Having a form of godliness, but denying the power of it…
Herein lies one of my greatest faith fears. I have been reared in an American Christian Church Subculture my whole life. I don’t remember a day that I didn’t believe in God--not just a little bit, but a lot a bit. I didn’t even have a chance to think differently than I do, and if I did, it would have been like choosing to learn a whole new language all the while taking a vow that I would not speak even a word in the language of my native tongue. I could have done this, but you’d understand if I told you that this would have seemed daunting, time consuming. It was just easier to continue to speak in the language I was taught, regardless of whether it was the best language or not. I knew it, and that made it the best one for me.
The analogy breaks down on several levels, but you understand where I’m coming from. By the time my brain was developed enough to question the credibility of my faith, not my faith in God, but my faith in the sect of Christianity that was peddling their subjective interpretation, I already had so many chips in the pot that I felt unmotivated to start from scratch. I was pot committed you might say. Who wants to defy all the people that have labored to inculcate truth (their version) into one’s life? Who wants to tie a little pouch on the end of a stick, throw it over their shoulder, and head out the door to explore the wide world of religious thought with nothing but a gut instinct telling you something’s just not right? Who wants to apply themselves to that sort of devout search for truth when so much infrastructure has been fastened and fortified within? It might be spiritual, but it just doesn’t feel all that practical at that point in the game. So you decide to do with what you got and make the best of it.
But this form of godliness thing has to be the greatest deception. You’re not a raving drunk, a perverted pedophile, or a godless atheist…you’re simply a shinny piece of pressboard furniture. Veneer covered. From a distance, quite similar to the real thing, but upon closer inspection, it’s a joke. It’s not Jesus. It’s a joke. A Jesus-looking joke. And here’s the reason why.
It’s got no power. It’s got love. It’s got faith. It’s got morality. It just ain’t got no power.
I feel this a lot. And I’m a pastor. I feel like I’m a pretty good guy. I’ve got a better than average personality. I have an above average resume’. I’ve learned certain skills that attract people, skills that you can acquire by heading over to Barnes and Noble and grabbing a book off the New York Times best seller rack or frequenting a couple leadership conferences a year and taking good notes. People skills, communication skills, listening skills, management skills, writing skills, etc. But is this what pastoring has become? Mad Skills? I don’t think so.
It seems to me that all you have to be is sexy or savvy in today’s church culture and you get a free ride. You’re good. God is with you. If he wasn’t, you wouldn’t be sexy or savvy. Right? But this isn’t God-powered living. This is American business strategy applied to the upside-down, inside-out Kingdom of God. It has energy, but does it have power? It will induce inspiration, but does it produce transformation? It’s like what one Indian said when he went to church for the first time, “Lots of Wind, Lots of Dust, No Rain.” No Rain.
It doesn’t matter how must wind and dust we kick up each week, if it doesn’t produce rain, it’s not worth a rat’s rump. And sometimes I feel like a lot of wind and dust, smoke and mirrors.
And here’s where my background comes into play. Even if I don’t sense any power behind my preaching or pastoring or praying, I just keep going because I don’t know what else I would do if I didn’t do it. It’s not only my fault, it’s my default. It’s actually easy for me to feel like things are successful without “power” being one of the determining factors. Why? Because I don’t know any different, with or without power. I’ve so infrequently seen power in my faith, that I don’t even hold myself accountable to experience it anymore. Things like love, passion, faithfulness…these are the things I hold myself accountable to. They are wonderful virtues, but they are not POWER. They can all be fabricated and manipulated. You wanna know how I know that? Because I’ve done it, more times than I’d like to admit, I’ve done it. But power can’t be faked, really it can’t. You either got it or you don’t. And if you’re used to be honest with yourself (few are), you know whether it’s power or powder. You just know. And people around you do, too. You can’t feign power.
And sometimes--I’m just saying--power is as far away as the planet Pluto. I’m busily carrying on with ministry…as if. As if I’m really powered by God. As if I’m just fine. As if I’m godly. But I’m not. I’m just a “form” on many days. A shell of a sham. And here’s the kicker…I don’t know any better on most days because power just hasn’t been part of the discipleship grid for the better part of my life.
Anybody else out there scared to death that they are but a form of godliness living in denial of its power?