Chapter 4 of Michael Frost's Book is called "Exiled From a Hyper-Real World" …
Jesus' followers are called to be real, honest, authentic.
We live in a world that promises to be more real than the real thing. Our products are fresher than fresh; our "authentic" restaurants offer a fake eating experience; celebrity's offer us a fake intimacy with their personal lives becoming everyone's property.
Often the church falls prey to the same cultural hyper-reality. The pastor's family is happier than the Brady Bunch. very prayer is answered. every sent poured into the church coffers is returned a hundred-fold to the believer. "We're used to being told that everything tastes better, feels better, looks better thanks to this new product- even if that new product happens to be Jesus."
Frost goes on to talk about the huge disconnect between what happens in church to what happens in the rest of a Christian's life. We know that God sees everything we do, and the attitudes of our hearts, but we fool ourselves into thinking we should behave differently in church than we live the rest of the week.
in the Old Testament there is a refreshing honesty in many of the prayers recorded. Nehemiah, Daniel, Jeremiah refuse to be politically or theologically "correct." Jeremiah's prayer in Jer' 18:20-23 is hardly the kind of prayer we think is suitable for Sunday worship… yet God counts these men as great men of God.
"Exiles will not sit in churches passively and put up with the phoniness, but neither will they pick up their bat and ball and go home." Too many people have given up on the church and given into a kind of privatised belief. Rather the true followers of Jesus will seek to forge new kinds of community which embrace the following values:
- Inward transformation is valued over external appearances
- Diversity is more important than conformity
- Avoid relationships marked by superficiality and hidden agendas
- Honesty with God and transparency with one another
- Mystery and paradox, living with questions that have no easy answers
- Social justice
The community will accept everyone where they are, not seeking to produce sausage machine christians. We need to allow people who are not feeling particularly like worshipping God, the space to just chill out.
Authentic community happens as we meet each other from a position of valuing the person rather than judging their behaviour to measure their spirituality.
One of the great things about New Life is that of course we do just this. In worship people can sit, stand or drink coffee. We have people who hang on to every word of the sermon and others who are content just to be there with no apparent interest in what's happening.
What is important, though, is that we are all helping one another to grow to be more like Jesus. This takes honesty about were we are really, and about how we are travelling.
Sometimes I get discouraged that we are not a "happy-clappy" church, that people are not overflowing with the outward appearance of the joy of the Lord. But then I think well at least there is not too much pretence about where we are up to with God. That's got to be better!