How to Start a Revolution: A Church Shaken, Part 1
It’s hard to start this series of posts, because it feels like fire on my insides. I can’t hold it in, and I’m not exactly sure how it’s going to come out.
It began in Haiti over a month ago on our very last day. A few of us had decided to stay that extra day, and it landed me across the lunch table from a man named St. Cyr (sounds like Sincere). I had just walked with him and his son through a new church building and school. While we were in that beautiful building, he told me that money is nothing. Money is a small thing for God. The building was new and built there where the church started, right where the tent city was after the earthquake. St. Cyr worshipped Jesus every night in the center of that tent city. As he and his friends worshipped, the hope swelled, and the church grew. The church grew among a people who were literally starving, people who had lost everything.
We sat down in a restaurant that was much like a Haitian Hooters. The girls wore similar clothes. It was a clean, nice place. The men had a restroom inside and the women had to go out. The difference between the brokenness in that nation compared to the healing in the church of that nation was so blazingly obvious that it made me laugh like seeing the ocean for the first time. St. Cyr and his son weren’t afraid of the world whatsoever. There was no fear. We sat in Hooters, and I caught a glimpse of the kingdom of God. Glints of light flash out from what has to be “on earth as it is in Heaven.”
Across from St. Cyr, I asked him three questions, and then he preached to me in a booming voice for a solid 45 minutes without letting up. My first question was “How did you come to be such a leader?” Then he went the long way about telling me that he is not a leader. No one but Jesus leads. He is only a servant. He loves to care for the caregivers, and he serves care to caregivers until they become better caregivers. In other words, this is how he makes leaders.
Because he had chosen to leave a life with access to everything he wanted in the States, my second question was “Do you feel like you chose to be poor?” I’ll tell you his answer later, but let me go ahead and say that my asking that question was very revealing of my lack of understanding about the kingdom of God. It was the wrong question.
Then my third question was this: “Did you know that people are leaving the American church in droves?” His answer is what I need you to know. It has changed me, and I believe it can change us as a people, as a nation, and as a church.
St. Cyr offered me this, and I’ll say it to you in my own words. It is American culture that we will never be satisfied. When you want something, you go after it and get it, and as soon as you do, you want for something else, maybe a thousand more things. American culture will never have enough. It stands to reason that the church would follow suit. As long as people make a god of relevancy and of gain, they will never be satisfied with church. The leaders and church structures will never be able to offer what it is people feel like they need. If Jesus can’t be packaged and sold to the liking of the people, then people will leave.
It was as if he had taken my idea of Kingdom and put it in one of those shakers behind the bar. He shook me and my ideas, and oh how shakable was my idea of church. If you can shake it, you can leave it, but we are of an unshakable kingdom. So where is the discrepancy?
I was not on the island of Patmos, but I was on an island. I left consumed with joy, but how can it be that I feel utter joy and also WOE down to these fiery bones? I saw the American church and it was a marketplace, and it was in the slavery of debt, creating more product to keep itself afloat. I saw the church, and it had syncretized Jesus with consumerism. I saw us and we were all self-proclaimed and congratulated leaders on a platform. We were not exiles like beautiful Daniel. We were fat and unsatisfied like kingdom-building Babylon. And when we were thrown in with lions, we watched ourselves be eaten alive until we saw ourselves as exiles again.
So in the next few days, as I write these posts, I would like for you to consider revolution with me. Consider what it means to be in exile, to be a servant embodied by God in a shakable and unsatisfied land. Consider that the Kingdom of God is a kingdom of complete healing, for the individual, the church, the field, the forrest, nations, and the whole earth. Consider that captives will be set free. The hungry will eat. Is that what you say you believe?
We homeless ones will find our home. If you are in exile, let’s call ourselves the church, unshakable. Let us reassemble.
I have no idea how many parts this will have, but part 2 is tomorrow. Come on back when you get the chance and share your thoughts with me, even if there are just three of us having this conversation.