I would like to preface this posting of mine by stating that most of what I'm sharing here is for me. I use "we" and "our" language because I feel it is applicable to all "our" lives. Still this post, as with most of my other ramblings, originated from musings about my own struggles.
I would also like to say that every pastor/preacher dude out there ought to be shouting amen after reading this. I have to believe that they are weary of people's unrealistic expectations of them and would love to see some folks trading in their bottles of milk for solid food.
Bottom line: If you don't feel "fed" by your pastor/preacher, maybe you should get up off your spiritual rear and begin to assume some responsibility for your own withered soul.
And so, it begins.
Have you ever heard the saying "It's like the blind leading the blind"? I have many times. It reminds me a lot of an old video game I used to enjoy playing called "Lemmings".
The basic premise of the game is to guide a horde of mindless little creatures through a variety of obstacles to reach a certain destination. Unfortunately, the "lemmings" are moving constantly and will not stop regardless of what lies before them. If one walks off a cliff, they all walk off the cliff. So in essence, your job is to constantly micromanage their every move lest they kill themselves…and you lose.
A lemming is actually a semi-cute little rodent found near the Artic, but the term is often used in the following derogatory way:
"A person who seemingly does not possess any form of individual thought, and instead, mindlessly follows the behaviors and actions of the masses."
Now I honestly do not want to sound mean, but it really reminds me quite a bit of the modern day American Christian.
I know, that probably makes you angry, but stay with me here. You might just find there's more to this line of thought than you'd care to believe.
If you ask most Christians, what it means to be "Christian", they can usually come up with an answer. It may be weird and completely unbiblical, but you'll likely get an answer. Probe deeper and you'll most likely hear some form of programmed answer they picked up in church.
My question is this: Is our faith really ours if it is only based on the words and opinions of others? In other words, what is our faith really built on? What is it made of and can we biblically defend it? By the way, that word "biblically" is important.
The truth is most of us (believers) are in trouble when it comes to answering the world's questions about life, death, and faith. Why? Because, most "Christians" have no clue why they believe what they believe. They just know the guy in front of them said it was true and that's all that matters.
Lemmings may be cute, but that approach doesn't work so well when it comes to issues of faith, nor does it stand up to the scrutiny of the world.
Question: If someone asks you a difficult question about your faith, do you feel confident you could handle it? You may respond, "That depends on the question." Indeed, it does.
Just for fun, let's look at a few questions I've been confronted with over the years. Look them over and think about how you would answer a struggling unbeliever.
By the way, telling them you'll introduce them to your "pastor", or inviting them to "church" are not acceptable responses.
For the sake of time and sanity, I'll only list five:
- If God is good and loves the world, why does He allow people to go to Hell?
- What is sin and how do I avoid it?
- Why do we tell others they should pray to "receive Jesus in their hearts" when it's not in the bible?
- How do you know Jesus the only way to Heaven?
- How can I know God's will for my life?
Scary questions, huh?
So what about it? Would you feel comfortable trying to answer these questions…right now? The truth is, most of us would likely shoot from the hip and pray we're not screwing up too bad. I know I've struggled with each of these at one time or another. Many times I've replied, "Let me get back to you", but is that acceptable? Shouldn't we know our way around our own faith better than that? If we don't, is it really our faith we're living, or are we just another "lemming" following the guy directly in front of us (that "guy" could be anyone…not necessarily your preacher dude…don't blame him)?
I generally don't like to quote a bunch of scripture. Too many people sling scripture with reckless abandon trying to convince the world they're right. God knows I know, because I've done it for years. Still, I would like to present the following for consideration:
2 Timothy 2:15 – "Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth."
In other words, don't just blindly follow other people and embrace their opinions. Get in the game and start seeking God for yourself. So much of American Christianity is based on the whole "he said/she said" game? Sometimes that is fine, but what happens when he/she is wrong? I'll tell you what happens. We pass that bad information on to our fellow lemmings (and the world) and before you know it, we're all walking off a cliff. Not good.
Let's go back to the scripture I cited above. Notice it says, "work hard so you". Who is he challenging to work hard? The turkey looking at you in the mirror, that's who. Why? So you and I can present "ourselves" to God unashamed. It's personal. There are many other scriptures to back this up, and each challenges us to be responsible for our own faith.
That's not to say that we can't receive insight from others. We certainly can and probably should, but in the end we must follow God, and check out what "man" is babbling about…very carefully!
As I stated at the beginning, I still struggle with this process today. Just because I haven't been under the teaching of a preacher dude for 3 years doesn't mean I am outside of other's influence on my life. I still listen to "others" and read "others" books. There's more than enough opportunity to join the lemming parade passing by. In fact, it's mighty hard not to.
For me the greatest tragedy of being a lemming is not the fact that we're following clueless people, but rather we are leading clueless people…"cluelessly" (not a word…I know).
The world is hungry for answers. It longs for something real, something true. Today's pseudo-intellectual brand of "heathen" tend to be overwhelmingly cynical. Few trust Christians and fewer still care what we have to say. They've heard all our big talk and watched our small walk. They're tired of our trite, programmed responses to their questions and view us as rigid, judgmental hypocrites. I get that.
I was having a conversation with a homeless man not long ago. This man has been homeless for over 30 years. I asked him how many times "Christians" had tried to sell on religion in the last 30 years. He just laughed and replied, "He couldn't begin to count that high". As we continued to talk, he shared that the problem was not that they had tried to share Jesus with him, but that he knew they didn't really care about him, nor was he convinced they really bought into what they were pushing. "Just a bunch of fakers".
Well, I'm sure these folks all meant well, but there's something to be said about his perception of these folks.
If we are indeed perceived as nothing more than just a bunch of confused "fakers", what in the world should we do to rectify the problem? How can we truly become the "salt" and "light" Jesus said we are supposed to be? How can we effectively be salt and light when we do not understand what that means or how it is supposed to work? Well, I'm not sure I'm qualified to "fix" anyone (even myself), but I'm quite sure it won't happen by playing follow the leader in the lemming line.
As I stated before, we must begin to take responsibility for our own faith. If you don't know the answer, pray, study, and pray some more until the Holy Spirit leads you "into all truth". It is possible, or He would not have said so. Feel free to listen to "others", just make sure you check those suckers out! Your faith is and should always be "your faith".
I pray you have not taken this to be a slam against Christians, but rather a challenge to rise up and begin to shine. None of us have "arrived" in the faith, especially this guy. Still, we must be intentional about learning our way around our own faith if we really want to move forward with Christ…and take a few folks with us.
So with that, I'll hush. By the way, if you are planning on playing "Lemmings", just make sure the guy in front of you…is Jesus.