As a way to continue the conversations in The Biola Hour, we've invited Sam Gassaway to blog her thoughts after each episode. This is a response to Episode 23 on Uncomfortable Church, found here. Feel free to interact with Sam's thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter (@sgkay47).
Have you ever been in a bounce house as a kid and the whole thing just starts deflating because some punk kid unplugged it? Remember how the plastic walls and floor beneath you began to sink in and you saw your short child life flash before your eyes before the adult supervision casually trudged over and hope was restored?
Take a moment to think about the fear that comes with the world around you caving in.
Now, take another moment to think about your favorite pair of pants as a kid. They probably don’t fit you anymore. You outgrew them, and—if you’re an older sibling—your younger sister or brother had to deal with the grass stains and holes in the knees.
Which of those feelings do you think models how we as Christians experience the church? Does the church slowly shrink around us until it is so stifling we can hardly breathe and we need the Father to trudge over and save us? Does the local church stay one size and we continue to grow in our walk until we need to find another one while others can continue to enjoy what once fit us?
Haha surprise: it’s neither.
Though these are false, they are fitting to the mindsets people go into church-shopping with. Too often, we approach looking for a church the same way we go into looking for a new pair of jeans: how does this fit me? Does it make me feel good? Does it chafe in all the wrong places?
Brett McCracken (all-around down-to-earth Christian gentleman and relationship-goals-guru that he is) graced the Biola Hour stage this week announcing his new book: Uncomfortable. It’s about how we as a culture have decided—not only does my relationship with God have to be all about me—my faith itself and all its aspects are about me, too.
“We’ve lost what it’s like in the church to be around people who are different than us,” McCracken said, in his typical wise-beyond-his-years fashion. “It’s hard to grow in our faith isolated… I've grown so much by being uncomfortable, and you don't grow by staying your comfort zone.”
Needless to say, I’m a big McCracken fan. I think a lot of what he has to say speaks to the heart of millennial culture and the needs we have. It may be because he’s a fellow journalist. It may be because he’s quite woke in terms of Biola admin faculty (note: he doesn’t work here anymore).
More likely: it’s because he is one of us, and he sees his own behavior and temptations is willing to interrogate them to see where they come from and whether they are God-glorifying. He did so with Hipster Christianity, with Gray Matters, and now with Uncomfortable. The temptation under scrutiny this time is the average Christian’s approach to the local church.
Biolans generally treat Biola like a church in and of itself. There are a couple problems with this. First, you’re only here for roughly four years, and your community here will be lost when you graduate. Second, you are surrounded by those who are roughly your age and are going through many of the same struggles you are.
The church is intended to bond together those who would not find common ground anywhere else. Biola offers a little too much ground in common, and it is very easy to get comfortable here.
So whether the local church is a stifling bounce house or tight pair of jeans, interrogative thinking is necessary in how we choose to search for a new church. When searching, instead of attacking with “does this church’s ministry meet and serve me where I need it?” let’s instead ask “is this church’s ministry meeting and serving Jesus?”
With which ministry would you rather take part?