Recently, I watched a hilarious video about a couple pretending to visit churches looking for what might “fit them” the most. The parody has been viewed almost 200,000 times and counting, and it’s for good reason, it’s just that funny. And like most satire and parody pieces, there’s an element of truth to what it’s poking fun at. In this case, this satirical video touches on a problem.
There are many possible lessons or ideas we might be able to discuss from the video, but the thing that struck me the most was the fact that we do have churches with different DNA. I have had the joy of visiting various churches around the country and although many of the heart struggles of the men and women I’ve interacted with in those churches are the same, each individual church has its own overall unique feel, and every culture has its own emphasis. And for this reason I think it’s good for each of us to ask ourselves, when we talk about church life, disciplines, godliness, or living for the Lord, are we proclaiming ourselves and our culture, or are we proclaiming Jesus?
If you are a Christian, you have a ministry to others whether it’s “official” or not. We have a “job”, so to speak, to proclaim Jesus. As I was writing this post, I began to add scripture references to support that we are ambassadors for Jesus, I quickly discovered that there were too many to count. But perhaps the greatest commandment is enough: to love God with all of our hearts, minds, soul, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). If we truly believe the gospel to be true, there’s no greater gift and no greater way we can show love than to proclaim Jesus.
But, if we are honest, how often do we proclaim Jesus? When you look at the blogs and articles that are written, and at our organizations and even our churches, would it be easier for someone to point out all the things we are for besides Jesus? Now, please don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying if you have an Etsy shop you need to make sure it’s blatantly about Jesus. Instead, I’m thinking specifically of church cultures and what comes out of our mouths when we are living out the Christian life and interacting with others. And do these various church cultures and norms actually shutout people who need Jesus? Do we have a desire to proclaim matters that are grey in the Scriptures such as: working moms vs. stay-at-home moms, homeschooling vs. public schooling, diversity vs. less diverse, traditional services vs. contemporary, etc. What are we more likely to proclaim about ourselves, our churches, and our communities—the culture or Jesus?
In Michael Reeves’s excellent book, Rejoicing in Christ, he says,
“The center, the cornerstone, the jewel in the crown of Christianity is not an idea, a system or a thing; it is not even “the gospel” as such. It is Jesus Christ.… He is not a mere topic, a subject we can pick out from a menu of options. Without him, our gospel or our system—however, coherent, “grace-filled” or “Bible-based”—simply is not Christian.”
Yes! No Jesus, no Christianity. No Jesus and we are just stuck with culture. But, “God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor. 1:28). Our only boast is in Jesus our Lord in whom we find our wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption (verse 30). If we are to proclaim, let us learn and grow in proclaiming Jesus: “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (1 Cor. 4:5). It’s not about us. Our living for the Lord isn’t about us. Our worship isn’t about us. Our desired practices aren’t about us. If we are going to proclaim anything, let it be this: Christ and Christ crucified.
Preaching to Myself, Too
If you’ve been around here long enough, you know I’m not telling you something that I have not myself already been convicted by or wrestling with. It can be tempting for me to place a great deal of hope in the diversity of my church, for example. I long for it and we are praying for it (and, by God’s grace, we are seeing growth! I have an awesome pastor!). But as I seek this diversity and as I encourage others to do the same, my prayer is that I’d do so because of Jesus. I’d like to say that I always proclaim Jesus, but who does? So, I’m in this struggle with you. Let’s grow together in making sure that our church cultures, mom groups, women’s ministries, you name it, are filled with the grace of God and the name of Jesus. Let’s ask God to help us make him our focus and not our culture.
Oh, and here’s that hilarious video for your enjoyment: