This week, U2 frontman Bono apologized for the free album that was automatically uploaded to every iTunes account in the world. It’s like people don’t want the free awesomeness that is U2. Could it be that sometimes, people don’t want what we have to give? Actually, that’s exactly what it is. And it applies to the church as much as it does to pop music — maybe even more so.
Everyone over thirty has one of those “when-I-was-a-kid” stories. I have several now that I’m in my forties. When I was a kid, free music was a great thing. When I was a kid, the values of the church were still a major part of how we ran things, at least in name.
But now, both of those things have changed. Why? Several reasons, I should imagine.
Music is more prevalent than ever now that we don’t rely as much on publishers, distributors, and record shops to provide it for us. I can get my music directly from the band via Soundcloud or even Youtube and Vevo. I don’t even need a cable company to pipe in MTV. (Yes, children, there was a time when MTV still played music and videos, right there on your cable television.) When I want it, I can just go get it, usually from the communities that can point me to it and help me experience it.
Opinions are more prevalent than ever now that we don’t rely on denominations, pastors, and churches to provide them for us. And I think that’s a good thing. You see, I don’t think that my job is to make anyone believe anything. My job is to offer an experience of God, to make an introduction to the teachings of Jesus Christ, and to help people on their journey to follow those teachings. When they want it, I’ve got some ideas and practices that can help them find it and a community to help them experience it.
Get Off of My Cloud
My bishop keeps telling me that my job isn’t to “save the Church.” We certainly don’t have the power to maintain a dying institution, even though God does. When we set out to create some kingdom that we’ve made up, we do the Kingdom of God a disservice. So, if God wants the Church, God is more than capable of saving it. Instead, my job is much simpler: Make disciples.
So when we demand that those around us accept our ways and consume our product, we are trying a little too hard to control the world around us. In the words of the Rolling Stones, folks are telling us to get off of their cloud. In the words of Jesus Christ, we’ve got to recognize that there will be those who refuse our gifts. Some will be polite. Others will be impolite. But we don’t get to legislate morality to the Nth degree, nor do we get to force our beliefs on those who disagree with us.
Most of the people in the world who do this are rightly called terrorists. No belief is at stake at all in fear-based evangelism. It is political base-building. Why?
Because maybe, just maybe, they feel that fear is the only way to convince a person to move.
Because maybe, just maybe, they don’t know how to offer their own beliefs.
Because maybe, just maybe, they have more trouble living those beliefs than talking about them.
“So what?” indeed. You are welcomed to do what you feel you must. Political action is still a part of who we are and what we are doing. I plan to continue to appeal to the political structures of my local, state, and federal government. But I will not fall victim to some delusion that people have to agree with me because of some shared belief. If I want that, I have to do it the hard way.
Relationships with the people around us should probably come first: Real relationship that isn’t about manipulation. We cannot go out into the world to make people who agree with us. We should never go out into the world to generate supporters. We should go out into the world with the intention of making friends, because that was the highest rank a disciple could achieve.
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:15
So friendship is not just a means to an end. It’s the goal.
And for Christians, that means we need to change some things. Open your lives to the people around you. Trust, but verify. Risk, and be worthy of the risks of relationship. Above all, show the world the love of Jesus Christ instead of some political agenda with a cross stamped on it.
What are your prerequisites for friendship? What are your deal-breakers for relationship? Can you say that you have friends with whom you radically disagree?
Author: Joey Reed
Joey is married to his best friend. Together, they have two children and live in Jackson, Tennessee. Joey serves Grace United Methodist Church, the Jackson District, the Memphis Annual Conference, and the world is his parish.