One of the questions that continually haunts me is why are so many churches are nothing like the Church in Acts? Why are so many church members lackadaisical about attending church services and fellowshiping with other believers?
I have many thoughts as to why this is case, but one stood out to me recently came after reading Ted Dekker’s latest novel Saint.
You can find my review of Saint here. Without giving too much away, in the novel characters wrestle with accepting the abilities they have knowing that it will cause them to be ostracized from society. They have to come to grips with the fact that they will be “freaks” and a state of “normal” is not something they can ever see – similar to the struggle often played out with in X-men and mutants of that world.
Because they will always be outcasts from society, the outsiders must join forces. Not only to accomplish what needs to be done, but because being together is the only way they can find solace. Saint will never fit in with everybody else. Regardless of how hard he tries, it is impossible for him to simply be normal.
He is given the choice to try to hide who he is in order to be accepted or acknowledge who he is and use his abilities for the greater good. This is a perfect picture of the Church today, individual Christians and the decision we must make.
One of the reasons I think so many people who call themselves Christians have no desire to gather with other Christians for church services, is they have become so much like the world. They don’t need to come together with others like them on Sunday – they do that during the week.
In the first century and in some places today, Christians are looked down on, maybe even physically persecuted for their belief in Jesus. Gathering together as fellow followers reminds them that they are not alone. They have a group of people with which they can feel at home and welcome. Everyone knows they are a “freak” and is glad to be one.
But for many Christians today, we feel more at home in the world, in the company of those who are not followers. It’s not a matter of being an isolationists or shunning those who do not believe. It’s simply associating with whom we have the most in common. It’s assemblying as a group, knowing we possess amazing potential and ability to impact the world, but acknowledging that this will also cause us to no longer fit in. We accept that we will be “in the world,” but we know we can never “be of the world.”
Saint found out it is impossible to live a lie. I hope many nominal Christians learn that lesson as well. Many of us need to decide who we are lying to – the world or the church?
If we are lying to the world, we need to accept the fact that this is not our home. We were not created to feel at ease here. As C.S. Lewis said, we can’t mistake some nice hotels here for our real home. Being a follower of Christ means that we do not fit in here. We are essentially a collection of misfits and freaks joined together by the One we follow.
He has chosen us and given us gifts to use as a collection of believers to fight spiritual battles, to defeat Satan’s work on this earth and above all else to bring Him glory. However, if we spend most of our time working to fit in and running from who we truly are, we will never accomplish all that God created us for.
We should seek to come together because we spend so much of our time in a place we don’t belong. We should cherish our moments together as believers because we go back out “as sheep among wolves,” seeking to be “as innocent as doves and as cunning as snakes.”
The path He has called us to is difficult. We will not make it on our own and we will not accomplish His goals if we seek worldly status or popularity.
The Church will not be the Church until we acknowledge, accept and embrace the fact that we are freaks. We don’t fit in. We are countercultural. We need each other. Saint finally grasped that concept, I hope and pray the Church does.