Barb and I just got back from spending a week in Mazatlan, Mexico. It was partly a ministry trip, where we hung out with ministry team members there and spoke at one of the local churches ... and partly a vacation where we hung out by the pool at the resort on other days. Nice!
This strange thought popped into my head as I was getting ready this morning: We rarely ate “authentic” Mexican food. The word authentic was the key ... authentic Mexican food. So I looked up the word authentic.
Aw-then-tic 1. a : worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact <paints an authentic picture of our society>
b : conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features <an authentic reproduction of a colonial farmhouse>
c : made or done the same way as an original <authentic Mexican fare>
So only on a couple of occasions did we eat, I guess, what I would call authentic Mexican food. We were in Mexico, and all the food was prepared by real Mexican people, served by Mexican servers ... but it was a cheeseburger! Could it have been an authentic Mexican cheeseburger? Did not have any peppers on it (I am a sissy with hot stuff) ... no guacamole ... on a regular old bun ... American cheese. Nope, not authentic, I suppose.
Got me thinking. Aren’t we all looking for the real thing (not Coca-Cola)? Don’t we all want authentic?
In the church, don’t we all want to be authentic followers of Jesus? Genuine, real? Conforming to an original? I would think so ... at least most of us would say so.
I am sure some of us are content going to church, giving a little and then going home feeling like our duty is done for the week. Many of us want to do it the same way as the original ... not easy. (We tend to forget that it cost our original, Jesus, his life.)
In the church we have many ideas what this looks like. I have a friend who wrote a book titled, “Jesus Brand Spirituality,” and let’s face it -- this is what we are looking for. Again, it is someone’s idea of what that looks like ... his brand of spirituality. I have seen the books on being “red letter” Christians, you know the ones who follow closely the words of Jesus. Nice.
I have been around the guys who still follow the Old Testament and others who are only into the New Testament. We all have an opinion on what an authentic believer or church looks like. It always looks like the one we hang out at. Isn’t that amazing? I mean, no one would be a part of a church that we would say, “This place is not real. It is really fake. I love it!” At least I hope not.
Now in my own tribe I think we would say we are really trying to do the words and the works of Jesus. We at the Vineyard Church of Toledo are one of those strange groups who pray for healing ... who believe God still speaks today ... who might prophesy ... shed a few tears during worship. You know the kind. Strange. Believes the Bible to be God’s word. His love story to a fallen world. (I am not promoting my church, just saying we like who we are too!)
Bill Hybels says that the local church is the hope of the world ... and yet there are always voices telling us we need to change, we need to get cooler, we need to connect to culture.
I think it may be time to quit looking so inward at who we are as individual church families and try to see the larger family of God. The whole church, not just our piece.
What if we began to celebrate our differences rather than separate because of them? We are very much a rock and roll kind of place, but I love going into the cathedrals around us, to go to St. Paul’s Lutheran in Maumee to celebrate Christmas Eve in a different way. To go to an Ash Wednesday service, because I don’t really know what that is about. We don’t do liturgy, but others do and do it so well. Not competition ... family.
Every Sunday we pray for another local church. It reminds us we are not all that special, just a part of something big ... real ... authentic ... with many expressions.
I prayed for a church nearby a couple of weeks ago that I knew could get me in a bit of hot water because of some of the stances they take in the community and with scripture. I didn’t pray for them to change ... just prayed for them. As a part of the body. Do I agree with them now? No ... but I sensed God leading. We probably will never agree on many things ... one of us would have to change their mind ... probably not going to happen. OK. Let’s move on.
I think the difference would be this: We would say, “Come as you are and you will be loved.” And you will be loved ... loved into a relationship with Jesus that will bring change.
Change. We don’t like that thought at all. How do we come into his presence and stay the same as we were?
When I came to Christ I came to realize one woman was my limit ... not two or three. One. I had to change my 70s opinion and lifestyle. No one told me ... it is in the book ... and his Spirit began changing my heart. If I had really felt fulfilled before my Christ encounter I would not have considered changing. And then to be with this one woman we needed to be married, not co-habitating. Married.
Now this is the kicker: We see marriage as ... ready ... I know this will leave a mark ... one man and one woman. I think this is an authentic view of marriage. Going to the very front of the book. Now if you do not believe in the book, it really does not matter then does it? But if you do?
Now I wish we had spent more time looking for authentic Mexican food ... and I will continue to pursue the original ... to endeavor to become authentic. Not in a separatist kind of manner, an us and them model. It's just because I think that is what we do: Pursue the master, to become like Him.
There are plenty of copies of copies out there. I want the original. I want to be authentic. Don’t you?