract people to our church without relationships. If we don't have an authentic relationship with God or an authentic relationship with other people in our church family, we certainly can't develop an authentic relationship with those outside it--at work, in our neighborhood, in our kids' t-ball league. So we don't talk to them about Christ, about our church, or about the difference God can make--we don't have the foundation for that. What we do is work the registration table at the Easter Egg Hunt, or put a car in the Trunk or Treat, or sit at the Hospitality Tent at Soccer Camp. And hopefully, somehow because people's kids have gotten free candy, that will make them want to come to a worship service on Sunday morning and pray to receive Jesus as their personal Savior. Fake Story just doesn't work.

But that was never the intent of our outreach events. They were always intended to be a tool for relationships, not a substitute for them. They were meant to be a way for us to build closer relationships with the people in our lives, by providing us an opportunity to interact with them in a different context, to introduce them to other people in the church, and serve as a way for us to follow up with them afterwards--maybe even inviting them to attend, if our relationship with them is at that stage. But the event can't do all that by itself; it serves as a tool for the relationship, not a substitute.

The other way that outreach events can work successfully is if we establish new relationships with people at the event. If someone comes and we get the opportunity to start up a conversation with them, we might find some common ground with them and use that to meet together with them again so that the relationship can keep going--setting up a play date with our kids, for example. Then we can talk more about our church and our relationship with Christ. Again, the event is a tool, not a substitute.

But Fake Story can't handle relationships. Fake Story doesn't want to get close to people outside the church. Fake Story doesn't want to reveal anything too personal, or get in a place where there might be uncomfortable questions. Fake Story doesn't want to deal with unchurched people's messy problems or complicated lives. Fake Story wants to keep the lines of distinction clear and easy-- Us ............ Them--so that there will be plenty of space in-between.

Fake Story is rooted in fear--fear of being discovered as a fraud, fear of being labeled as a Bible-thumper, fear of being rejected, fear of going out on a limb, fear of being asked a question we can't answer, fear of looking foolish. So Fake Story is rooted in selfishness. Because none of our fears relate to the other person; they only relate to me. Fake Story is concerned only with me, not with them. If we were concerned about them, we'd cross over into Real Story, and share with them the truth that could save their souls and transform their lives.

You see, Fake Story is EASY. That's why these are called the Easy Threesy. It's convenient Christianity, life on my own terms with a Jesus Christ insurance policy for my soul.

But Christ's call is to something deeper, something richer, something REAL. Easy is FAKE. The only kind of faith that matters is the faith that actually costs you something (Mk. 10:17-23).

Can you get over your fears? With Christ's help you can. But are you willing? Will we do the hard thing of holding out the Hope of the World to the people that God has placed in our lives around us? Will we tell and share the Real Story?


Anonymous said...

Pastor Scott,
read the fake story found it interesting. Also true to life. People are afriad to open up and really take a look at themselves.
To me it takes a strong brave person to take their masks off and reviel themselves.I have trouble opening up like that,however I do talk to GOD
about this and maybeone day I"ll be able to open up to people once again.

Pastor Scott said...

Dear Anonymous,

I appreciate you sharing your thoughts! Thanks so much for adding to this discussion!

And I want to encourage you, too. Anyone can become the strong, brave person you talk about because of our identity in Christ. He has already taken care of everything that would matter; he has removed everything that we might have cause to be afraid of.

That's why his word tells us that "our Lord Jesus Christ... has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will--to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure." (Eph. 1:3-9)

"So do not be afraid of them (people who persecute you)... Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Mt. 10:26-31)

"The Lord is my light and my salvation--whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid?" (Ps. 27:1)

Please do open up and share with people who you really are. You might get burned, you might get hurt. We are to do it not because it costs us nothing, but because it is God's plan for rescuing humanity from eternal death AND because it makes us more like God--the One who revealed himself to us, who shared with us who he really is. It cost him the life of his one and only Son, but it was worth it to him because of his great love for us. I want to encourage you to nurture that same love for others that Christ has lavished on us. Give yourself away!