So I was part of a church plant a few years ago that didn’t really go “well.” And yes, I started a post with the word ‘so’, take that 11th grade English. Essentially the church plant was developed with the intention of being “seeker friendly.” What does seeker friendly mean? It basically means this: don’t tell non-churched, non-believers that sometimes things are difficult. Make sure you make them feel welcome, and make sure you tell them Jesus wants you to be super happy and the whole world is a bounce house with him.
Is there anything inherently wrong with making the unchurched feel welcome? No. That is what we should strive for – open arms and open hearts. Side bar here, growing up, I went to a church where I heard on more than one occasion that we needed to be a church that made people feel uncomfortable because we were too into God. Right. Right, totally, we’re there to be the Holy Spirit and bring conviction. All that to say – seeker friendly, at least in the way it was displayed at our church was a huge disservice to the gospel. At no point does Jesus say, “Listen, if you follow me, the world will be your oyster. The schnozberries will taste like schnozberries, and you’ll be so darn happy, your blood will turn to sugar!” It seems to me that perhaps Jesus actually said the opposite (Luke 6:22) –
“Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.”
Well…great…thanks. That makes this all so much easier. When as believers did we decide that we must always be happy. Not full of joy mind you, that’s different, but “happy.” It seems to me that sometimes I just want to be sad. I just want to take my big goofy grin off my face, turn on Simon and Garfunkel and just gather my thoughts. Is this bad? I can’t believe it is since it’s an emotion that was given to us. Do I need to make that the only emotion I exude? No, that’s where the true joy of Christ comes in. Christ brings joy through sorrow, through misery, through afternoons in the rain.
Going back to the original thought though – our church plant that taught Jesus makes us “happy” was setting people up for failure, and I cannot believe that this church was/is the only one preaching that idea. If we teach people that the moment they follow Christ they become instant walking “Sweet N’ Low” packets, we are teaching them a perverted version of who Christ is. My goodness, read the Old Testament, that’s not exactly full of fun and laughs. We need to teach people the truth – following Christ is the same as any other relationship – some days are easier than others. There are expectations he will put out and you need to strive, with his help, to meet them. The power and love that he gives will far outweigh any and all sadness, but there will be dark days. Carry on though.