I saw the innocuous sign as I was walking in the door. It was placed on the inside of the window in all of its high quality printed glory. It made me want to puke, in fact I may have thrown up in my mouth just a little. It was a declaration to me of the problem of American Christianity. A Christian Cruise. Pay your nearly one thousand dollars plus airfare and you can come hear Christians who you can hear pretty much anywhere pontificate and sing and “lead” in worship (if your paying money for a concert, its not a worship service, its a concert). But this time they will all be doing it on a boat. A big boat to be sure, and in the Caribbean, but a boat.
I can hear Michale Tate and Kevin Max’s high pleading vocals begging the question, “what have we become?”. He answers a measure later, “self indulgent people”. The song “What Have We Become,” from the paradigm shifting album Jesus Freak is speaking to this moment in my life. There is a deep and growing problem in our country. It is not politics, it is not social injustice, it is a ridiculous amount of apathy, indulgence, and hypocrisy in the church that Jesus died to redeem.
I love the church. My entire career has been devoted to serving in whatever capacity I am called in the church. Sometimes its like trying to save a crumbling building. In American society there is this massive gap in the understanding of what Jesus truly called us to. To see a sign at pretty much the only Christian chain bookstore advertising something like a cruise, a luxurious sail through tropical waters pitched as something that is designed to be worship style experience is sickening. Jesus called us to reach the loss and disciple the saved, not cruise the Bahamas in luxury. Worship comes from the realization and outpouring of the heart because God’s grace is abounding, I find it hard to believe that it can be properly accomplished in the distraction of opulence. But really thats the least of it. I get frustrated when people charge money for worship music or other things that should be reaching people. The band Third Day released an album several years back and on a live track Mac Powell proudly proclaims that this wasn’t a Third Day concert, but it was a worship service. If that’s the case then why was admission charged, if we are taking a love offering fine, if we are using that money to do mission work and other things of the like, fine. If its a concert, its a concert. But I digress.
In this country, in fact in many of our affluent neighborhoods we have the ability to eradicate things like hunger, homelessness, and other plagues that come with poverty. But we don’t want to, because that might be an inconvenience for us to have less. Three weeks ago I was able to go to a yard sale in an affluent community. I bought a pair of shoes that cost probably $100 in the stores brand new for $10. The guy had worn them once and didn’t like the fit, so rather than take them back he basically threw them away. That wasn’t the only thing about it. Item after item that was not very old, was just being sold for pennies. We have so much junk in our homes that does nothing! It sits, it gathers dust, it is disposed of with no further thought.
Back before Christmas I saw a documentary on Minimalism. My father scoffed at it, and my first reaction was to do the same. But a really good point was made. When we look around at our lives and our possessions, do we ask ourselves the question, does this have meaning in my life? Does this item add purpose to my life? Does this item help me to complete the purpose of my life? I think if we looked at our homes that way then a lot of things would change. A lot of decorators would be out of a job and so would the stores that supply the endless supply of tchotchkes at low low prices.
The church of Acts looked so vey different than what we look like today. Are we about a body of believers now, or are we about a looking good? Christianity is not the clean white cottony religion that we was it to be. It is dirty, it is difficult, it requires sacrifice for the sake of others. I’m not perfect at that, don’t mistake my outrage for a claim of perfection. I struggle to give things away, I have a hard time sharing, I’m human, but I’m working on it. I am not however playing it safe. I don’t think we are supposed to play it safe. We are supposed to talk to strangers, we are supposed to go out in the dark being a target for those who disagree. Christianity is dangerous. Sitting in a pew on Sunday morning is not, being on a “Christian Cruise” is not, and it also does nothing to progress the Kingdom of God. In fact I would argue it does the opposite. It makes us look silly, it makes a mockery of what we are supposed to be doing. That may make you mad, sorry…not sorry. If you pay money to do this sort of thing, I question your relationship with God. I question your commitment to the mission of Christ’s church. If you want to go on a vacation, go for it, take a vacation. But don’t delude yourself into believing that what your doing should have Jesus’ name on it. If you want to put His name on it go serve the poor and the hungry, the lost and the dirty, the scary and the dangerous.