I thought I would take a break from ranting about the praise & worship setting. Then I went to chapel yesterday.
Chapel is required at this Christian Liberal Arts College I attend. With this requirement comes the hit and miss of sound theology, really funny stories, guilt trips or scare tactics that try and persuade us to serve Jesus, and pictures and visions of how God is moving and working in this world.
Yesterday, I would have to say: miss. We had a speaker who was passionate, full of life, and definitely knew about grace–that part’s not the miss. In fact, it was refreshing to see such honesty and a desire to share the word of God.
But then it came–like a nuclear bomb, there’s no going back. What appeared to be a closing prayer, wound up with everyone in the chapel–standing, eyes closed & head down…Altar Call. For nearly 5 minutes he called to us–yes, us, the ones sitting in Chapel at this Christian College–calling for us to raise our hands if we wanted Jesus to come into our hearts. Don’t worry about what other people think: no.one.else.can.see.you.
Now, I’m not naive enough to think that everyone at this school is a Christian. And, I know the Lord–the Holy Spirit works in amazing ways, and I believe that it can happen. But I also think students our age are grossly underestimated…So, he said a prayer–the sinner’s prayer–and asked us to repeat it. But no one really did.
I still can’t get over something. We’re supposed to be the Body of Christ, and I realize that “Chapel” does not equal the Church…but those pews in the chapel are filled with the same sinner/saints that make up the Church. How are people supposed to feel welcomed into the Body of Christ if we’re not even allowed to look at them? Jesus said that if we confess him before men, he will confess us before the Father. I don’t know if this counts. Maybe.
Then, after he sat down and saved the lost souls, the music team began singing “Awesome God.” Well, we sang the chorus anyway. I lost count at 20-something, but I’m pretty sure we repeated the same four lines of Awesome God over 27 times. I think I stopped singing after round 2.
But my favorite song went like this:
I’ll be Ok, when I’m safe in your arms and the thoughts of this world fade away
I’ll be Ok with You
I’ll be Ok when it’s You by my side and the tears of this life wipe away
I’ll be Ok with You,
I’ll be Ok.
Just before chapel I had been talking in class with two friends and we sadly discussed how the Church has lost the language of God. We have forgotten what it sounds like, how it feels when it rolls off our tongues, how it grows in us, fills us, changes us, and calls us to a covenant lifestyle…
We sing praise songs that could easily remove “Jesus” and be replaced by a lover’s name of a less divine nature. We pray prayers with “God” and “Lord” inserted every other word–just like the words “like” or “umm” in everyday conversation. We are embarrassed by hymnst tell of the character, the history, the work of God. We find the creeds boring, legalistic, and institutionalized. We long for solid and authentic–real community, but we ignore the foundations and the stories our faith has been built on.
And this song…”I’ll be Ok”…What Jesus are you praying to that will make everything Ok? The Jesus I pray to calls me (a reluctant me) to pick up my cross and follow him…on the road that leads to the dying of myself. And that’s not Ok.
I followed Jesus to Guatemala last summer, I’m not Ok. My heart is broken in ways I can’t even explain.
My friend went to Africa and is now working for a mission organization. She trains missionaries who are all following God’s call. They are not Ok.
Another worked at a Christian Camp and discipled women. She cam back to school–and is not Ok.
I don’t fully understand the Jesus I pray to. But I definitely do not understand the Jesus of that song.
If this is Christianity–I want no part in it. No wonder so many have left the church. Yesterday was one of those days I wanted to get up and follow them right out the door. Maybe somewhere outside the fortified building I can see the creeds living and breathing within the hearts of others. Maybe once I get out of earshot of the noisy microphones and stage music I can hear the voice of God speaking as the masses rise up and call out for something more.
But then again–to leave…would be to abandon Christ in his last hour. To leave would be to say that I have all the answers, but if I walk out on the Church, I walk out on Christ–leaving any hope for questions or answers behind. If I leave that would mean the Church is beyond repair. No, all of creation is groaning for the redemption it knows is coming. If Christ is in and with the Church–we are not beyond repair. To leave would be to declare myself a complete deconstructionist–a cynic…
But then, who would repair, rebuild, and recreate what has been torn down, smashed, rejected, and left crumbling? Christ is the Head of the Church and the Holy Spirit is working to bring forth the kingdom of God. I do not want to tear down what Christ is teaching us to build up. I want to create and be part of this.
27 repeated lines
Prayers to an unknown god
The Church needs to hear the language of God renewed, and the works of God proclaimed. What will be our voice?