Playing Church

When I was in college, I joined with a bunch of naive, new and newly-energized Christians in my first experiment with applying the teachings of Jesus in a community setting. And while we made a ton of mistakes and went quite off the deep end in many ways, I do believe that we managed to take the priorities of Jesus and the early church and contextualize them for our college experience.

We spent time together.

We broke bread together.

We shared our possessions with one another.

We became good friends to those who had not yet joined our community.

We gave to the poor of both our time and our money (what little we had).

But, unfortunately, then I graduated and was forced away from this unique community into the “real world.” After two failed attempts at trying the same thing in this new environment, I gave up. And began “playing church.”

Sure, I go to church every week. I meet with a small group as well. And to be honest, after a period of struggle with my faith, I find myself closer to Jesus now than at any time since that college period – and perhaps even including it.

But my life doesn’t look a whole lot like the lives of our church fathers (and mothers). And in fact, in many ways, it looks a whole lot more like the “American dream” than the Kingdom of God.

This is a problem.

Now, I don’t believe this is a problem the way I would have when I was in college. My college self probably would have looked at my present self and been quite convinced I was going straight to hell. I believe God has taught me that he’s quite a bit more gracious than that.

But instead, I am convinced that it is a problem for myself personally and the church in general in that it is stunting our growth and development. God wants to give us the entirety of his kingdom, and yet we settle for the American dream where we can receive but small portions of that kingdom.

So given that I want more of the kingdom of God in my life and the lives of my brothers and sisters in the faith as well as my friends and neighbors who may be at another place in their journey, how can I get past settling for “playing church” in order to really live out a missional gospel which transforms the status quo?

The barriers are tremendous. I live in a city where a one hour commute is considered reasonable. I live in a relatively suburban area, where each family keeps to themselves in their own walled-off fortress. And I have two young kids, with a third on the way, which obviously places a strain on my time and resources.

It’s pretty easy, given these constraints, to just do the church thing and live a normal life.

But could there be more for us? Could we actually give up our “right” to choose the neighborhood in which we live, and the schools to which we will send our children, in order to live closer to a real Christian community? Could we open up our schedules and plan our activities in such a way as to maximize time spent with our community? Could we choose to work closer to home so that we can be closer to our community and have a lighter environmental footprint? Could we make the tough choices to simplify our lives and share our resources in order to have more to give to the world’s needy?

Each of these choices is possible, but hard. The question is, do I really believe that the payoff is worth the cost?