There is no lack of information in a Christian land; something else is lacking, and this is something which the one man cannot directly communicate to the other.
Our job as pastors is to create space for people to interact with God. We get paid to help them glimpse the divine. This calling takes seriously the need for transformation, but our church mediums stop short by only transferring information. Here’s what I mean:
We arrive on Sunday sharing pleasantries around the coffee pot. We talk about our week, doctor’s appointments, and last night’s game. We go to Sunday school to read a biblical text and listen to the teacher speak its history. Our worship is dominated by announcements and a 45-minute sermon that is filled with information.
If we come back during the week, it is no different. Ministers gather in staff meetings. Class options are subject-driven. Committees gather to re-write policies on policies. The church Twitter feed is flooded with quotes from last week’s sermon. The weekly news is the place setting at Wednesday dinner.
None of these mediums are bad, but they stop short of transformation.
In academia, there is something known as the Null Curriculum. Over time what you do not teach is equal in the learning environment as what you do teach. Unfortunately for the church, what we relegate to the shadows is that which transforms us. We are knowledgeable enough, but as Kierkegaard says, “something else is lacking.”
Our culture craves information. The first things we do in the morning are read emails and scan Facebook News Feeds. We watch the 24-hour news cycle during breakfast, and listen to NPR on the way to work. Our day is interrupted with CNN updates, Tweets, Instagram photos, and video clips from last night’s Daily Show. We talk about sports and the Marvel Universe over lunch after we “check-in” on Facebook to share with the world information about our day.
This rhythm conditions us to value the consumption of information over the joy of transformation. And for good reason.
Information makes us feel informed and empowered. We like being in the know. We like logging on to our computer and being connected to the world. But this rhythm makes for a stale church.
Who would willingly admit they are looking for a church community that believes God’s dream for humankind is to gather, sit, and exchange information? Yet, each week we expose our family to this environment.
I had a frustrated church member recently say, “How many Bible studies do we have to attend to realize God wants us to get up and do something?” He’s absolutely right, and these words have haunted me.
What is transformational about our church?
Is there a scripture passage that says, “Salvation is found in doctrinal distinctions?” Is there a biblical character whose testimony is laced with “I found Jesus to be pleasantly informative”?
The power of the gospel is that Jesus transforms us. The power of the church is that it bears the capacity for us to interact with the presence of God. We bump up against the divine every day, but our mediums fail to offer the needed space to discern, enjoy, and participate in it with friends.
We design church as a place where information is not only preferred but considered holy.
What if church were about something deeper? What if in the transferring of information, we experienced a depth in worship that moved us to transformation? What if on our church websites we changed our “What We Believe” page to “What We Do” and included testimonials? Isn’t this the intent of church?
Forming a church around the transferring of information is irresponsible in terms of how we participate in God’s work in the world. It creates an atmosphere of shared information instead of shared transformation.
We have some work to do.