Do You Think?
The answer begins with examining the way we presently view the Church, and I don’t mean just philosophically or on the basis of whether or not we are able to use biblical terms when we answer. We may know that the Church is the body and bride of Christ. We may even venture as far as to say that the Church is the light of the world, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. Some of us may even say with confidence that the Church is so powerful that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
You should say those things … but you should also be living examples of them.
What we “know” about the Church is only helpful if our knowing turns into our doing. People say what they think, but they do what they believe. The problem most of us run into today is we are around or are a part of a church full of thinkers instead of believers.
People may say what they think, but they do what they believe.
Your six-year-old child may know that Lucky Charms and chocolate milk are not staples of a healthy diet, but if you leave her alone in the kitchen, this is exactly what she will eat all day every day. If you have a teenager, they may know Whataburger and Dr Pepper aren’t the best for them, but follow them around when they have a little extra cash and see what they are eating. You want to get personal? This author knows better than to live on Peanut M&M’s, pizza, and Blue Bell ice cream, but don’t ask for my food receipts.
What you do is more important than what you know—whether you know it or not.
One piece of evidence displaying what most people really think (not believe) about the Church is found in two commonly used words: “regular attender.” It is not a good thing that we have accepted—and perhaps also tragically made it acceptable—to think that there is such a biblical thing as a “regular attender” in the Church.
Hear me out here. Or better yet, hear Jesus out here. In the words of these pages and every time I speak, all I desire to be is a servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God. I don’t want to come to you with superiority of speech or of wisdom; I only want to proclaim to you the testimony of God, so that your faith will not rest in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God.
This means that I love you enough to tell you what God says. What if I suggested that “regular attenders”—if they are defined as “believers” who attend church services and events without being attentive to the call of Christ on their lives every other hour of their week—should more accurately be called “irregular believers”?
Pause for a moment here. You may be reading this as someone who doesn’t know what the Church should look like—so maybe you don’t really care what I call these people. Why does it matter? It matters because it affects the beauty and integrity of the bride of Christ whom God wants you to come and see. Trust me—it matters more than you think.
Or maybe my suggestion that you are an “irregular believer” stings a bit? Maybe you fall into this culturally acceptable category and you have no idea what would be different if you were a “regular believer.” You might be asking yourself: Now what am I supposed to do? Is this Wagner guy trying to get me to do a lot more stuff? I’m barely holding it together as it is, and now he’s telling me that it’s not enough?
My goal is neither to make you feel condemned nor to obligate you to a lifestyle of increased busyness and activity. But I would ask this: If you are barely holding it together now as a “regular attender,” do you really think you are experiencing what Jesus has in mind when He calls the Church His beautiful bride, from which He withholds no good thing, who will experience the abundant life, so that she may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called her out of darkness into His marvelous light, and so that the Church can communicate His boundless grace and liberating truth to the entire world, including your family and friends? In other words, church attender or not, does the life you are currently living accurately reflect what God says will bring glory to Him and abundant joy to you?
If you’re not sure how to respond to these questions, then keep reading. I intend to bring you to a place where you can. I hope you are encouraged to know God wants to take you away from a place of personal condemnation, overwhelming tasks, and constant wondering about what you’re missing so He can lead you instead into a life full of purpose, unashamed honesty, transformed community, and personal fulfillment as you live out the life He has already prepared for you.
Trust me when I tell you that being a “regular attender” is not where you will find everything you’ve ever wanted. A distant dating relationship does not bring the same depth of joy, fullness of intimacy, or fulfillment of heart as oneness with a lover brings. It is time to stop dating the idea of following Christ and commit to it.
And be sure of this: God wants you to be more than a regular attender at an average weekly gathering of mostly bored adults.
With regular attenders making up a greater percentage of the Church than passionately engaged followers, it is no wonder church is the one place most people would never look to find the life they’ve always wanted. Regular attenders don’t typically gather with gladness and sincerity of heart. They don’t have favor with all the people. They don’t devote themselves to sound teaching or to pursuing relationships with people from house to house. They don’t contribute to or experience the overwhelming goodness of life found in the many adjectives we explored earlier. In general, they miss out on the sense of awe God intends to exist in them and be made evident through them.
The only explanation for you or me not radically running toward God’s best intention for us is that we have not yet come to understand Him personally and fully—the God in whose presence there is fullness of joy and at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore. When you taste and see His real goodness, you don’t worry that you have to attend to His business, because you tend to want more and more of Him. You will want to drink deeply, my friend, because for the first time in your life, you won’t see yourself as the most interesting man or woman in the world … you will finally know Who really is.
Ask yourself this question: “If ‘fullness of joy’ is what God calls me to, why would I want anything else?” Answer? Because we don’t really believe that this is what God really wants for us. We believe again that age-old lie: God is not really good.
But what if He is actually as good as we “know” He is? If so, then we can really “believe” Him, trusting that the life He calls us to experience will not burden us, but rather bless us beyond measure.
The divine call to come and see invites us to engage wholeheartedly in everything God intends—for when we live as God intends us to live, we will be as alive as God intends us to be. Soon, we will see that Christ is still doing today exactly what He was doing when He physically walked on the earth: creating stories that gather crowds and keep disciples up late at night reveling in the hope and awe that life with a good and loving God provides.
Those young men who were wanting to “start” a church were already living in the midst of great stories. They really didn’t need to “start” anything together; they needed to make sure they didn’t “stop” being on mission together. They were already being the Church.
What we all really need has already been started … and we are being invited to come and see what it really means for us.
© 2017 Todd Wagner. Come and See: Everything You Ever Wanted in the One Place You Would Never Look is published by David C Cook. All rights reserved.
Todd Wagner is the lead pastor and en elder at Watermark Community Church in Dallas. He blogs at WordsFromWags.com.