My wife has a paying decorating gig today, so I was flying solo this morning, getting the kids up, ready, fed, and out the door for school.
Teeth brushed? Check.
Lunches packed? Check.
Homework? Che….oops…what?! A test? Today?! You didn’t study for? While you were out running errands with mom last night? After you told us you had no homework?
I’ve got mad lecture skills in moments like these. I flow like a freestyle rapper. And my words were obviously hitting their mark because my favorite youngest daughter immediately became a crying pile of jello.
(Great. Mom’s gone. Toast is burnt. And now there’s a blubbering 9 year old girl with her face buried in the cushions of the couch? Happy Thursday!).
As I replay this morning’s tension, I can’t help but draw a few parallels to life in the church (sorry, it’s what I do).
- My daughter blew it and she knew it. (Told you, freestyle rapper). The teacher had given her a study guide, but she lost it. Fearful of her teacher’s scorn and her parents’ disappointment, she said nothing and just pretended everything was OK. How many people in our congregations feel the need to pretend they’re not broken?
- She was afraid to ask questions. To admit she didn’t know, understand, or have the materials she needed to pass the exam made her feel stupid. Surely everyone else knew the correct answers, right? Regardless of why, she didn’t feel safe confessing her ignorance.How many people in our churches don’t feel safe admitting what they don’t understand?
- I lectured. And this is a tough one for me, because after all, I was right (seriously, I was). My daughter had screwed up royally and she needed to know it. To learn from it. To grow from it. But if I’m not careful, my intent moves from love (caring more for her good) to condemnation (caring more for my “rightness”). How many times do we the church motivate with shame rather than love into transformation?
We have a little saying we like to use at City Community Church:
“We accept you for who you are, but challenge you to become all God created you to be.”
Easier said than done. We live in the intersection of a world that is present but passing away, and a Kingdom that’s present and yet still to come. We’re broken. All of us (even the ones with more socially acceptable sins). So our goal as the church is to model, teach, and challenge the world around us to embrace the now and coming Kingdom of our God through the gift of Jesus Christ.
By definition, that means not leaving you where you are.
But in that beautiful, eternal endeavor, we must be careful not to embrace an atmosphere, attitude, or environment of elitism. Not to motivate with shame or condemnation. We must lead from a place of humility and an understanding of our own need for grace. The Church must be a safe haven for people who aren’t OK (because truth be told, without Jesus, none of us are).
My daughter needs to learn, change, and grow. But I want her to do that with me. Alongside me. Not in spite of me. I want her to see me as an ally, not an enemy. Someone to run towards when she’s screwed up, not away from. The same should be said of the Church today. At least I want it said of the one I’m responsible to lead.
I believe that reality exists in the tension between encouragement and challenge.
And the binding agent is love.