So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore – Part 5
It’s been awhile since I’ve played ping-pong with someone who can return it. On Saturday evening, I took out the ping-pong table and got it ready for our guests. My buddy and I played a single round and then just rallied. As we did, we talked about spiritual things and when it got serious, he would stop to focus on what he wanted to say then serve it back to me. I just kept the ball going and it made for interesting conversation. I did discover he needs work on his back hand and took advantage of it several times. Then I realized that if I returned it to his right side with less power, we can just keep it going and that would be more fun.
In any sport, if you can spot your opponent’s weakness, then you can exploit it. Last night I watched an MMA film, The Warrior, and it’s a must see if you like UFC. It’s a story of two brothers who enter in a-winner-takes-all tournament of $5 million. Without spoiling the movie, one of the brothers is fluent in BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) and looks for opportunities to execute submission moves where his opponent will have to tap out.
We’ll see in Chapter 5 – Love With A Hook, that Jake has a gorilla on his back and getting a good beat down by members of his church. He’s close to tapping out and close to submitting his resignation. Before doing so, he goes on a personal retreat to the lake to blow off some steam.
So guess who he finds hiking? Yep, it’s our Filipino buddy, Tito John. =)
Jake explains to Tito John that things have become like a cage match in the church. They had a youth outreach that resulted in $3,500 in damages and other shenanigans. Someone would have to hang for this! Jake’s pastor has asked him to lie so that the youth director gets the boot.
I love Tito John’s wisdom:
“The problem with church as you know it, Jake, is that it has become nothing more than mutual accommodation of self-need. Everybody needs something out of it. Some need to lead. Some need to be led. Some want to teach, others are happy to be the audience. Rather than become an authentic demonstration of God’s life and love in the world, it ends up being a group of people who have to protect their turf. What you’re seeing is less of God’s life than people’s insecurities that cling to those things they think will best serve their needs.”
“Is that why people can suddenly become so vicious when they are threatened? They act like angry dogs when someone’s trying to take their bone away.”
In the conversation, Tito John senses that the pastor is hiding something deeper from him and the members of the church. Jake has a dilemma to set the record straight but that path leads to the unemployment line.
“But I need this job at least until I can sort out something else.”
“There are worse things that could happen, Jake, than losing a job. And it won’t change God’s responsibility to take care of you.”
“What are you saying? I should just walk away? I can’t imagine I’d survive without this church. It has been my home for more than twenty years and I’d die without it!”
“That’s what they want you to think, but it isn’t so. It also explains why everyone is fighting so viciously. They don’t think they can give it up either, so they have to win. It just isn’t so. This trap has captured many a child of God. When we’re so afraid we can’t make it without the institution then right and wrong go out the window. The only thing that concerns us is our own survival. That kind of reasoning has led to incredible pain over years of church history.”
Like watching a trainer show his student how to put someone in a rear naked choke, Tito John doesn’t hold back when responding to Jake’s concern and comment that we “should” be a member of a local church, lest we receive false teaching and back slide.
“Scripture doesn’t use the language of need when talking about the vital connection God establishes between believers. Our dependency is in Jesus alone! He’s the one we need. He’s the one we follow. He’s the one God wants us to trust and rely on for everything. When we put the body of Christ in that place, we make an idol of it, and you end up wrapped up in knots over the situation you’re in. Religion survives by telling us we need to fall in line or some horrible fate will befall us. That thinking so distorts God’s working.
“We share body life together, not because we have to, but because we get to. Anyone who belongs to God will embrace the life he wants his children to share together. And that life isn’t fighting over control of the institution, but simply helping each other learn to live deeply in him. Whenever we let other factors get in the way of that we only use love to get our hooks into people. We reward them with affection and punish them by withholding it.”
Don’t you love it when you see people have a light bulb moment. Here is Jake’s “AHA” response:
“How could I have not seen this before, John? The whole system has a hook in it. We even use things like ‘doctrinal unity’ to control people by stifling any disagreement. Since most people only tend to feel good about themselves when they are pleasing others, it’s natural that they would want to conform to our teaching and our programs. John, this is horrible…..
…I couldn’t believe how blind I’d been to all the ways we’d manipulated each other. No wonder I’m exhausted all the time! I’m trying to meet other’s expectations at the same time I’m trying to manipulate them to meet mine. I had done to others exactly what the pastor was now doing to me. I was even doing it to Laurie, bringing the stress home to my own marriage. “This underscores almost everything I do, John.”
The chapter wraps up with Tito John’s counsel on Jake’s next moves:
“What am I supposed to do then, John? Just give up my job?”
“I don’t think that is the choice right now, is it? If I were you I’d lean in a little closer to Jesus and ask him to show you what he wants you to do. He’ll make it clear to you if you don’t complicate it with any attempts to protect yourself—not to keep your job, not to be liked by others, not even to save your reputation.”
“He who saves his life loses it, eh?”
“Those words are at the heart of learning to live in the reality of Jesus’ kingdom. And don’t forget the rest of it: ‘He who loses his life for my sake will find it.’ This road is rarely easy, but you will find the joy of living in his life will far outweigh any pain in the process.”
What’s great about this chapter is that this Sunday’s Message at The Simple Church ties into this lesson about our spiritual health.
When you get a chance, you can watch the video stream of part 3 at:
I know it’s Monday and things can get a little crazy…just remember if you’re not dead, you’re not done!
Manic Drive – Good Times
Newsboys – God’s Not Dead (Official Music Video)
Manic Drive – Save A Life
Rebecca St. James – You Make Everything Beautiful
What if – Jadon Lavik (Lyric Video)