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.

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Comments
  1. Maryella Banks says:

    Karl: Why does this article sadden me? I do not understand all the ‘new thinking’ re ‘the old ways’ that seem so troubling to us. If the people of our past had not made the choices that they did, do we not realize that we would not even exist as individuals? I have a great respect for my church heritage, but I do not “live” back there, just because I choose to share about it….the Bible instructs us to not neglect our Foundation, to share it, so that we will not forget where we have come from.
    We hear so much regarding the style of music, and such other trivial things, that we do not even realize that we are just where the Enemy wants us to be. We are in a Spiritual Battle, fellow Christians, and are in such need of a Revival, or Awakening, within the confines of our churches. “If my people…will humble themselves, and pray…and turn from their wicked ways, and seek My Face .. Then they will hear from Heaven…I will forgive their sins…
    It is not about ‘culture’ as that has existed since time began. It is about what is in our hearts 24-7. Do you Believe? So does Satan, and he trembles. The Bible challenges us to “Study .. to show Thyself “approved unto God” … Accountable for our words … our deeds … our actions … our thoughts … our responses. In other words, He calls us out to have an intimate relationship with Him, and that means a “change” within our hearts, .. in true repentance. Then, and only then, do we know what it is like to follow the “Sermon on the Mount”, and, if God is pleased with you, then, you and God are a majority. And, in His eyes alone, who sees All, you will make a difference in this sin sick world.
    I, for one, am deeply grateful for the ones who shared their past experiences, and lived their present experiences, sometimes flawed and so human, but so caring of me, and so full of love for God … They taught me what I would not have found, otherwise…and, may I continue to do the same for others … in the present day, in the future, from the past. A Testimony. I have never in my lifetime had to bear so much heartache because of the Enemy gaining ‘strongholds’ in the church. I have never had such a need to sing the old Hymns of the Church, and find such strength and comfort and grace, with others, as in the days we are living in. I have learned what it is like to stand alone in a crowd.
    God Bless you, Karl. And, thank you for listening.

  2. pumbinator says:

    Great thoughts . . . appreciate the response. I want you to know as a guitar player that I am enjoying the good old songs. Of course, songs are not good or bad based on whether they are old or new, but something more significant . . . what they have to say.

    I too appreciate the people from my past who have impacted my life. I regret the influence that others from my past have had on me. I do have to be honest and say that the negative past in my church experience has been harder to deal with than the negative past in my pre-church experience . . . at least at this point in my life.

    To me it is not an issue of past, present or future in any of these realms. It is an issue of life and vitality, people embracing and living out a real faith in a real world, that seems to have a connection to everyday living.

  3. Maryella Banks says:

    Plumbinator: Not an easy thing to do to reply to a ‘ghost writer’ from someone who prefers to look people in the eye when communicating, but that is the lack that involves computers, I guess.
    No dialogue is needed. I spoke from my heart and experience, knowing what the cost would be. If you have ever known that you were born for ‘such a time as this’…meaning that He chooses individuals for different purposes … in His time. If one keeps close to Him, one will know.
    My writings come out of my own experiences, on my Profile FaceBook Page, or anywhere else I write, becoming very vulnerable as I do so … not that I choose to do so, but because I must, if I want His blessing. His blessing. Yes, I understand what it means. And, when He and I are all alone, and He hears my Heart, He pours out His Blessing. Sometimes He does in church, too. Other times when I’m listening to music about Him … or just thinking of Him …And, how He loves me.
    Alone in a crowd, I said. Because your convictions are so often misunderstood and rejected. Because you have been through so much that hurt because things never should have happened in the first place to cause so much hurt.
    It’s not about me, cliche, so popular today. But, it is about me. And, every me that lives whom He created … and died for … to change their heart towards Him … the heart that the Enemy deceived.
    Revival … Brings us all together in His kind of Love … It should not divide Christians because they have different convictions. That is what makes me very sad. On the other hand, no person, nor the Enemy, can take away the ‘Joy’ that He has given to me, in the midst of all circumstances. When I stand alone in the crowds, He reminds me that He stood there first. … Maryella Banks

  4. Maryella Banks says:

    Karl: I will be the ‘same old, same old’ if I write anymore on this topic. Smiles. All I want to say to you this time is that you go back a long ways in my life (Well, we’re not that old to be too far back). But probably the era when my ‘kids’ were small, and, you Pastored at Presque Isle, Maine, and were involved in Riverside Wesleyan Camp up that-a-way. You were then, and always have been, a very kind person to me. And, for that, this is meant as a little encouragement … from the Daughter of a Preacher, and, from the Mother of a Preacher. I know that territory very well … as I do from sitting in the Pew from the other side of things … I stand on my comments on ‘Same Old, Same Old’ … knowing there has to be left so much unsaid, but the ‘knowing’ is the reason why I pray for the “Spiritual Awakening” , for the church. That would bring us together, as one, and known by our Love, to the world , outside the church. Was that not Jesus prayer for us all?

  5. […] Same Old Same Old February 20104 comments 4 […]

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