I want to talk about one more layer of noise that keeps us from a life of purposeful simplicity, and it’s church noise.
Christians have come to live lives that look very similar to that of everyone else, caught up in this vortex of busyness: we work, we go to school or home school, we do extra-curricular activities, we do outreach, we go to church events. We go, go, go and do, do do, our lives are filled-to-bursting with all this racing around.
We’re so scared of missing out on something that we say “yes” to everything. We put our kids in all kinds of activities so they’ll grow up with every opportunity possible. We become chauffeurs driving them around town. We wonder why we’re tired, burned-out, bored, and discontent. We complain to everyone around us about our busyness. We’ve forgotten how to be still.
And somehow we drag all of this baggage right into our churches. We do Bible studies and pot-lucks, and mission outreaches, and VBS, and Sunday school and serve on committees. We’re always being asked to participate more and volunteer more. And so it is that church becomes, more often than not, just another source of noise.
It’s easy to blame this on church leadership, but I’ll venture to suggest that we American Christians actually want this noise, even though we complain about it. We press our leadership to provide bigger and better — better programs for our kids, bigger youth group, better Sunday School teaching, more service projects and good causes. We cast blame when they’re not provided. We look around town and compare our church to other churches. We want what they have.
Here’s my fear in this cycle: My fear is that we’ve begun to equate church noise with Christianity.
I fear that we’re so busy doing things — good things, not-so-good things — and so busy demanding better, that we’ve lost our first love. We’re skimming the surface, rushing around like Martha, instead of sitting at the feet of Christ like Mary.
Church is not busyness.
Church is not bigger and better.
Church is not here to serve me or my family.
Church is not like the PTA or my gym or any other institution I show up to to receive services and demand my rights.
No, my friends. Church is way, way better.
Church should be a haven from purposeless busyness. It should be the one place that quiets the noise outside our hearts and the noise inside our hearts.
Church does not exist for my family; Church is the Bride of Christ, and we all exist as a body to worship Him.
My heart for Christians is that church be simple. That it be purposeful. Church is for worship of God and for reaching a hurting world.
How will we ever reach this world if we’re inviting non-believers into just one more cycle of purposeless busyness? They can get that at their country club.
I am not pointing a finger, saying that programs at church are wrong. What I’m pleading for is thoughtfulness. I’m asking that we not keep doing all of these activities without first asking the questions: “Does this help me worship God better? Does this help me reach people who don’t know Jesus?”
I’m asking that we as church leaders stop doing something just because we’ve always done it or because the church down the street does it, and evaluate what we’re doing — what we’re asking our church members to do, and to treat one another with great care.
By our requests for help are we pulling members into a cycle of busyness God is not calling them to? Are we taking them away from their families? Are we taking time away from sharing Christ with neighbors and coworkers? Are our outreach projects leading to actual living-and-breathing relationships with people? Do our church members have margin in their weeks for pursuing deep friendships with one another? Are our activities producing real, lasting fruit: Lives changed by the gospel and new believers in Christ?
My heart’s desire is to continue on this journey of purposeful simplicity, even when it goes against the grain, because if we as church leaders don’t model this kind of life, we can never ask folks in our body and folks outside our body to live it. If we don’t find our ultimate rest and identity and purpose in being rather than doing, if we don’t find delight and joy and laughter in a quiet life of loving just a few well and worshiping the God who saved us, then our preaching and teaching becomes hollow.
Christians often think being counter-cultural means avoiding immorality and doing good things. But I believe that to be truly counter-cultural in this day and age is to walk away from purpose-less busyness. That’s a life choice that people sit up and take notice of. It’s radically different. It’s something they start asking questions about: “Why don’t you do ______? Why are you so rested? Why are you so happy? How do you have time for hobbies? How do you have time for me? I want that too.”