It’s Good Friday, and I confess I’m weary.
To be clear, I’m not weary of Central Baptist. The church I pastor is actually a source of great joy for me.
I’m weary of wider American Christianity.
Perhaps its the confluence of peak allergy season with my busiest time of year, but the more I see the promotion of Holy Week the more depressed I get. As I scrolled through Facebook this morning I hit ad after ad after ad about services being held at various churches. I encountered “how to” courses in creating greater engagement for churches on social media. I ran across post after post of “[insert number] of things your church should do/avoid/stop if you want to be successful.”
Now, at the risk of appearing boastful, I have both the creative and technical abilities to turn Central into minor force for advertising 1. And in the past, I have made a big advertising deal about Holy Week, Christmas, or a sermon series. To be honest, I probably will again at some point. But this year I just don’t have the energy.
We’ve turned faith, and church, into little more than products. Neatly packaged and carrying promises for what it can do for people. Holy Week becomes a spectacle, sermon series are hawked like reality shows, and community development shifts to metadata over actual friendships. What makes me all the more weary is seeing how churches which do package faith like product tend to be large and growing. But I can’t make myself go in that direction because I’m pretty sure the whole thing is a lie.
Faith is not a product which can be pulled off the shelf. And The Church is not a spiritual super-market which arranges individual packages for purchase. Faith isn’t neatly packaged, it has no blurbs on it promising an immediate return of good things. Faith is like the cracked steps I showed yesterday. It looks to be in disrepair, is messy, and the path upon which it treads is prone to be hidden from the casual eye. It takes effort to hike the trail of faith, and with that journey comes sweat and anguish and tears. This is from whence joy, discovered through the mystery of faith, comes. There isn’t any form of kitsch Christian product which can serve as a shortcut for the trek of faith. And so, I’m retiring from the game of product placement.
And with that I will offer an invitation, and hope I’m not just doing an alternate form of advertising 2.
This is a terrific week to experience what the Christian faith is supposed to be about — humility over pride, forgiveness over judgement, and service over being served. So why not find a small church near your neighborhood and see what the big deal is 3?
But don’t go looking for a product, and leave your preconceptions of Christianity at the door.
Instead, go looking for the mess of faith.
Go looking for a bunch of imperfect people who are striving after hope. Go in search of a place where you can be relieved of the burden of having everything be about your immediate benefit or gratification. Go with openness to hearing the one who calls his followers to be instruments of peace.