Two questions haunt me, and they’ve been haunting me for a long time. I read them early on in my ministry preparation, and despite the incredible volume of reading and studying in the years since, these two questions have never faded. One was posed by Matt Casper in Jim and Casper Go to Church, and the other by K.P. Yohannan in The Road to Reality.
Matt Casper is an atheist hired by Jim Henderson to visit and evaluate churches with him to get an “outsider’s” perspective. When visiting a popular church in a large city, as Casper took in the concert-style worship service with laser lights and fog machines, he looks at Jim and asks, “Is this what Jesus told you guys to do?” When I first read that line, I stopped short. My mouth might have fallen open a little bit. How much of what we do in the Church is in direct response to what Jesus told us to do? Laser lights and fog machines aside, how much isn’t?
In The Road to Reality, K.P. Yohannan provides an outsider perspective to the North American church as a pastor and evangelist from India. His wonder and awe at the prevalence of Christian churches in the United States is deflated by the prevalence of complacency and shallowness that he addresses bluntly by asking, “Since when has obedience to Christ and His Gospel become optional to Christianity?” The question hits me hard because I’m as guilty as anyone of trying to rationalize away or soften the hard edges of what it means to fully follow Jesus.
We do a great job at playing church but do everything we can to avoid the “lifestyle of sacrifice, service, and suffering for the sake of our Lord” to which we’re called. With all the activity and busyness of our churches, are we doing what Jesus told us to do? Are we treating the commands of Christ as directives to be followed or just suggestions to be considered? The truth is revealed in our actions and attitudes.