Earlier this year the television provider DirecTV had a series of commercials where a family explained their lack of TV channels by saying that they were settlers. They had settled for cable. Here is an example:
While this was meant to be a comical exaggeration, I was struck by the concept of settling. In blog posts such as “Skydiving” I have written about the dangers of settling for a lesser Christian experience. These dangers are preached about by most pastors, often to the thunderous applause of the congregants, but we have to ask ourselves if this is only lip service.
I have witnessed a strange phenomenon in Christianity. We say one thing in Church, but live something else entirely. As a result of what I have witnessed, I took a (tongue-in-cheek) stab at translating the Bible to the way American Christians actually live. I called it the Americanized Christian Version (ACV).
Here are a few Bible verses comparing the New Living Translation (NLT) to the (ACV):
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
Matthew 6:33 NLT
“Seek to provide for yourself first, even if it means taking 8-10 hours of your day, doing things you hate and having no time, or energy for the kingdom of God. This way you will have everything that you need. If you feel bad about missing the kingdom stuff, just tell yourself that taking care of yourself IS kingdom stuff.”
Matthew 6:33 ACV
“Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?”
Matthew 6:26 NLT
“Look at the birds, God takes care of them because they are small and stupid. You are big and smart and he expects you to take care of yourself. You shouldn’t expect him to help you, unless you have done everything in your power to help yourself! He helps those who first help themselves”
Matthew 6:26 ACV
Do you see what I mean? There appears to be a disconnect between what we claim to believe and how we live. We claim to believe that God is all powerful and we can trust him explicitly with every aspect of our life, yet we live like he is our dreamer friend that has great ideas but is too broke and powerless to accomplish them. As a result, we become settlers. We settle for a lack of power, we settle for a lack of results and we settle for a lack of impact.
Don’t believe me? Here is an exercise for you. Imagine that the church you attend was suddenly gone from the community. Would it be missed? What gap would be left? If you are looking for something more quantifiable, do this exercise. What percentage of the community attends your church? Example: If there are 1,000 people in your church and 10,000 in your community, you are reaching 10% of the available population. Would your employer be satisfied with you accomplishing 10% of your daily work load? I doubt it, yet we appear to be content with reaching a fraction of a percentage of the communities we say that we are called to.
As a former on staff pastor, I know this type of thinking can result in a cry for more people who are willing to take the message of Christ seriously and get engaged. The problem with that is we have set the average church attendee up for failure. We welcome them into our comfortable building and ensure that guest services greets them. Then we invite them to sit in one of the many spectator seats for a Christian concert, that is followed by a Christian lecture. That is not how disciples are made. We should not be surprised when more people attend the church potluck than attend prayer service or a community work day. We have what we have trained.
I have a huge amount of respect for Francis Chan. He was pastor of a mega church and started wrestling with the concepts I have detailed above. He realized that he had a lot of people, but few disciples. As a result, he turned in his resignation and began to pursue discipleship. That takes guts! Those are the actions of a person who is no longer willing to settle. Those are the actions of a giant that has allowed the facts to wake them up. Those type of people will turn the known world upside down. Are you a sleeping giant?