Friday, March 1, 2013

How about another chapter from my project?

Lights, Camera…Acting!

         My wife and I once visited a large church in Texas.  We just happened to be in town, and, although most of the time when we are on vacation we simply do not go to church (and Jesus still loves us)…we decided to visit this popular megachurch.  The morning services were on television, so it was kind of cool to just watch the logistics.  Everything went smoothly, from the opening prayer, the orchestra, the worship team, the worship songs, videos and the message.  It was very well done, as one would expect in a church like this.  At the end of the service, the pastor was in the side hallway (or foyer for you church folks) to meet visitors.  On a whim, I decided to shake his hand, so we went and got into the reception line.

         When I met him, I was struck with two distinct reactions that I still remember almost 20 years later.  The first…he was wearing makeup.  Don’t read too much into that, remember he was on television.  The make up was to keep him from looking like the face of Moses as the bright lights reflected off his white face.  He had on base, some blush, and also eye liner.  It was all done for television, and I have absolutely no problem with it.  It is just that I was not expecting it at all.  The pastor had on makeup?  What kind of he-man super Christian wears makeup?  I know that I made him uncomfortable as I stared at him, itemizing all the different places that he was wearing the stuff.  The second reaction that I had was also outward.  He was short.  I mean really short.  On the stage, and on television, he appeared average or even above average in height.  I am only 5’9” and I was looking down at him. 

         So what?  As I said, there is no problem theologically with the camera angles making him look tall, or with the makeup to make him look good on camera.  However, all these years later I think that this is a great illustration of what we do as Christians, and to what has been happening for 2,000 years. 

         We are supposed to let our light shine.  We are on stage and the world is watching.  We are under the spotlight.  We need to look good for the viewer to have a nice first impression of Christianity. So…we play dress up.

         We cover up our blemishes, elevate the podium, highlight our eyes, put a little base on the bright spots, and find the best angle for the camera.  We act.  We act and we act and we act.  However, there comes a point when the drama we call Christianity becomes a tragedy of Shakespearean scope.  We forget that we are acting. 

My wife and I enjoyed a funny movie the other day, watching it in our bed on our portable dvd player.  The movie was about making movies.  It was looking at the lives of the producers and actors, the screen writers and the directors.  In the story, there was one actor who was portraying an extremely silly but successful character.  Somewhere along the way, this actor began to believe that he was the character, and never left his role.  On camera or off camera, he played the same person.  That is what made it funny.  He did not know he was acting.

         This is what we do.  We get enlisted into the Christian drama and receive our parts, our lines, and our scenes.  We learn how to act like great Christians, and we do so with tremendous success.  Then, one day we stop acting.  The pretense has penetrated reality, and we are now simply a foolish person who thinks that they are someone else. 

         I believe that most, if not all, of the current discipleship programs are little more than scripts for us to memorize and portray.  We are taught what good Christians do and we want to look like good Christians, so we do them.  I believe that most discipleship programs can be summed up like this:

Mature Disciples and Good Christians:
  1. Read their Bibles.
  2. Pray
  3. Go to church
  4. Try to get other people to read their Bibles, pray and go to church.

This is a very simplistic representation, but it is fairly accurate.  Whether is it the Navigator’s Wheel, the Masterlife Cross, the Purpose Driven Diamond, or some other system…in a nutshell they all say (please don’t get mad at me if you teach or love these systems)…Discipleship is reading your Bible, praying, going to church, and trying to get other people to read their Bible, pray and go to church.  There is a little more…this is an Occam’s Razor type of analysis, but you get my point.

However, isn’t that what Mark the Mormon does?  Isn’t that what our friends the Pharisees did?  Isn’t that what was going on in Galatia, so that God wrote an entire Book against it?  Before we go on, let’s look at Galatians and see what God has to say about this type of discipleship.