Why Church of Monroe?

Ok, so it’s been a while yet again.  Having a baby will do that to you.

So, as some people may or may not be aware, we are once again trying to fire up the engines on Church of Monroe.  In doing so, I am hoping that we, as a family, are faithfully following God’s will for our lives, and I’m hoping to see a movement of God in our community.

Sometimes I feel like it will happen, but most of the time I’m pretty discouraged.  Let me give a quick rundown of what Church of Monroe is all about.  Church of Monroe is about being honest and open, about thirsting for God, about letting God change your life, and about letting your faith be something real and palpable, so palpable in fact that the changes God makes in you become contagious in those around you.  It sounds reasonable enough, I think, and I would think that those goals seem pretty important.

But let’s be real.  One of Church of Monroe’s goals is to promote Biblical literacy and a desire to know God and His Word. After all, the longest book in the Bible (Psalm 119, for anyone taking score at home) is an acrostic (a poem with each stanza starting with a letter of the alphabet) about God’s law (His Word).  You would think that this is pretty important if the longest chapter in scripture is a God-inspired poem on His law and how good it is to know it.  Sadly, we live in a culture where only 7% of Christians agree with all of the main tenets of orthodox Christianity (I would be happy to dig the article up upon request, it was sent to me in a Facebook post from a good friend of mine).  How can 93% of Christians disagree with most of orthodox Christianity if they are consistently digging into the word of God?  Simple.  They aren’t.

I’ll give an example.  This is a paraphrased conversation I had with someone who was a life group leader in a church my family attended…

me:  “So, do you have like a Bible reading plan or something to help you stay on track reading scripture?”

life group leader: “You know, not really.  I guess Bible reading just isn’t my thing.”

At first blush, maybe I’m being picky.  Not everyone is a theologian.  I get that.  But here’s the deal, dude.  Are you going to convince me that you love God when you aren’t interested in the slightest in what He has to say to you?  I mean, I get it.  Leviticus is not super exciting and you probably aren’t going to get a lot of practical application out of it. Unless of course you get the book’s implication that God is a force you don’t want to mess with and He’s so powerful that He can snuff out the universe with a less than conscious effort, and that there are a bunch of things that irritate Him because He’s perfectly holy so try your best not to be stupid and do the irritating things He hates.  I mean, then yeah, even Leviticus is useful.

I’m not trying to smack people with Bibles here, but SERIOUSLY.  How are you going to grow in your walk with God if you don’t care what He’s saying to you?  I mean, if your wife wrote you a letter, would you read it?  Or would you just kind of shove it in a bookcase somewhere and say “yeah, I love her, but reading’s just not my thing”?  Give me a break!  You are going to read the letter.  Now, please realize that God is far more powerful, and loves you far more than your wife or husband ever will. It’s not that they are evil or anything, but please.  Nobody loves like God loves.

Why am I ranting about this?  Because it bothers me that the typical attitude in church nowadays is to shove people into the building, give them some stupid shirt with a trendy logo on it, and send them around greeting people because you aren’t willing to find out their spiritual gifting but you assume that if you force someone into action, they tend to conform to your values.  It bothers me that people are sold on the idea that the Gospel is about being a good person, and people see how different you are from others and are so drawn into God by your sweetness and niceness and wholesomeness.  It bothers me TO NO END that we are creating a church body that is a mile wide and an inch deep, and we are filling arenas and auditoriums with people who may never hear more of the gospel than a token “God loves you so much He died for you” and are left swimming in the moral theology that says God loves us because we are so good and do such good stuff.

Ultimately, I’m ranting about this because I want people to be in AWE of God.  I want to be in awe of the God who formed the universe, who is magnificent beyond compare, who is the source of all goodness.  I want to be ok with the fact that I am a failure, that I am nothing more than sinful man whose existence is but that of a blade of grass before the Lord God Almighty.  I want this to be what Church of Monroe is about.  I want Church of Monroe to be used to create an environment where we no longer spend our Sundays worshipping ourselves in vile displays of narcissism that pass for Sunday worship of the Lord of Hosts that are nothing more than sophisticated light shows to feed the ego of some Worship Pastor.  I want to worship and meet in an environment where it’s ok that we aren’t perfect, but it’s not ok if we don’t love God with all of our heart.

I want an experience with God that makes me so uncomfortable that every fiber of my being resists being changed by the Lord of Heaven as He conforms us all to Christlikeness until it breaks under the weight of His love and mercy.  I want to see the magnitude of God, the greatness of He whom the train of His Glory fills the temple of heaven.  Ultimately, I want to be able to join David in saying

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:1-2 ESV)

THAT is a life lived chasing after God.  That is what it feels like to need God.  That is what it feels like to say goodbye to your own selfish ego, your own selfish games and your own desires, and realize that only God will fill the hole left in your heart.  It’s only living in that place where we are fully aware of our own smallness compared to the immenseness of God that we can let down our masks of pretentiousness and goodness, our own little faces we use to hide our imperfections from others, our acts that we try to sell to others and the most High God that say we are wealthy and well-clothed, when we are poor, blind, and naked.  I SO HOPE that Church of Monroe brings that experience to my life and to others.

This is the third time we have tried to launch this church.  Most of the time, it feels very demoralizing to try and make this happen.  I have had my heart ripped right out of my chest by people I thought were my closest friends.  I have worked with people who absolutely have no share in the vision of Church of Monroe because there’s no prestige in not being able to toot your own horn of goodness, so it isn’t attractive to people who aren’t attracted to rawness and honesty.  But I am hoping, needing even, to find out that there are people in this community, maybe even outside of this community, that are truly desiring an encounter with God that is not just a few songs on Sunday morning, a life application sermon, and a monthly meeting with you life group.  I’m really hoping that it’s still possible to meet people who are ok with not being perfect, who haven’t arrived, who are just wanting to allow God to work in their lives and change them.

I don’t mean to unload here.  I’m just desperate to connect with a group of believers who both want God’s truth and appreciate God’s mercy, and who know that it’s not about them and how perfect they are or whether or not they have arrived, who don’t treat every sin in their life as if “we’ve dealt with that” and it’s all in the past so that they are just prim little proper Christians.  I want to be a part of a body of believers who are ok with being honest about the dirt on their hands while sincerely chasing after the God who is able to clean those hands and bind their wounds, and adopt them as His own.  I want to be around those who are ok with the “already, but not yet” nature of our conforming to Christ.  Do those people exist?  I hope so.  I sure want to be one consistently, and I want to find others who are…

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