Today, while listening to an excellent rendition of “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” at my stereotypical, evangelical, and Baptist megachurch, I was struck by how non-stereotypical church really is.

To think that, week in and week out, seemingly distinct individuals from different parts of the city, comprised of different races, socio-economic levels, educational levels, and family structures (widowed, single, etc), meet voluntarily to announce the Lordship of Jesus Christ is astonishing. In fact, it’s nothing short of absurd.

We come to church to experience and proclaim a better reality, an interpretation of life that is not only unique and helpful, but profoundly true. Individuals enter the sanctuary burdened by the past week’s events—economic hardships, relationship struggles, employment uncertainties—and leave assured that the trivial, yet life-altering circumstances encountered in the past do not hold final sway on a person’s destiny.

And we do it…every week of every year for our entire lives.

We shake hands with perfect strangers with an enthusiastic “Hello.” While most of us spend our errands trying to avoid conversation with unfamiliar people, the Christian Church somehow thinks it better to be friendly and deliberate, and so, we dedicate a few minutes during the service to actually practicing hospitality. The audacity!

We sing songs, routinely, to proclaim our allegiance and adoration to Christ. What segment of society gathers together to sing? It’s rather absurd if you think about. Most of us avoid having our voices heard for fear of embarrassment. I, perhaps to the detriment of those around me, sing like a fool. And in church, that’s not only acceptable but encouraged.

The larger culture attends concerts and musicals in an ingratiating manner. The Christian Church, we somehow believe our songs not only affect us, but can move mountains because of who they’re sung to.

We listen to a pastor preach. He (yes, He) informs, rebukes, instructs, and encourages. We dedicate 30-45 minutes of our week to listen a man expound the truths of a book millennia old, believing that it is still true. We grant him permission to speak into lives and to peel back the silliness from which we normally live. Where authority is spurned with pugnacious audacity at large, Christians invite authority into their lives.

We live by a book, as unspectacular as that sounds. There’s no frills or productions, just a book.

We worship a God-man, however metaphysically unlikely this sounds. We REALLY believe that God became man, died the death of an insurrectionist in the most shameful manner accessible during that time, and then physically rose from the dead. Yes, a stagnant, dead, and cold heart began to beat again.

And to make matters more absurd, we believe enthusiastically that the experiences of this man becomes our experience.

My church is perfectly lovable, because mostly, I’m imperfect and unlovable—an ungrateful cuss who still thinks my way is correct despite abundant proof to the contrary.

That’s me and that’s you if you’re apart of the Christian Church. We’ve pledged our lives to an institution that promises nothing materially gainful in the end. We’ve identified with with an institution that has no authority to speak for itself aside from the authority mediated by Christ. We are like meddlesome sheep needing instruction—often quick to speak and slow to listen. But we forgive each other.

We live with a sense of reckless abandonment, but we’re neither truly reckless and we’re the furthest thing from ever being abandoned. Instead, it’s the idea that we live by grace, and if grace has ever been stereotyped, that means it has been falsely tamed.

You and I? We’re stereotypical. Conservative. Middle Class. Bachelor’s Degree.

The Christian Church? Grace. Forgiveness. Humility. Love. Those are hardly stereotypical.

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Posted by Andrew Walker

Andrew T. Walker is an Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

5 Comments

  1. Ironic, this post. Just this morning, was thinking I’d like to pose Matt a Q: How about telling us what church you, fellow bloggers, go to?

    I’ll be fascinated to see how or if folks respond.

    Andrew Walker, your deconstruction is perceptive. Given the message (“Pick up your device of torture and death and follow Me”), why do we do it? Why would anyone?

    And what’s with the idea about it being ‘true’ anyway? It’s not like the Church is the “…pillar and foundation of truth”….or….is She?

    OK, I’ll bite: My (local) church is a Catholic Church in SoCal. Head office: Rome. Authority: Bible, Pope and Magisterium, & the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    Ya’ll’s?

    Reply

  2. Greg,

    We all go to various churches, and have various denominational backgrounds. Our goal is to try to keep that in the background to what we’re doing here, though, which is agitate for a robust orthodox Christian faith in the public square that takes the witness of Scripture as expressed in the Nicene/apostolic creeds as authoritative.

    Hence, *mere* orthodoxy.

    What that means is that we avoid the “which tradition” question as much as possible, as it is beside the point for us. As a rule, I will not have it here at Mere-O. We arrive at the authority of that orthodoxy differently, but once there we find we have some pretty good common ground to be co-belligerents from.

    That isn’t a direct answer to your question as much as a statement about how I approach these things, and why I have asked everyone who writes here to do likewise.

    Thanks for reading. I hope that clarifies what we’re about.

    Best,

    matt

    Reply

  3. An exceptional blog on the oddity that is church, worth the read https://mereorthodoxy.com/?p=4040

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

    Reply

  4. Andrew, thank you so much for this. In a time an dplace where its very easy to see and complain about what is wqrong wth Evangelicalism its nice to get a dose pf persepctive.

    Reply

  5. […] out there. And church is a strange place. Where else do people of various ages come together weekly to sing? But really, I don't know if peculiar is the best translation. I suspect that the word has […]

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