From Derek Webb’s journal entry of August 9, 2003
At the count of three, unplug yourself from this modern world. Just for a moment, pull back the curtain of what motivates you and the secret fears that under gird all your actions. If only it were that easy to do. Unlike the vivid imagery of The Matrix, or the final scene in The Wizard of Oz, we can’t really divorce ourselves from our culture and our history this side of glory.
As you may have heard, this past year or two, since I left my band of 10 years, I’ve poured over a collection of songs about the Church. The thing I keep coming back to in all my study and reflection is the way in which the consumer mindset of our society has dug deep roots under our Christian communities. In ways where the people of God should be reforming as a Counter-culture, instead, we look more like a Sub-culture. We are marked more by the ways we imitate the world then by the ways we reclaim our civilization for the glory of God.
The world sells us false independence, disappointment, illusions of prosperity and an improved self-image—all at a great price. In contrast, the Church places us in right dependence as a community, gives us identity in the larger narrative of God and His people, and frees us from this relentless state of self-absorption. So if that’s true, then why do so many of our American churches seem to chase after marketing trends so we can fill more seats and build bigger facilities? And why is my heart so addicted to buying the latest product that promises to satisfy my felt needs? We are an idolatrous people, looking to all sorts of broken cisterns to satisfy our insatiable thirst.
If you’re like me, you look around on Sunday morning and wonder how this bunch of ordinary, hypocritical folks can be God’s love to this desperate world? The answer is simple, and you’ve heard it before. The Church becomes the object of God’s affection only through Jesus. Jesus came to make this bunch of sad, complacent, stubborn, wrecked and displaced people beautiful. Not just to make them lovely on their outsides, but truly and completely acceptable before the Almighty. If we believe this to be true, then it literally changes everything. Because of Jesus, we are free to lay our lives down for somebody that may look nothing like us. Because of Jesus, we are called to step out into the larger story, from just living out a series of our own personal decisions. And because of Jesus, we exchange our earthly agendas for kingdom work that will last forever.
The bad news is, there’s no formula to follow, no new book to run out and buy, and no list of 10 easy steps that will fix you and your local Church body. The good news is, this leaves us with a healthy dose of divine mystery, messy community in progress, worship that makes us sane, and most importantly—it leaves us with Jesus. The way to be a counter-culture is Jesus. The way to love each other well is Jesus. And the way the Church can be who She is for this dying world is Jesus. May all other affections die out, all other promises disappoint, and all other hopes fail. Maybe then we will collapse on Him again, as if for the first time, as we remember that He is the only one who can satisfy our ever restless souls.
What blows my mind about this, is that it took me YEARS to see the counter-culture-ness of Christ, after buying into the sub-culture-ness for years. Glad I see it now.