A single point of a solitary 20 year-old sermon stays with me to this day.
Mike was a missionary serving in New Guinea, observing from a background in communication and cultural anthropology, that the message that is the most predictable has the least impact and the message that is the least predictable has the greatest. His application was of course, to the church.
I think of all the Christian films that I have seen where, the end of the flick brings a resolution to all conflict, an answer to all questions, a re-righting of the world and the suggestion that all would live happily ever after. Makes me sigh in satisfaction to think of the possibility.
Recalling my former life as a youth pastor I saw that it did something to my kids as well. They simply tuned it out. They knew that story-book endings rarely happen. The all too predictable message had a negligible impact on them.
I think that is also why people sit “Mr. Bean-like” through many services today, drifting in and out of consciousness. We have preached a predictable God to people long enough that they don’t need to bother listening anymore. The compartmentalization of our faith has had the same soul-numbing impact on others. We have allowed ourselves to become people who do church rather than people who are church. Our outlooks, opinions and responses are as appetizing as a TV dinner. People can push our buttons to our frustration and to their delight.
Jesus was never predictable. He talked to people that he wasn’t supposed to talk to. He was invited to parties that the religious crowd never got invited to and the party was always better for His Presence. He answered accusation with deep, piercing, soul-searching questions. God has never been predictable. He never will be. He is not into repeat performances. He is a God of endless possibility. He never changes but He is infinitely creative. No two people alike. No two identical snowflakes. He is Sovereign, the Lord of every circumstance, good or bad.
I find people every day, desperately interested in and hungry for God. If you push God, you’ll find that as well. If you peddle religion, forget it.
Often the reaction that people have to your life will tell you what you are selling. You have stopped living the adventure . . . maybe you never started. Coming to Christ may have been simply a “Get Out Of Hell Free” card or a ticket on the good old glory train where we sing spiritual “Auld Lang Syne” songs all the way to heaven. Maybe that’s good for you, but it’s drier than last year’s bird’s nest to people who are looking for something different from “same old same old”.
In my “straining forward” (Ph. 3:13) I hear voices all the time telling me to settle for what is, for what I have accomplished, for stories of how God has moved twenty years ago . . . I unequivocally reject this. Truth is . . . as long as God is, you never know what might happen . . . but it will never happen for people who limit God’s present and future involvement in their lives by their past experience.