Community means everything to me, but sometimes I wonder: If I were not a pastor, would I even go to church?
It is not because of a difficulty fitting in; I don’t fit in anywhere, and I really do love the diversity of God’s Kingdom. Nor do I have any illusions about a perfect community; I am rather comfortable and relieved with the fact that churches are filled with people who sin. No, my problem is that I have a keen sense of what is not God.
That hymnal? Not God.
That order of worship? Not God.
This building? Not God.
These traditions? Not God.
That Bible? Not God.
I’m not saying these things don’t matter. In truth, I value them much more than most suspect. But they are not God. “Humanity was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for humanity” (Mark 2:27). Everything about religion should be for our benefit; it should not enslave us.
Should there be some sort of respect paid to “God’s House?” Perhaps, but we will all define that differently. And more significantly, it matters more to me that you come to “God’s House.”
We do a lot more disgrace to Jesus when we tell people their poverty is because they are lazy than we do when we tie Bible School balloons to a brass alter cross.
We do a lot more disgrace to God when we speak unkindly to each other than when small children dance with joy in our sanctuaries.
We do a lot more disgrace to the Spirit when we deny someone’s giftedness because of gender, sexuality, criminal record, or personal history than we do when we allow music volumes to inch towards 8 or 9.
So sometimes I wonder. Because I do not worship the hymnal god, the cross god, the building god, the bulletin god, or the Bible god. I worship the God who created heaven and earth, the God who sent Jesus to show us a better way to live, the God who conquered death so that we might have new life. I worship the one true God who loves us.
As a pastor, I work to help my faith community distinguish between God and not God. But were I not, would I commit to a community and work as hard to keep the demons of idolatry away?
Sometimes I wonder.