WORDS FROM W.W. October 9, 2009
“Changing The Terms…the Other Way”

(Last week I wrote about my credit card company’s notification that they were raising the interest rate on unpaid balances or cash advances. I then talked about how churches sometimes accept someone into the Body of Christ and then, after a while, change the terms of what that means.)
The Bible is filled with fickleness! The Israelites rated gods more often than the BCS voters. One week it was the Lord God Jehovah and the next week it was Baal. When Elijah slammed the 450 prophets of Baal…Yahweh was at the top of the rankings for quite a while!
But “fickle” has a limited memory, and pretty soon it was back to Baal or some other god again. Lukewarm with a sipping straw. If you picked up a bible for the first time and didn’t know how the story ended you’d find yourself shaking your head at all the ups and downs. You might even think that “Days of Our Lives” used the biblical story as inspiration for all its plot twists and turns.
Of course, Jesus had to deal with a lot of that as well. After he said some demanding things in John 6 we read this sentence: “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” (John 6:66) Evidently they were okay up to a certain point. Jesus had just fed the five thousand and walked on water. Things were good! People proudly wore their “I’m with Jesus” t-shirts and freely entered into conversations and discussions about what they thought Jesus’ next miracle would be. People were feeling good, and then Jesus gave a prickly message.
“Nope! Jesus, we’ve had second thoughts. The free meal complete with take-home container- that was pretty sweet! But these hard teachings are…too hard!” Sweeten the deal again and maybe we’ll come back. If not, we’re outta’ here!”
Sometimes the church changes the terms of the agreement, but perhaps more frequently the people change the terms, or reject the terms of the covenant they make with the Body of believers. It comes out in the language:
“That church just isn’t meeting my needs anymore.”
“The worship service extended into the NFL pre-game show too much. I’m looking for a place with an earlier start time.”
“The pastor preached too long. The Methodists were beating us to the restaurant.”
“I like to hear a choir every Sunday.”
“They started using wine and those little stale crackers for communion.”
“I got tired of being asked to help serve.”
“A new family showed up and sat exactly where I’ve sat for the past 20 years.”
“There’s too many old people there.”
“There’s too many young people there.”
“There’s too many people there.”
“There’s just not many people there.”
Our culture, especially the Christian culture, is more prone to opt out than buy in. It’s like deciding on where to grab a hamburger tonight. I might choose McDonald’s…or Five Guys…or Red Robin…or In-and-Out…or Chili’s. But if I grab a burger again on Saturday night I probably won’t go to the same place. Having a taste for a Butterburger at Culver’s on Friday may turn into a taste for a Big Mac on Saturday. For many people in our churches it’s the same for their commitment to church. One week I’m a Lutheran, but next week I’m a Pentecostal, and the third week I’m a patron of a sports bar with twenty TV screens. To enter into a covenant is something fewer and fewer people are willing to enter into, because the focus is not on me, but a greater cause and purpose.
Sometimes I ask myself “Am I just whining?”, but thirty years of experience tells me I’m dealing with reality. With all of the reality TV shows I’m surprised someone hasn’t done one on “church”.
Nah! People probably wouldn’t buy in to it.

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