I came across the above picture awhile back, and it just kind of stuck with me. I think that it was probably created as a jab at Christianity in general, and I’m sure that the person who captioned it probably only spent a couple of minutes on it before throwing it up on the internet. Still, I couldn’t help but save the picture when I came across it. Why? I’m not really sure. But it was probably 1 because it speaks a really deep, really profound truth, and it was a truth that I wanted to be able to constantly remind myself of. Which raises a really profound question…
What if I told you I could purée and press apples, and get orange juice out of it? What? Really? Yeah. You don’t need oranges to make orange juice. You can do it with apples. You just go through the same process you do to make apple juice, but if you do it with the right intentions and maybe a good 2 amount of prayer, when you’re done you’ll have orange juice instead.
Okay, I confess, that last paragraph wasn’t true (but I had you for a second there). Why not? Well, because (as any kindergartener will tell you) you get orange juice from oranges. Otherwise, it’s just not orange juice. If you try to make orange juice from apples, what you’ll get is apple juice (or just a mess). Now, I know that what I’m saying here doesn’t seem like that groundbreaking of an idea. 3 But the sad truth is that this is what the church has been trying to do for a long time.
You see Jesus talked about a lot of good things, things that many of us want. However, for the majority of church history, Christians have been looking for ways to get the results Jesus talked about without having to do what Jesus did and taught us to do. Here’s what I mean…3
Now, don’t these things just sound awesome?! Wouldn’t it be fantastic if our churches looked like this? I would imagine that these are the goals that most church leaders are shooting for. We want these things. We want to have churches that produce good fruit, that knock down the gates of hell, that do greater things than Jesus. So what’s stopping us? Why don’t our churches all (or even mostly) look like this? I would suggest that it’s because we are trying to build Jesus’ kingdom while every step of the way avoiding doing it like Jesus did. We don’t want to do things like Jesus did them. Instead, we want to get what Jesus got by doing what corporate CEO’s do. We want to get what Jesus got by doing what politicians do. Win big. Attract large crowds. Assert our rights. Protect our interests first. Program well. Market well. Make ourselves look good by making the other guy look bad. Give the people what they want. Get the popular vote. Think big. Large numbers. Dress for success. And if all else fails, hold onto the sustainable status quo.
But that’s not how Jesus did it. Jesus did things and taught us to do things that we in the church would never dare to do. In fact, Jesus did things that we would fire someone for doing.
Do we do these things? Really. Be honest now. When someone says something terrible about you, do you go out of your way to do something nice 5for them? When people make life difficult, do we not complain about our rights being violated? When someone makes a big mistake and causes a lot of harm to us, is our first reaction to “offer them another cheek,” or do we try to separate and shield ourselves from them (here’s looking at you, every church that ever caught a pastor in sin)? And when we think about building a church or youth group, do we look for ways to develop mature disciples who would die for their faith, or do we start thinking of ways to draw a crowd?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think having a large group of believers in the same place at the same time is inherently wrong. I don’t think we should neglect our families for the sake of the church (they are part of the church, after all). And I certainly don’t believe in allowing people to continually abuse others. But I do want us to become aware of the fact that following Jesus means so much more than just memorizing what he said and agreeing that he had some neat ideas. This isn’t a new revelation. People like Francis Chan have been saying this for years now. Sadly, when push comes to shove, when all the cards are down, and when it comes time for us to show where our real priorities lie, most Christians (even pastors) really just don’t want to build6 the kingdom the way Jesus did. And I for one have to say, that as long as we do church like CEO’s and politicians, the church is going to look just like our economy and government … which is a pretty sad state.
Like it or not, we will never get what Jesus got until we do what Jesus did. You just can’t get orange juice from apples, no matter how hard you try.
3: New one!