I Like My Sundays Free

by | Jul 27, 2015 | 1 comment

I started working in a church—Denver’s largest United Methodist Church, no less—as an intern my second year of seminary. I was in charge of the young adult group….that had yet to be formed. There was nowhere to go but up!
I ended up staying on staff there at St. Andrew’s for six years, and being there on Sunday mornings (whether or not I had a part in the day’s service) was just part of the gig. But once I left to work on AfterHours full time, and didn’t “have” to go anymore, I didn’t.  What is even more disturbing to me is the fact that I don’t feel any worse for not going. As a matter of fact, I like having my Sundays free.
If recent polls are a reliable indicator, a lot of people feel that way. Maybe you do too. I know a ton of awesome people who don’t go to church, and there could be a hundred reasons why. We church people have to own that at least for some of them the reason is that church kinda sucks. Most pastors and churches have to try to do a lot with very little. It isn’t their fault. Maybe they need to do…less?
What’s It All About?
Most people I know who don’t go to church aren’t looking for a lot. They want community, they want to do good, maybe help make the world a better place. That’s kind of it. But it’s hard to find a community that you like and that pushes you to live more like Christ.  A church that pushes you when you get lazy following God and that will also give you hope and hold you up when you’re about to fall. It is not easy and honestly, it’s easy to give up. And that’s just the people that are actively searching. Never mind those that have said to hell with it. Good luck with them.
For a long time I felt guilty about that. I realize it is not a reflection of my relationship with God. It is just as my friend Dave puts it, most of the time, I just don’t like the delivery system. I realized that if I could create a perfect “relationship builder” for me and God, it would include serving the needy in some way, being lifted up when I feel like I’m falling down, and being cheered on when I occasionally win. It would also include the encouragement to be grateful and give thanks for all I have. But I can’t speak for everyone. I took an informal poll on Facebook asking what people want to hear pastors talk about. About 20 people answered, and only ONE mentioned the Bible. ONE. And yet, that’s where we focus.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m cool with the Bible. I think it gives us a great blueprint for how to live like Jesus. I think the sad thing is that most people never move beyond looking at the blueprint to actually building the house (or in this case, kingdom). It’s easy to learn about Jesus, it’s hard as hell to actually start LIVING like Jesus.
I saw a poll recently saying that the most important issue to people in my denomination is that the church be focused on creating disciples of Christ (39 percent of respondents ranked it as first or second in importance.) One would think this is great news, until you read further into the report and see that the issues ranked near the bottom are things like poverty and children at risk (both 17 percent), and social justice (16 percent).
What the hell? We think it’s important to create disciples of Jesus Christ…we just don’t think that the things that Jesus thought were important are important? That’s like saying you want to learn to swim, but don’t want to get wet. You want to get a college degree but don’t want to go to school. You want to lose weight, but you don’t want to diet or exercise.
Taking care of the poor and those on the margins is a biblical imperative. It is in the Bible hundreds of times, yet we continue to ignore it. It sounds to me like we want the church to magically make us into disciples, without having to do the work to get there. Either that, or we fundamentally misunderstand what it means to be a disciple. Theologian Soren Kierkegaard had a third theory, beyond magic and misunderstanding: “The Bible is very easy to understand,” he said. “But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand it, we are obliged to act accordingly.”
That’s my take. I could be wrong.
This blog post was excerpted from LAST CALL: From Serving Drinks to Serving Jesusjerry herships - headshot. Author Jerry Herships writes, “It’s the story of what to do when you thought for sure you knew what the hell you wanted to do with your life…bet everything on it….and find out you were wrong. At thirty.” My friend Jerry is the salty-tongued pastor of AfterHours, a tight knit faith community of misfits and rogue disciples who have community and serve the community. “Those two things are our sweet spot. I think what we do pleases God and I think we are doing our best to walk like J.C.” writes Jerry, between sips of bourbon.

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1 Comment

  1. Barbara Maxwell

    Jesus taught, and read from Scripture, in the synagogues. He taught in the Temple. Of course He also taught, and healed, in addition (but not instead), in houses, on the hillside, from the boat, on the mountain, in the village, through the city streets… in the upper room, in the Garden, at the Praetorium, on the Way, on the Cross, on the road, by the Sea. ‘Feed My lambs. Tend My sheep. Feed My sheep.’ He is, also if you will, in Church. ‘The poor you have always with you. But you will not always have Me.’


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