Gym Memberships and the Newness of Christianity
Starting something new can be fun, full of fear, or a little of both. I remember several years ago having a new gym membership. A nice try at a New Year’s resolution that went horribly wrong. Jamie and I got to the gym all geeked about working out and getting in shape. In the back of my mind, thoughts of junior high gym rushed in. I had done my best to endure that hour of my week back then, but here I was, ready to tackle new machines.
The gym owner gave us a 15-minute tour of the place and showed us a few of the machines. We did our best to follow his tips and stuck with it for a few months. But I never got comfortable and we eventually quit going.
I figure that attending a new church or starting to go to church after being away for a while is a lot like that. Uneasiness and discomfort mixed with eagerness to learn more and ask questions. As someone who has grown up in the church all my life, it’s difficult for me to view her with other glasses.
One of my hopes as a pastor is that I will never be comfortable enough with what I know of church and of God to assume that every person I meet thinks the same way. I want to be hospitable on Sundays, full of both grace and truth, ready to dialogue about the faith in ways that make sense. I want to assume that people are hungry for God and desire at the very minimum, someone who wants to give instruction as they get started (or restarted).
One role I’ve tried to play in the last 1 1/2 years is that of teacher. I’ve written, and am still writing, 8 classes on the basics of the Christian faith. The goal is that those who want to discover more about living the Christian life would find some help, and that I would play a role in helping them stick with Christ longer than I did with the gym.
1. Christian spiritual formation, dealing with how we can expect to encounter God and what He does in us to change us. How do we begin to look and act more like Jesus? I have posted the contents of this class on the blog in full already.
2. Scripture reading, dealing with the Bible and the various ways Christians have read it. It’s a complicated book. How do we read it and let it read us?
3. The Nicene Creed, dealing with this historic affirmation of the core tenets of Christianity. What have Christians of (almost) all ages, cultures and places believed about God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
4. Old Testament Survey, an overview of every book in the Old Testament and the culture of God’s people. It is our story, regardless of how foreign it may seem to us. How do we read those verses, especially the toughies?
5. New Testament Survey, an overview of every book in the New Testament and the ways they were written. What’s a Messiah and what does it matter?
6. Missional living, dealing with God’s mission in the world and our part in it. God’s people are to be a blessing as missionaries, in a sense, right where they are. What does that look like in a post-Christian USA?
7. Prayer, the centerpiece of the Christian life and the lifeblood of the believer. How do we go beyond asking God for the stuff we need to praying as an integral part of friendship with God?
8. The seven deadly sins, and their corresponding virtues, and the way God calls Christians to be serious about throwing off sin that so easily entangles. What does it mean to live the virtuous life?
Perhaps you would have chosen different topics than me. If so, what would they be and why?