The Idolatry of the Grass

For the last few months, I’ve been really challenged personally about this idea I’m calling the idolatry of the grass. And it all came to a head when I recently visited a few other churches.

Here’s the basic premise: The grass always appears so much greener on the “other side.” I know this metaphor has been used for years, but it seems to be flaring up around me – and within me – more consistently and fiery than in recent years. In this case, I’m not referring to material things; I’m referring to CHURCH.

If we did things like THAT church, then we’d be x, y, and z.
If we reached young adults like THAT church, then I’d be more passionate about our mission.
If our pastor was like THAT pastor, then I’d start giving everything I’ve got. 
If we had a social media presence like THAT church, then I’d want to invite my friends. 

If I’m honest, I’ve gone through periods where the grass always looks so much greener at other churches. Because of how easily accessible so many churches are through their online presence and social media, I feel like I can get a glimpse into just how perfectly manicured, and spotless the church appears to be.

But then I visited some of these churches, met with some of their staff, and learned something: The grass ain’t that green. Staff still feel tension. Churches struggle to get people to come back again. Ministries struggle to get people engaged in the mission.

It’s an age-old trap, but one that is being utilized in a different way because of social media and a church’s online presence. It’s the trap – the idolatry – of comparison.

Does this mean we can’t look to other churches and learn from them? Of course it doesn’t mean that. We should always look to other churches to learn from them.

Does this mean whatever church you are at should walk around feeling and acting like it’s the greatest ever? Of course it doesn’t, but it does mean we can appreciate the church we are at for who we are and not always wish we were someone or something else.

I’m done with the idolatry of the grass. Idolizing other churches keeps us from truly engaging in the one God has placed us in. The grass ain’t that green, anyways. Let’s embrace the dirty, broken, brown-ish grass God has placed us in and continue to work towards it becoming a little more green.

Greatest When Least

“You know that the rulers in his world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you, it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42b-45 

In a few weeks, we are concluding a series at Ground Zero called Say What?! We’ve been teaching through the various things Jesus said, Jesus did, or God commands that are opposite of what the world, those who don’t follow Jesus, tells us is normal; things that make us go, say what?!

And I can’t stop thinking about this last one: Greatest when least. This might be Jesus’ most radical, most opposite teaching of what the world glorifies.

In a world where athletes are trying to “get what they deserve” – more money, more fame, more celebrity; in a world where business men and women are constantly striving to become greater – moving up the organizational chain, making more money; in a world where pastors attempt to gain more fame – placing their pearly-white teethed pictures on the front page of their church’s website, promoting themselves more than Jesus.

It’s a world that fully embraces the equation that greatness = more (money, success, fame, popularity).

But Jesus says he came to serve, to give his life as a ransom, and everyone must be a slave. Say What?!

We’re all born with a desire for more. We’re born with a gap between what life is and what life could be. There is a dissatisfaction inherent in each one of us, and we are driven by something to fill that gap.

The problem is, as Christians, we’ve begun to sell Jesus as the missing link to the gap – and not the “greatest when least” Jesus.

We sell the “Jesus will fulfill your dreams” or the “Jesus will make you happy” one. But we forget to mention that Jesus himself didn’t even promise to be that missing link between dissatisfaction and satisfaction, at least not in the way a Happy Meal or a winning Lottery ticket can fulfill our desires.

“Everywhere we turn we are being promised that our life can be wonderful if we follow a certain formula. It is as if the world is a huge vending machine full of products, each one promising to satisfy our souls.” Peter Rollins, Idolatry of God.

And he church has joined in this fun. In some ways, the youth ministry world worse than other parts of the church.

But what if Jesus came not to just be another product and instead, came to rid us of that desire for X perfection, X satisfaction, or X complete happiness? What if instead Jesus is saying: Stop searching for perfect harmony. Stop searching for what’s missing in the GAP, and instead, let me show you a different way. I came to give my life as a ransom for many. I didn’t find complete satisfaction in this. Instead, I gave my life away. I learned truly how to be greatest when least.

This may be true and I love the thought, but I am not sure how to completely follow Jesus on this one. If greatest is really least, how do we become least?

There lies the answer for our insatiable hunger for satisfaction. And there lies the answer we need to give our young people.