Being a visitor in church can be exciting and dreadful. For someone like me who likes to blend in, this Sunday challenged me to be bold. As part of a seminary class requirement, this past Sunday my family and I visited Mount Zion Baptist church after having been graciously invited by Pastor Tremaine Combs. Our initial connection to this congregation was through an LC alumna. She was married in the church and has become an active member.
There are many wonderful things I could go into here, but I am saving that for my paper and for my own memories. The question I am wrestling with is: what if the Church centered Christ?
The buzz word in church circles right now is innovate. We are told to look for new ways to do incredible new things, recognizing that the world is changing rapidly and we are being swept into a mighty current of cultural, political, and societal shifts.
New ideas can be very valuable; it shakes things up. It asks us to reflect on our habits and practices and gives space to invite people who might not otherwise have been included. However, we are tempted also to believe that new programming such as reading the right book or adding another committee will help us grow into such incredible people that we will suddenly learn how to tell the world about Jesus in just the right way. And, sometimes that can work. I don’t want to diminish the Holy Spirit’s work in people. But, in my experience with young adults, people — including me — are looking for real places to connect, to grow, and to be challenged. They aren’t looking for shallow spots to land.
To quote Pr Combs in his sermon, “We want the benefits that go with following Jesus, but we don’t want to be transformed.” Oof. True. It is still rattling through my mind a day later. Does the church want to be transformed? Would we recognize what that would look like in our lives? Among the people?
I wonder what the Church could be for the world if it centered Christ instead of our desires, our goals, and our best ideas? It’s only in Jesus Christ that the church, that we, will be transformed. But, that won’t be easy and it likely will not look cute or polite. Jesus’ way is an unpredictable path toward love. Love is nurtured in time, grief, effort, joy, peace, and inconvenience. Love isn’t a straight, clear path devoid of obstacles.
Christians are called to love and serve our neighbor as God has loved and served us. When we reflect on what God has done for us, what might we describe? What would we share with someone else in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ? Are we willing to share that news? Or, are we looking only for a safe space to land?
Pr Combs challenged us to realize that we need both a safe space to land and a willingness to be transformed by Christ. And, in that transformation, to give glory to God and share the news. It is not a complacent, sit-back type of faith. It is a faith of action and relationship.
So, back to my original question: what would happen if the church centered on Christ? How can we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s invitation to be transformed into something new and beautiful? A call to do justice is definitely part of the Christian life, but not without being transformed by Christ.