I watched an episode of Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show several months back. You may have seen it. At the end of the show, comedian Nick Thune came out and started off his stand up claiming that he could be a youth pastor in any church in America. He laughingly stated that the church would hire him based on his “beard alone” and later went on to say he could also be hired because of “how cool I look”. He said he was doing some research on YouTube and came across a well-known pastor that had millions of views. I have no idea who this pastor was and I’m not here to condemn this pastor because I don’t know the entirety of the sermon. Thune proceeded to tell the audience about the video. The pastor started the video with a story about how he would never forget when he was five years old getting lost in the grocery store. The pastor then posed the question to the YouTube audience “have you ever felt lost?” Thune then said with a chuckle and shaking his head in amazement, “Pause! I can do that! I can take an insignificant false memory and relate it to people who are dealing with deep spiritual issues, not a problem!” After his initial opening lines, Thune then went on to grab a guitar and proceeded to not only mock pastors, but also the idea that a move of the Holy Spirit can only be completed by the dimming of the lights and some vague spiritual references spoken over the strumming of the guitar.
If we think about Thune’s perspective on the church one might be tempted to go on the defense and reference the following verses:
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” 1 Peter 3:12
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18
While these verses are absolutely true, the only problem with that thought process is that Thune was not mocking Christians for living out their faith but for their shallowness. Thune had watched enough videos on the internet to see a pattern develop and was able to base a whole stand up routine mocking the lack of depth that is being taught in our churches and the self-glorification that is happening during worship. I felt an overwhelming since of brokenness while watching Thune because he was very accurate in portraying the epidemic that is going on in America’s churches. This blog post is not in any way meant to bash Thune but to bring awareness to a very serious problem in the American church. I pray that Thune would experience the real Jesus Christ and not the diluted version that he has encountered on YouTube.
If more Christians were living for the Lord instead of building an audience, maybe Thune’s stand up routine would have went a little differently. I imagine a scenario where instead of being mocked for a superficial faith that attempts to stay relevant with culture, we are mocked for a genuine faith in Jesus that sets us apart from the culture. Shallowness stems from trying to sugar coat the gospel and make Jesus look more like us. David Platt, pastor and author of Radical said, “If we form Jesus to look like us and be who we want Him to be, then even when we gather together and sing our praises and lift our hands, we are not worshipping the Jesus of the Bible, we are singing and worshipping ourselves.” (watch full video here)
Being a pastor’s kid and a traveling church singer/musician, I have seen firsthand within the church the reality that Thune portrays. I have set under many sermons that started off with an ambiguous story that stirred up emotions and maybe one bible verse was referenced over the course of the entire 45 minutes allotted. I have set in worship services where it was apparent the worship leader was focused more on being hip than being in touch with what Christ-centered praise looks like.
I’m frankly tired of seeing this. It disgusts me how much we think of ourselves and how little we are focused on Christ. Notice I said “we”, because I’m lumping myself in with this. I’ve been guilty of this self-centered type of faith. In recent years the Lord has been gracious enough to reveal my selfishness. I am so thankful for those he has placed in my life that have cared enough to pour Godly wisdom over my heart and model what selflessness and servant hood looks like.
I was blessed to be a part of a church where serving and loving others was done well. I want to commend Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY for their devotion to the things of the Kingdom and their love of our family. The moment we stepped into that church, we were greeted with genuine smiles. We had several people offer to take us to lunch after the service and invite us to their small group. After only visiting a few times, we actually had church members show up at our doorstep with trucks and trailers to help us move from our apartment in Lexington to our rental house in Frankfort. These people had driven 45 minutes out of their way to come and help a newly married couple that had mentioned in passing that they were in the midst of trying to move. You want to talk about faith into action, well there it was. I will admit, it was a little awkward at first because we had never experienced any church that was so earnest, but their intentionality left a wonderful impression on us. The joy and enthusiasm for the Lord was contagious and it made you excited to be a part of God’s work. They modeled the “Acts 2” manner of living in a way I’d never seen before (Acts 2:42-47). After one service, we knew that’s where God wanted us.
After our move to Tennessee and painfully leaving that church behind, it became even more apparent how many churches are missing out on this type of fellowship. As we were searching for a new church we knew that there is no such thing as a perfect church because it is full of broken people, but there is a way in which we can do church “well”. Serving and discipleship are severely lacking within many churches and the problem is that two more areas must develop before these concepts really take pure form. The first area is studying God’s word and the second is prayer. These seem like basic practices but surprisingly many churches are missing the mark. Leadership within the church must have a desire for growth and a love for discipleship while the members must be devoted to daily meeting with God. I want to go further into these four areas but for sake of length, I am making this a two-part blog.
I am sorry for the silence the last few months. The move to Tennessee proved harder for our family than expected but I hope to be sharing more blog posts on a regular basis along with new music I have been working on. Thanks for reading and look out for part two which I will post in a couple of weeks!