Are you contradictable?
It’s time to get back to my string of posts on how a church, and especially a church plant, can become the kind of holistic discipling culture that would make underwhelmed veterans of evangelicalism like Donald Millers stay put and dig deep.
Today, a first swipe at why “going to church on Sunday” is still a really good idea.
This is probably the least sexy reason I’ll give.
Community. Dialogue. Living life together. Going on mission together. These are the necessary antidotes to the truncated version of church that many evangelicals have regrettably experienced. They’re also the things that many people have begun to find outside “traditional church” (whatever exactly that means). A lot of such folks, according to Donald Miller, just don’t go to church much anymore.
But consider this:
Scripture is the breath of God, given so that it might teach us, rebuke us, correct us, and train us to be godly and ready for every good work Jesus calls us to walk in. Agreed?
‘Organic’ is Great, But …
When you’re reading your Bible alone, your mind is the limit of what you’ll see in a chunk of Holy Scripture. Your own heart is the limit of how the sermon you’re preaching to yourself will be allowed to get at you. Your schedule and personal discipline are the limits of how much listening to Jesus you’ll do in one sitting, and how frequently you’ll sit and listen.
When you’re dialoguing about the Bible with friends, your friends’ minds become the limit to a potentially enlarged understanding. Your friends’ willingness to say hard things to you, often with others sitting right there beside you, now becomes the limit to how closely the Bible will press in on you. Your friends’ schedules are another limit to the quantity and quality of these Bible reckonings.
There are a lot of factors that make these group and individual encounters with God’s word potentially powerful. And there are even more ways to make a sermon in a church on a Sunday almost useless to discipleship.
What makes your eardrums beat?
But the advantage to sitting still for 30 minutes every Sunday and hearing someone give a monological discourse from God’s word is this:
You cannot control what is said. You cannot direct the conversation where you want it to go. You cannot pick the passage. You cannot determine the trajectory or scope of its application.
You also aren’t dependent on the guts of a person in a group setting to say something difficult to your face. You don’t have to wait around for your friends to get there, move past the chit-chat, hope the vibe is right, and then, hopefully, hear something insightful, life-giving, and perhaps even challenging. You don’t have to send 291 emails to reschedule when life gets busy for this organic group of Bible-appliers.
At both 10:25am and 7:25pm every Sunday in our church a fresh, never-before-heard, well-struggled-over, well-prayed-over, very much fallible and sometimes even outright boring, but always earnest, gospelicious, challenging, provocative bit of teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness aimed at equipping the body for every manner of good work can be heard.
You can doze off, play on Facebook on your iPhone, harden your heart, or even make better discoveries from the passage than the preacher makes. But what sets your eardrums beating will not be your choice. You will be contradicted. You’ll be called to change your mind and to change your life. You’ll be called to quit proving yourself right and instead rest in the righteousness of Jesus given to you.
Relationship Requires Contradiction
As Tim Keller has suggested, admitting that the Bible doesn’t contradict itself so much as it contradicts you is the crucial step toward being in an actual relationship with the God whose breath the Bible is. From there, the question becomes: how can I ensure that I’m regularly opening myself up to being contradicted by the God who speaks in the Bible?
One of the most basic answers to this is, yes, to sit under its preaching.
Even if you have an exquisite preacher, you can still spend your life ignoring everything he says. But it’ll get said. Over and over. And much of it—especially the bits that contradict you—won’t get said by your private homilies to yourself or by your friends around the table, no matter how much they care for you.
Subscribe to get these posts via email.