By Donavon Riley –
Imagine a church’s mission statement is: “You Don’t Have to Fake It ‘Till You Make It.” That is, you walk into church, and an usher hands you a bulletin. On the front, it reads: “We don’t expect you to believe everything we confess, pray, preach, and sing about this morning. You’re invited to join us for worship anyway. Listen to the sermon, pray, and sing with us. You’re a gift to us, and we trust the Holy Spirit will change your heart in his own time. Please come again and ask any questions that you may have.”
What would happen if a church didn’t keep this a secret? What if it advertised itself in this way: “We don’t have all the answers, and we don’t have perfect faith either. Please join us this Sunday as we confess our limitations and failures to live up to the name ‘Christian’ and ask God to turn our hearts to Him and reveal His will to us through Jesus our Savior.”
What if a church actually had the audacity to publish in the local paper: “Miracles do happen here every Sunday”? The half-page spread reads: “We have water that creates new men in Christ. We serve bread and wine, which really are Jesus’ true body and blood… somehow. It’s a mystery, but we believe it is because God says it is. We’ve got a preacher who speaks words that actually do what they say! “As a called and ordained servant of Christ and by his authority, I declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins” Imagine a church that advertised itself like that.
What would that congregation look like? What kind of questions would come up in Bible Study? What if the Sunday School teacher taught children about “Failures of The Faith” instead of “Heroes of the Faith?” Imagine the pastor’s whole sermon wasn’t about doing better, growing in faith, or putting a happy face on our religion. He just speaks to us, speaking into us Christ’s work “for you.” Jesus’ gifts delivered to us. The weight of measuring up, justifying yourself, becoming respectable all taken off us as so many sins and carried by Him. What if we’re told that this didn’t happen just today but every day into eternity?
What if a church admitted publicly that we can’t work hard enough to become better Christians; that respect and reverence is fine as far as that goes, but it doesn’t get us one step closer to God Almighty; that we will love as we’re loved by God, but that this happens in God’s time not according to our time table?
Imagine there was a church where we could freely and openly admit we don’t really believe everything that’s confessed, prayed, preached, and sung about Sunday morning. What would it be like to belong to a church that didn’t expect perfect, or even good, Christians? What if there was a congregation whose only criteria for membership required everyone to be a terrible mess of a sinner who needs a gracious, loving, and gift-giving Savior?
Imagine if we didn’t need to fake it anymore because we’d heard the Good News that it’s not about us, and our doing. Rather, it’s about Jesus “for you.” Just imagine… if a church like that existed. AMEN.