I remember in college, being in my last year of study, and being thrown a huge curve ball. In all of our music classes everything had revolved around a baseline system. That system was called “Movable Do.” It is that aged old system you are at least remotely familiar with – Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do. I know how you feel… you are suppressing the urge to sing the song from the Sound of Music. Anyway, we reached a point where they removed that system and altered the foundation that everything else had been based. This new system was like walking into a class finding a teacher who was suddenly speaking an entirely new language. Everything we had thought previously… our entire frame of reference was now pulled out from under us completely. It was a shocking and overwhelming moment.
Many people who grow up around our western church, and maybe most specifically our suburban church, have been raised with a definition of Christianity. This definition has been imposed and formed by the culture at large. Often we are raised equating the idea of Christianity with either being a good person or, for those of us who grew up inside the church, we have defined it by a prayer that is repeated in a sacramental fashion.
There is a passage in Matthew’s gospel that is particular hard for me to think about –
“Not everyone who says to me, Lord Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, Lord Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? And then will I declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
This means it is very important how we approach this idea of being a Christian. We have to fight against the cultural definitions and see a journey that begins with putting authentic faith in Jesus. This authentic faith is authentic because it touches every nook and cranny of who we are as individuals. This means that where we go to church, how often we attend, or whether our name is on a membership list isn’t the crux of the conversation. This cannot be overstated because the #1 answer I get during any spiritual conversation with someone in the community is a reference to what denomination they belong to or what church they attend. Too many times ‘attend’ just refers to walking in the doors of a building once a year, twice a year, or at best once per month.
We are called to follow Jesus, abide in Jesus, and trust in Jesus. This journey (the ups, downs, struggles, and victories) is what it means to be a Christian. It is a daily adventure which forever changes the story of our life. We are individuals who are called to follow, abide, and trust. Then, the church is called to navigate this journey as an authentic community being transformed by the love and grace of Jesus Christ. Not only is correctly defining Christianity hugely important to you and me but it radically changes the conversation we have with others. Have you ever experienced a spiritual conversation that was quickly met by the credentials of someone’s denominational affiliation? Have you ever heard the, “we go to *name-a-local-church* and we really enjoy it”? How can you participate in reclaiming the biblical definition of Christianity amidst your everyday conversations?
Matt Powell serves as teaching pastor at Crossings Community Church, a body of believers whose mission is to engage, equip, and empower homes for gospel transformation in Katy, TX.