Don’t Judge the Savior By the Screwball…

17 03 2011

(Author’s Note: This post is part of a multi-author blog site called “The Question”, where a variety of authors will be blogging about a sole topic. To check out the site, please go to whygrudge.blogspot.com or facebook.com/The-Question)


It’s the epic question that, provided you had the right answer, could land you a multi-million dollar book contract and enough speaking engagements to last you a lifetime.

The problem is that I don’t suspect that there’s merely one answer to this taxing question: why do people have a grudge against Christians and the church?

The implications of the answers affect each one of us, as Christians. However, if we’re being honest with ourselves—do we really want to know why we’re so disliked?

To put it in another perspective, isn’t what we’re asking here tantamount to the nerdy dweeb asking the most popular kid in school to bluntly list out all the reasons why he’s not cool?

Quite simply, one of the biggest reasons that Christianity isn’t popular is that we’re soldiers stranded in a hostile enemy territory.

Jesus himself tells us in Luke 12:51, “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” The world we live in has little patience for our standards of life. They don’t understand that our philosophy isn’t “every man for himself”, but instead “love your neighbor as yourself”. In a culture obsessed with freedom and success, the idea of submitting and laying down idols seems downright stupid.

And worshipping someone you can’t even see? Ridiculous.

For a year in college, I lived with a roommate who wasn’t a Christian. She was so clueless about Christianity, in fact, that when she watched “The Passion of the Christ” for a mandatory religion class assignment, she paused halfway through the scene of Jesus being whipped mercilessly and asked me, “They don’t kill this guy in the end, do they?”

My roommate observed my behavior as a Christian for an entire year. She asked me questions about why I would get up early on Sunday for church, or why I would waste time reading my Bible when I could be hanging out with the boy I had a crush on down the hall. When I finally convinced her to come to a campus chapel, after months of praying for the opportunity to get her in church for the first time in her life, she sat in mute silence, her face stony. She never came to chapel again.

I valiantly tried my best to point out all the benefits to my life as someone who had a relationship with Christ, but she wasn’t won over by my best arguments. To this ultra-hip, beautiful girl who had everything in the world going for her, she didn’t have the slightest interest in giving up her wild weekends and changing her lifestyle to live a life of obedience and thankfulness for her Savior.

Ultimately, my former roommate became a Christian five years later, after she hit rock bottom in her life. It wasn’t until everything in her life was shaken that she finally realized how important Christ really is.

I think that’s part of it, truly. Our lives are so comfortable and convenient, so fast-paced and chaotic, so distracted, that we forget that we need a Savior. In fact, we’re not entirely convinced that we have anything we need to be saved from. Sure, maybe we screw up every once in a while—but me? Deserve death for my disobedience? Nah.

Sometimes we don’t even realize that our lives have an ending point—and a future home after death—until something earth-shattering forces us to recognize our own invincibility.

And maybe, if we’re being honest, we don’t like to be reminded that we’re invincible. Perhaps we resent the fact that Christianity points out the weaknesses we want to hide, the secret flaws we want to pretend don’t exist in us, and the fact that we, too, will someday cease to breath and will die.

But why, too, are people so opposed to Christians themselves?

Being a Christian, I’m not sure if I can answer that for the “other team” accurately. But I suspect that maybe we find people hating us so much because, well, we’re kind of lame sometimes.

A Christian shirt I actually own...

We wear our pithy Christian shirts. We listen exclusively to our Christian radio stations. We read our Christian books with ridiculous titles, we drive our cars with silly bumper stickers, and we frequent Christian establishments.

Do we ever intentionally look at the bubble of safety we’ve created for ourselves to live comfortably within, and think that maybe we’re not meant to live solely in this zone? That maybe God called us to live out in the world and witness Him to people who don’t read Christian magazines and listen exclusively to Chris Tomlin?

As hard as we try, we’ll never be anything like Jesus. Yet we walk around proclaiming to be His earthly representatives. Unfortunately, when we yell to the world, “I’m a Christian!” and then screw up—as we so often do—we’re representing Him poorly.

Imagine a secretary who proudly claims to represent her boss so well…yet she continually forgets messages, doesn’t return phone calls, loses important receipts, chews out other employees, and bungles one business deal after another. Isn’t that sort of like what we Christians are doing to God?

I hate when I hear a band do a cover of a song from another popular group. Sure, it’s technically the same song—and sure, they can hit all the notes—but at its core, it’s merely an imitation of the real thing. And really, that’s what we are, as Christians. We are merely an imitation of Christ—not Jesus himself.

Sometimes we’re a pretty darn lousy imitation, too. But just as you can’t judge a horrible rendition of a song and give up on the original tune because of the blockhead cover artist, the world shouldn’t judge Christ based on our failed attempt to represent Him.

Somehow, I suspect our mission needs to be getting ourselves out of the way and letting the Holy Spirit shine through us as unclouded as He can. To share that, as Christians, we’re not perfect–but even as the fact that counterfeit money is circulated in the world doesn’t detract from the real money that’s out there, our weak imitation of Christ doesn’t truly represent who He is.

His kindness overflows. Ours does not.

His love is endless. Ours is not.

His forgiveness is limitless. Ours is not.

We are human. He is Almighty.

Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to realize how far we really are from Christ’s perfect love, and to honestly show that gap to the world. It’s only when we’re actually open to the stinging truth of our own failures and shortcomings that we can admit our own infallibility and our desperate need for a Savior.

Because really, that’s the beauty of our faith in a nutshell: in our deepest shame and our biggest mistakes, we can be forgiven and renewed and given a future we don’t deserve through the grace that Christ offers us freely and unconditionally.

And when we, as His earthly representatives, can be candid about this—maybe we’ll encounter a world more likely to sympathize with us.





The Future of Our Faith–A Return to Simplicity?

6 12 2010

Yesterday, I experienced a glimpse of heaven on earth–which prompted me to seriously ponder my faith, the spiritual state of our world, and the future of Christianity.

And no, this wasn’t because I successfully survived wearing high heels for over twelve hours without my toenails falling off in sheer protest.

I took two of my musical students to the Cathedral Basilica in downtown St. Louis, a breathtakingly beautiful monument created entirely out of mosaics. If you live anywhere in the Midwest and want to see something that rivals the grandeurs of Europe, this is the place to check out. I’ve been inside nearly a dozen times, and each time I’m stunned into reverent contemplation. It’s incredible.

We went to enjoy “Christmas at the Cathedral”, a two-hour concert extravaganza featuring two choirs, a handbell team, an organ, and an orchestra. I had been wanting to go to this concert for two years, and couldn’t convince any of my friends to go until I finally found some fellow (albeit young) music-lovers this year who are just as captivated by music as I am.

I was swept away by the beauty of the music, the strings and brass echoing hauntingly through the massive stone walls. I marveled, with tears in my eyes, as the choir sang an a cappella version of “Silent Night” from the transepts. And, when the entire crowd stood at the very end of the concert to sing “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” together with the organ, orchestra, choirs, and handbells triumphantly blasting, I literally choked up and couldn’t even utter a sound.

Listening to the pure voices resound through the crowds as they sang classical Latin and Italian hymns and simultaneously seeing the lights shimmer and glint off the magnificent and intricate mosaics transported me back to the medieval times–a time when God wasn’t my “homeboy” or a plastic action figure on my desk, but the Creator who imbued man with the ability to create, dream, and act in ways that couldn’t help but glorify Him.

Back then, the Bible wasn’t an application on our phones–it was a life-giving message of hope in an otherwise dark and dangerous world. And back then–without the myriad of useful objects that have cluttered our lives and distracted us to the point that we can’t have a meaningful conversation with anyone for even a few minutes–people had time to contemplate how grand God actually is.

In our present day and age, I think we’ve become too familiar with God–too comfortable with treating Him like He’s just another buddy. We paste Him on shirts, erasers, and lunch boxes. Athletes and celebrities occasionally throw Him an obligatory “shout out” and a generic, politically correct (and thus totally bland and meaningless) statement about how they “believe in Him”. We create nicknames and fan clubs of Him on Facebook, and mock Him on South Park.

More than anything, I am stunned that the God who inspires people–no, who designed people to rise up and sing, paint, dance, speak, live and love beyond their own limits–that He could possibly care about someone as insignificant as me.

It’s an ignorant and shameful idea that we can mock Him and treat Him so condescendingly and lightly. He’s not my “homeboy”–He’s beyond comprehension.

It’s an unspeakable privilege that I am even blessed to pray to God, let alone claim to be His follower.

English pastor F. W. Robertson once said, “One thing, and only one, in this world has eternity stamped upon it. Feelings pass; resolves and thoughts pass; opinions change. What you have done lasts–lasts in you. Through ages, through eternity, what you have done for Christ, that, and only that, you are.”

Lately, nearly everything I’ve read and heard about is pulling up obscure passages from the book of Nehemiah. It’s uncanny, actually–that so many unrelated sources and people are all pointing me back to this simple book.

In short, Nehemiah’s fellow countrymen, the Jews, were living in the rubble of the once-powerful city of Jerusalem. This broke Nehemiah’s heart, and he began praying for God to work mightily on the Jew’s behalf. He started planning for rebuilding the city, and as he served King Xerxes as a cup-bearer (a trusted position), the king asked him why he was so downcast. Nehemiah jumped at the opportunity to share his thoughts, offering a well-planned solution for rebuilding Jerusalem. Xerxes agreed to supply him with the materials he needed, and eventually Nehemiah inspired the people to rebuild the city–despite plenty of opposition. The gates were completed in an incredible 52 days.

Nehemiah left the city and returned after 12 years to find the walls sound, but the people in moral decay. I was thrilled to highlight Nehemiah 13:25 in my Bible: “I argued with those people, put curses on them, hit some of them and pulled out their hair” (boy, I guess I’m doing just fine with how I handle those rowdy high school boys!) Eventually, Nehemiah reestablished true worship and sincere prayer, and encouraged a cultural revival which led to the people actually reading and listening to the Word of God.

Maybe this is where God is leading His church today–another revival, a step away from the shallow, technology-obsessed, discontent world we’ve let take over our lives. Maybe the future of our faith is a return to the simple majesty and wonder that the early Christians had for their Savior.

I’m currently reading Mark Batterson’s book, Primal. In his opening chapters, Batterson says he took a trip to Rome and embarked on an underground tour into the catacombs of an ancient church, which were hidden under layers of church buildings that were topped off by a cathedral–as was the Roman habit, to build on top of preexisting buildings, century after century.

He writes, “As I tried to absorb the significance of where I was, I couldn’t help but wonder if our generation has conveniently forgotten how inconvenient it can be to follow in the footsteps of Christ. I couldn’t help but wonder if we have diluted the truths of Christianity and settled for superficialities. I couldn’t help but wonder if we have accepted a form of Christianity that is more educated but less powerful, more civilized but less compassionate, more acceptable but less authentic than that which our spiritual ancestors practiced.

Over the last two thousand years, Christianity has evolved in lots of ways. We’ve come out of the catacombs and built majestic cathedrals with all the bells and steeples. Theologians have given us creeds and canons. Churches have added pews and pulpits, hymnals and organs, committees and liturgies. And the IRS has given us 501(c)(3) status. And there is nothing inherently wrong with any of those things. But none of those things is primal. And I wonder, almost like the Roman effect of building things on top of things, if the accumulated layers of Christian traditions and institutions have unintentionally obscured what lies beneath.”

I’ve talked to a lot of unchurched people about Christ in the last several years–probably upwards of 100. And when I really think about it, their opposition to Christianity usually isn’t Christ–it seems to be an opposition to what Batterson aptly described, “the accumulated layers of Christian traditions and institutions”.

Maybe our best hope for the future is to strip away these layers and reveal the raw majesty of God, the Almighty Creator who fashioned neurons and cells in the tiniest of organisms. To show people the passionate love of Jesus, who didn’t worry about being inoffensive and politically correct, but who truly embraced everyone. To share the power and creativity of the Holy Spirit, which equips and empowers average people in incomprehensible ways.

Maybe our generation needs its own Nehemiah…





A Call To Authenticity…and Only Read If You Want Raw Honesty (Otherwise, I WILL Offend You)

10 10 2010

Whether you’ve known me for thirty seconds or twenty years, you can readily surmise a few key things about me:

  • I’m confident and outgoing, and have never yet experienced a situation in which I was truly intimidated.
  • I’m curious and hungry to constantly learn.
  • I’m driven and purposeful, and attempt to plan everything in my life.
  • I’m steady and reliable, and will get the job done at any cost.
  • I’m brutally honest and open about who I am.

Lest you think I have an elevated sense of ego, let me quickly point out some negative qualities I possess:

  • I doubt and wrestle with literally every decision I’ve ever made.
  • I love people, but often run out of compassion and tolerance for them.
  • I’m competitive, and constantly have to refocus my zealous nature so it doesn’t consume me.
  • At some point or another, I scare the living daylights out of others because I’m “too much person in one body” (a statement made by not one, but two ex-boyfriends)
  • I feel and think more deeply than anyone else I know, which makes my life feel like a rubber band constantly stretched out and tight with tension.

In short, I am human. Fashioned in the image of God, but riddled with sin.

I think I’d be lying if I said my life was terrible—it’s far from that. I’ve been incredibly blessed by an amazing and relatively pain-free childhood, a wonderful family, and a loving and understanding husband. I danced through college and graduated with high honors, and secured a job in a highly competitive field before I was even done with my education. And, while facing daunting choices in the last few years, God has been faithful in every situation and every time.

But so often, I still feel unsatisfied and jaded. My life feels overly complicated, and I feel like I’m lost, stranded alone in the middle of a storm on a wild and unpredictable ocean.

I feel like no one can possibly understand me completely, and that I can’t hope anyone ever will. My zeal to win drives me to want to do anything it takes to achieve status, purpose, and acclaim—yet reaching one goal after another feels empty. I’ve given my life to work with people and share Christ with them, but I can’t help myself from wanting to sucker-punch a lot of these people in the face for being bean brains.

Remember that part about brutal honesty, and scaring people away? Yep. Guilty.

In all seriousness, if that last line offended you, you probably never should’ve started reading my blog in the first place. Trust me, there are plenty of nice people who write about loving kittens and needlepoint, and who like nothing more than Thomas Kinkade art plastered all over their walls.

If that appeals to you, quit this page while you’re still ahead.

Why write all of this out and share it with the world? Because I had a moment this last week, when I was attending the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta. (Actually, I had several moments—but let’s be honest, I don’t want to write out every thought and you don’t want to read it.)

One of my biggest “Aha!” moments was this: I’m fed up with our shallow world.

I crave authenticity, not more meaningless, trite drivel. If I wanted that, I’d spend my life watching “E News” and reading Cosmopolitan.

I’m tired of filtering my words, walking on eggshells, and trying to say things in the most bland, politically correct way I can—and thus effectively not saying much at all.

I’m sick of living in a world where people think more about updating their Facebook page than about how to truly understand each other.

I’m annoyed with people who arrogantly think they know it all in a big world that’s constantly growing and ever-changing.

I’m fed up with a Christianity that attempts to summarize itself onto a t-shirt or bumper sticker, when I connect with and revere a Savior who defies description and operates in ways far beyond my pea-sized brain can ever attempt to understand.

Part of the courage I feel in saying this is that I think we’re truly at a crossroads in our world, at this point in history. Our world is changing and shifting literally every day—but at the same time, Christ is timeless and unchangeable.

And in a world that never stops moving, we can only find rest, relief, and richness in Him.

That’s what our world needs to realize.

I’ve read a lot of books lately, and have been weaving together a lot of challenging concepts and keen words from people who seem to be saying these same things I’ve felt for a long time. I just flew through Pete Wilson’s book, Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up The Way You Thought He Would?, and recently pondered my way through Josh Riebock’s My Generation, Tim Elmore’s Generation iY, and Dick Staub’s The Culturally Savvy Christian.

In short, all books that deal with understanding our world, the emerging generations, and what our society most needs to hear.

In all of these books, I see a calling for more people to shed the lame, crippling superficiality that punctuates every nuance of our lives.

I see a calling for the true Jesus to be shared—our incomprehensible Savior who didn’t walk around giving out daisy-chains and pats on the back, but who powerfully spoke the truth, hung out with the unlovable and marginalized people in society, and wasn’t afraid to flip tables around in a sacred place to stir up a place rife with mediocrity and apathy.

I see a calling for us to shed the stigma that we all have to fit in one perfect box with a nice Christian label, to operate a certain way or be a specific gender or have the right degree in order to effectively reach people.

I see a calling for Christians to speak the truth in love, in a post-modern society that barely comprehends what absolute truth is, and to offer a deep and satisfying Truth that defies earthly explanation—a Truth so rich and consuming that it stands in stark contrast to the empty, meaningless sham of society we’ve brought about through chasing empty foolishness for far too long.

Hey, if you’re offended, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Frankly, I don’t really care what you think—not when my brain is fired up with wrestling with divine truths. Sorry.

As much as it bugs me, I know not everyone likes me—but as screenwriter Randall Wallace quoted his mother’s wisdom this week in reference to being well-liked, “If they crucified Jesus, don’t you think there are probably going to be some people out there who don’t like you?”

One of the real privileges of my job is that I get to roll up my sleeves and not only study culture from a front-row seat, but connect with teens before they’re overly consumed with the pressures of adulthood and forced into a one-size-fits-all mold of a person.

And I think maybe my willingness to be transparent in who I am and how I feel—the way I can admit my faults and failures and not pretend to be something I’m not—helps them feel like they, too, can be honest with me. So, I think I probably hear a lot more brutal and unfiltered stories and emotions than your average person.

So, what do these honest kids say to me?

“I’m fed up with the bull crap.”

“I’m sick of this world.”

“I hate the fakeness of everything.”

“Life feels totally empty.”

“Why am I even here? Where am I going?”

If our thirteen and fourteen year-old kids are saying this, what are our thirty-five and fifty-year-olds saying?

More importantly, what are they feeling?

What are they daily wrestling with, doubting, fearing, questioning, and dabbling in? And who can they possibly share it with?

We’ll never know what truly goes on in our world, with the people we claim to love, and never be able to reach them with the Truth they desperately need to hear until we can first shed our protective layers, risk vulnerability and rejection, and take the step to be real with others—to show our mistakes, fears, failures, and personality flaws to them.

And, at the same time, powerfully show them without words that we have a Savior who’s bigger than our biggest screw-up, faithful even when we’re not, restoring and life-changing, and utterly incomprehensible in power and majesty–in contrast to a world where everything is explained and detailed on Wikipedia and the only real mystery is why they can’t make a mascara that doesn’t flake off after twelve hours.

Authenticity. Maybe that’s our simple calling in this century.

And hey, if I offended you? Just spend some time playing with your kittens and gazing upon your Thomas Kinkade prints. You’ll feel better in the morning.





“You’re Not Mrs. Moore.”

11 03 2010

Today, I was greeted by a fifth grader at Point Elementary with the words, “You’re not Mrs. Moore.”

My response: “What do you mean?”

Her: “You’re not Mrs. Moore. Even though everyone calls you that.”

Me: “Uh, ok…what’s my name?”

Her: “Cassie.”

Me: “Yes, my name is Cassie.”

Her: “Yep. That’s what we get to call you outside of school, when we’re having fun at church.”

Me: (thinking to myself–“She said she has fun at church! Sweet!”)

Our church recently started a tutoring program in the local public schools here in Oakville. We see it as a service to our local community–after all, our goal here at Faith is to be “transforming communities and changing lives”. Our schools are in desperate need of extra help around the classroom. A few months back, our church responded by gathering a group of nearly 40 people together to talk about how we could help by tutoring in classrooms on a weekly basis.

Our thought? “Hey, we actually get to be in the schools, working with kids and teachers–serving our community with the same love and compassion that Jesus demonstrated for us!” No other motive.

We all went through training, background checks, and school initiations in order to be fully prepared to serve.

The schools absolutely love us–in fact, we’ve had schools from all over the St. Louis area contacting us to see if they can get involved with our tutoring program. 

The first day I arrived at Point Elementary, where I’m stationed to serve twice a week for about an hour each time, the guidance counselor introduced me to the entire office staff and pretty much every person wandering around in the halls–and they all knew already that I was a “Faith tutor”. In fact, their guidance counselor was raving about how she couldn’t wait until next year, when we could really build this program up because it’s filling such a crucial need at their school. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone so excited about a church program–and the fact that it’s a public school welcoming us with such open arms is pretty significant.

I’m currently tutoring  in a fifth-grade classroom. On the first day, the teacher introduced me and gave me a chance to talk about Faith. When I mentioned the church, several kids excitedly yelled, “I’ve been there before!”

Since then, as I work with the kids by coaching them with their writing assignments, many have asked me questions about the church and about what I do. Several of the kids have commented on how they’ve either attended or been invited to Fusion 56, our Sunday morning Bible study and monthly themed event night for fifth and sixth grade kids. Today, the teacher even asked me specifics about what I do.

Even though I don’t know what the beliefs of these people are, and even though I’m not pushing Christianity on them at all, they’re curious. And open.

As one student today said, “Why are you here? You don’t have to be, right?” I responded truthfully, “No, I don’t have to be here. I have a full-time job. But I want to be here, to meet new people like you, and get the chance to help them.”

He flashed me the biggest smile I’d ever seen from this student (a quiet, somewhat morose boy) and simply said, “Cool.”

Today, several students stayed in from recess to talk to me. And they wanted to know all about middle school ministry at Faith. Talk about an exciting opportunity–by merely having our team of volunteers in the schools, we’ve tapped into an entire population of kids hungry for a connection with church.

And the little girl was correct–at church, I’m just Cassie.

Not “Mrs. Moore”.

I like that.