I spent an hour on the phone yesterday with a foul-mouthed, rockabilly, former-comedian-turned-pastor who does church by feeding homeless people in a park and having drinks with the local riffraff in neighborhood bars. I was at the end of my rope with many things about how people do "church" and "christianity" and needed an infusion of reality. Ask and ye shall receive.
We talked about how sermons suck and how neither of us could give one hot damn about what some white, middle-class dude says from a shiny pulpit. We talked about how we don't want to hear about Three Steps to Finding Your True Self, or Why Jesus Wants You to Have a BMW, or How To Feel Comfortable in Suburbia. It's empty. And our generation knows this in its core, but it seems that our lethargy and desire for comfort get the best of us.
You see, everyday I work with people who are literally, LITERALLY fighting for their lives because they lack safe water and food. Because their government is corrupt and 13 year old children carry around guns. Because they are ridden with malaria and typhoid and hepatitis and HIV/AIDS and there is no medical care. My job centers on not only helping to provide water and food and safety and medical care, but also asking WHY these people don't have water and food and safety and medical care, and working to change this system. One step at a time. My sincere hope (and ALL of my eggs are in this freakin' basket) is that our FAITH tells us something about how to do this. That the Spirit is the catalyst to changing our world. That somehow, light will shine in the darkness, and darkness will not overcome it. I need a faith that speaks to these realities. I need it. I'm desperate for it.
What I want to see from our "churches" is how faith compels us to live differently. I want strategies for loving radically and living out loud. I want people to learn not just how to give their money, but their lives, and their hearts, and their time, and their energy. This world is dark, where is the light? How, in God's great name, do we shine?? What does this man called Jesus, who hung out with sinners and drunkards and prostitutes and people who are poor have to say about all of this?? My hunch is that I'm more likely to find answers to these questions while talking with a foul-mouthed pastor who hangs out in bars than in a pew in suburbia-land.
Between F-bombs and crass jokes, my rockabilly pastor-turned-dear-friend seemed to be on to something. Maybe it's not about a new flat screen TV, and light shows, and great sound boards, and perfect sermons. Maybe it's more about simply hanging out with people who are lonely and poor. Maybe it's about being church, as opposed to going to church. Maybe it's about living church, as opposed to attending church.