Past Exhilaration

Roller Coaster

I can still remember the day that I got through the fear. I remember it well. I was in the eighth grade and my parents took me and my brother to Disney World. The drive to get there from our home just outside of Washington DC seemed like it took forever, which is one of the things that helped me get over my fear. I told myself, “I’m not traveling all the way down to Disney World and not riding these awesome roller coasters everyone’s talking about, just because I’m afraid!”

So, there I was standing with my brother outside of the coaster I heard about the most: Space Mountain.

After the ride was over I realized a couple of things: one, I was still alive, and second, that was actually exhilarating! Like, I want to ride that again! I think we rode that crazy roller coaster eight times strait!

This opened the world of roller coasters to me. That summer when we went as a family to a theme park close to our home I was riding everything they had. And, I’ve never stopped. When my daughter was six years old, I had her on every adult ride she was tall enough to climb on; and she loved it too.

But, I realized something after years of riding the same rides that used to be so exciting to me. After riding a roller coaster 50 times, it loses much of it’s exhilaration. It’s just not as exciting anymore.

You know, so many people walk into churches and they’re looking for something. And they should be! Everyone who walks into a church is looking for what they’re looking for. What I mean is they know what kind of music they like, and what they don’t, what kind of church “feel” they like, and what they don’t, what kind of preaching they like…You get the point.

When they come into church and it’s what they like, it’s exhilarating. I often have conversations with folks about that. They’ll say, “the worship is fantastic,” “the sermons are just what I need” or “the people are so friendly I feel like I’m at home.” Just so you know, to be a pastor and hear these things is definitely a win!

Inevitably, however, after a while the church can become like my experience with roller coasters. What was once so exhilarating is now, because of familiarity, no longer that big of a deal. And, it becomes easy to drift. What happens? The same thing with so many Christians in America. They stay for a while at a church, it loses it’s exhilaration, then off to the next. So many American Christians are bouncing from church to church because the excitement and newness wears off after while.

What’s the answer?

1. Remember what church is really all about.

If you’re looking for a church you should find one that makes you glad you were there. There’s nothing worse than boring church. As a matter of fact, it’s a tragedy when worship of our great God and His Word are made boring—because there’s nothing boring about them!

But, church is not about being excited all the time. It’s actually about Jesus and following Him. If you didn’t know this, following Him is not always easy and He never promised it would be.

2. Remember that Jesus brought you to His church on purpose. 

You are a part of the whole and that matters more than you may know. Paul uses the metaphor of a “body” for the local church. And a great metaphor it is. A body only functions correctly when all it’s parts are in place and healthy.

Paul Tripp explains it this way:

Autonomous Christianity never works, because our spiritual life was designed by God to be a community project.

It’s good that you loved what you saw and experienced when you first went to your church but make sure your love for Jesus and understanding why He calls the church together become important to you too. Then, you’ll become a part of the church’s mission:

Reach people with the Gospel—make disciples—change the world.

Let me tell you, there’s nothing more exhilarating than being a part of the church that way!

3. Church doesn’t exist for Christian consumption.

If Christians are always just looking to be exhilarated, the work of the church will actually never be done. And, that work is the only thing going on in this world that’s actually of eternal impact. That’s pretty important.

Thom Rainer states this very well in his book I Am A Church Member.

Rainer states that Jesus,

placed us in churches to serve, to care for others, to pray for leaders, to learn, to teach, to give, and, in some cases, to die for the sake of the Gospel.

In other words, Christ brought us together for so much more than a fleeting feeling of exhilaration.

If you’ve spent any amount of time in church, I’m sure it’s been for you like roller coasters became for me when I was a teenager—exhilarating at first but not so much with more familiarity. Just know, that for you to see the church as more than that, is incredibly important. It won’t always be so exhilarating, the sermon won’t always be exactly what you want to hear, and the song choice won’t always be the one you like the most.

But, the purpose and eternal impact of the church will never be less than Jesus gave His life for it to be. And that’s a huge calling, purpose and impact that needs to include you.

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What’s a Christian? (Part 1)

I’m going to write a blog series entitled “What is a Christian?” I almost titled it “What is a Christ follower” but I don’t want to confuse the topic. The truth is, there are a lot of ideas of what a Christian is in our culture, even in the church culture, and many of them are not biblical. I also realize there is no shortage of books, blogs and articles discussing this topic but I think another topical discussion may be helpful. I’m preaching a series now through the book of Ephesians and, along with that, a mini-series of the church called “Full Church.” Within the series, each week, I’m making statements about the church: “Church is…”

So, I want to spend some time on the blog making the same type of statements: A Christian is… I would state it like I have in the church series but it would really sound like Forrest Gump, “Christian is as Christian does, sir.”

But what comes to mind when I ask you, what is a Christian?

For me the answer begins with; a person who follows Jesus. But, what does that look like? I’m confident that what some believe defines being a Christ-follower falls short of what Jesus actually says it is. For example, a Christ follower is not someone who calls on Jesus simply when they need something. It’s much more than that. If you confess to being a Christian I probably don’t have to convince you of that but let’s dig a little deeper into the Christian.

Where do we start?

I can think of no place better to begin than Jesus putting Pharisees and Sadducees in their place. It’s always a little fun to see the religiously educated try to play a game of theological tennis with the creator of the universe. In Matthew 16:1 the Pharisees and Sadducees want Jesus to give them a cosmic sign from heaven to prove His Messiahship. (Keep in mind that at this point of the Gospel of Mathew, Jesus has nothing left to prove.)

We can actually learn something about being a Christian in the way Jesus answers their request.

Jesus tells them that though they have no trouble telling the weather, “Red sky at night shepherds delight, red sky in the morning shepherds take warning,” they can’t see what’s going on right in front of them. That’s what Jesus means when He says, “You can’t interpret the signs of times.”

Wouldn’t it be crazy to be so concerned about “God stuff” like the Pharisees are and miss what Jesus was doing right in front of you?

This can happen in the life of the modern day Christian too. I see it most when Christians define Christianity simply as where they’re going when they die. Now, I’m not stating that heaven is a bad thing to be looking for but that is not the definition of a Christian. It would be a tragedy to be simply focused on heaven, or the future, and not realize what Christ is doing in the world and in your life right now.

What’s a Christian?

A Christian is a person who can recognize that God, through Christ and His Spirit, is doing a work in front of us, in the world and in us, right now.