"Church Surface" is what I overheard in a restaurant lately. No, not really, what they were actually talking about was their normal weekly church services. However, in listening above the noise of the patrons, no I wasn't ease dropping as they were talking loud enough for anyone to hear if you strained hard enough, and I heard what I heard. Their conversation wasn't ugly and they weren't having the pastor for lunch that day. You know, after the church service is over you go to a local restaurant and complain about the pastor, the music, the sermon, the lights, the video, the singers, what that person was wearing, etc. These people were actually talking about how well things went that Sunday. They were talking about how the pastor had spoken the Bible into their lives and that they were challenged by what they had heard. Refreshing don't you think?
I did start thinking about the issue of church attendance in America being overall in the decline. Why? Is it because the church is under persecution? Hardly. No place to meet? Are you kidding? Most churches meet in multi million dollar facilities. Is it because the neighbors will make fun if you attend a church? Not really for a couple of reasons: 1. your neighbors go with you or 2. your neighbors don't know you and they don't care what you do.
In my thinking about this issue it dawned on me like a new light bulb coming on in an overhead ceiling fan, it's the Church Surface! The church surface that lasts from point a to point b without any delineation from the script. It is the church surface that is nice, neat, and pretty little package that is fully predictable with no variance from what is known. The church surface where all is comfortable and little requirement is expected from the congregants. The church surface that is neither real nor relevant to the lives of our parishioners but a thing that you do to say that you have done it for the week. A church surface that is nothing more than a church surface!
Take a quick look at churches that are not doing a church surface but a church service, and that is a subject for another blog; we don't go to church to be served in a service..............but to worship God. Jesus said that he didn't come to bring peace but a sword. If you put your hand to the plow and look back you are not fit for the kingdom of God. Jesus said to take up your cross and follow him.
C.S. Lewis wrote in the Chronicles of Narnia a great line talking about the great king, "Is he safe? No he is not safe but he is fair.", or something like that. I know that Lewis said, "Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important." The point is that following Jesus is neither safe nor always comfortable. Following Jesus is one of those things that will cause you to be outside your comfort zones. It will require more than a church surface and a move toward a church service that is challenging, that causes us to reflect on our lives, to see our lives in the light of scripture, to become more like Christ, to be different, to get our hands dirty; to come to serve and not to be served.
It was interesting that day when I overheard the church surface statement and realized that if our churches in America want to be real and relevant to the culture, we will have to go deeper than just a Church Surface!
[Footnote: For anyone reading this posting, know that I am not talking about YOUR church. I am talking about the corporate church. However, if you are convicted that you need to be more than what you currently are in Christ Jesus, then be obedient and follow through. : ) ]