Out beyond the ‘cool’ cathedral

th-13I understand why Marti is always asking that I stop avoiding conflict. How can I sing a new song of deliverance to those who have no hope if, at the same time, I insist on being comfortable among those who do?

She reminded me of my early Christian ministry when I was honored to be part of a movement where we sang songs of salvation. We were personally involved in ministries of mercy and issues of compassion and significance. We were taking on the voice of the prophets, penetrating into those aspects of our culture where the truth of God had a sure and true word for us. We articulated the vision of a radical kind of Christian discipleship. Our voices shined the light of God on the darkness of racism and war with a Christian conscience that awoke to the realities of poverty and corruption.

Many miracles occurred during that season. Yet sadly, few churches were ready for this new influx of voices, and so the movement happened without many participating or offering invitations of welcome. There was more freedom and a far more receptive audience outside the boundaries drawn by many churches.

Why were so many churches not ready? In my opinion, many of the churches were too cold to those both inside and out of its pews. One of my songs during this time, “The Cold Cathedral,” cried for spiritual reality in the midst of religious deadness, sameness, and a comfort-seeking isolation from the real needs of its people — inside and out.

While no longer cold, I fear many of our churches today are in similar places of complacency. Instead of cold cathedrals, we might refer to them as “cool” cathedrals. They want so much to be “cool” that relevancy could be considered our new god. Once again, we seem to reflect the concerns of the status quo, and the easy acceptance of a world where how we feel is the great crisis of our time. We’ve produce a massive industry of ready-to-wear discipleship to go with our warm, fuzzy, evangelical entertainment experience. We dress the way we want to dress, sing songs we want to sing, and hear messages we want to hear. Everything is catered to us insiders. It’s all about us and a short list of approved social issues and not the prophetic agenda of justice and compassion. We want more of Jesus as long as we can avoid both what is uncomfortable outside our walls and those who are hostile to religion.

It is time to stop avoiding conflict — stop dodging Jesus — for our more comfortable Christianity. Jesus is more “out” when it comes to our churches today than He is “in.” He was often all about conflict, and it certainly followed Him wherever He went.

It’s time to stop and listen to another new song Jesus is singing, and wants us to sing. It’s a new song of deliverance and hope as we apply the Gospel in a way that embodies suffering with the prophetic truth and challenges evil with sacrificial love. It’s a new song of reconciliation that causes those with no hope to hear, to run to Him and not away from Him, because acts of love are occurring and not just words.

“God so loved the world that He gave .…” It’s time for us to go and do the same.

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6 Responses to Out beyond the ‘cool’ cathedral

  1. Andrew P. says:

    “[Many churches] want so much to be ‘cool’ that relevancy could be considered our new god.” Amen to that, John.

    Case in point (and one almost guaranteed to produce some of that conflict you spoke about): I’ve recently read (forgot where) that a near-worshipful level of respect for the military is as close as we have, these days, to a national religion. And many churches certainly promote that. How many churches present us with, for example, well-thought-out arguments drawn from just war theory, challenging the people to think carefully about military action, and avoid the jingoistic assumption that if “we” do it, it must be right, if “we” feel threatened, then that settles the issue? (Notice: I have no intention of spooling out a detailed analysis, here. Do not read anything into the foregoing that wasn’t explicitly said. There’s a time for military action — but just because Washington says it’s time, doesn’t make it so.) But where are the churches, when it comes time to challenge the military decisions being made (under both parties) by our leaders? Where is the prophetic voice? (And military action is merely one example.)

  2. Mark Seguin says:

    When you ‘say’ something like this Pastor John: “Marti is always asking that I stop avoiding conflict.” I’ll suggest to you to consider reading Robert A. Rohm, Ph.D book’s on Personality style, or the DISC method -I’m quite sure you’ll both get a lot out of it.

  3. Sandie says:

    Your words have stirred an echo in my heart from the early 70’s when I was a new believer. One of the first Christian groups I heard was Love Song. “Sing unto the heavens with a brand new song – the one that we’ve been hearing’s been a hit too long,” seems appropriate here.” The same cry was heard in Rose-Colored Stained Glass Windows (Petra), and Mansion Of Opinion (Scott Roley).
    I’m not long in a church before I am uncomfortable – and they are with me. Ministry in the biker community, with teens, and in music have made it easier and easier for me to ask the hard questions and challenge myself and those around me. I found it’s easier to get out of the boat on my own power…rather than wait for the Lord to sink it or run it aground!
    Keep challenging yourselves and us, John and Marti! Jesus is in the questions, not the pat answers!

    • jwfisch says:

      Right on, Sandie! Both you and Andrew have made it clear we need to be thinking and challenging the status quo at all times. Way to go!

  4. Another “cool Cathedral” enters the blast furnace. What will emerge through the other end?
    “The lead pastor could not leave his “angry young” past behind…”

    http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlepolitics/2014/10/31/mars-hill-will-dissolve-into-individual-self-governed-churches/

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