We’ve spent a fair bit of time here the last few weeks at youth, in church on Sunday, and in the office throughout the week coming back to this idea of “tensions”.
The concept is simple: Far too often we use the word “balance” to try and wrestle with faith questions, when in reality “balance” in this sense becomes “compromise”, and looking for the lowest common denominator. ”Balance” puts the focus on us–we become the subject. ”How do I make this work for me?”
“Tension” seems a more appropriate word. We talked about it a few weeks ago in reference to the idea of God’s sovereignty, and our right to choice. Somehow we have to hold the two in tension–because to simply try and balance them diminishes them both. The same goes for the idea of “losing your life to gain it”, and that we saved by works and by faith. Not always an easy thing to do!
And so when a wonderful friend asked the question this week–”should we pick a church for comfort and relationship, or challenge and vision” I was intrigued by the responses. Many tried to find the balance. To uphold both.
But I don’t think there is any tension here…. because it shouldn’t ever be about us in the first place. For the record here was my response:
One of underlying questions is what are we talking about when we talk about church, no? Relationships matter, but the point of coming together as a community of believers is to worship in community – so it really should have nothing to do with us, to a certain extent. (and for that matter, if vision is centered on scripture it SHOULDNT change. Practical avenues of ministry to accomplish unique aspects of ones context might, but the big pictures shouldn’t). Relationship is an important dynamic in a community of faith – but I also question how quickly it can develop, and how deep it can be in the 15 minutes of human interaction we share with most of the people in our churches on a sunday morning. No one goes to the movies once a week and then gets annoyed when they don’t make any significant relationships in the lobby on their way in and out, and yet we often have that expectation on a Sunday morning. Most significant relationships we DO have with people from church come out of different circumstances than “foyer flirting”: shared life experience, working side by side on a project, serving together. Something beyond sharing a pew connects people, and relationship develops and deepens. But even then, that is not WHY we go Sunday morning… its why we live in community with each other throughout the rest of the week.
As a western church culture, we are incredibly concerned about the relational side of “church”. But i’d be willing to go even farther and suggest that relationship is actually a by-product of obedience. It happens because we choose to follow and be obedient. Scripture is pretty clear: Our lives are no longer our own (Gal 2.20), and so our chief pursuit must be Christ. At times this will be lonely, and at times full of joy, but-at the risk of sounding callous-that’s irrelevant. All that matters is God. C.S. Lewis has a great quote:
”He who has God + (fill the blank with whatever you would like) has nothing more than he who has God and God alone”.
I love my friends honesty in asking the question, and wrestling with the idea. I wish we were all willing to evaluate our motivations like that. But I do hope and pray that as a people we pursue God first, and allow the “comforts” to develop as by-products of obedience. Not the main event itself.