Today was my 1st day back at a gym after ten years. Before my motorcycle accident, I was a gym rat. Every day I worked out and was in great physical condition. Today I'm 40 pounds overweight and my physical condition is pathetic by my standards.
Why has it taken me so long to get to a gym? Sure I was injured in the beginning but over time I accepted my limitation and became lazy and complacent. I quit seeking the edges my physical limitations and accepted life with continual low grade back pain.
This morning, I scheduled one and a half hours to work out. The workout was not too hard. The hardest part was accepting myself in my current condition and be diligent with what I can do now. I felt like a rank beginner. Then again, I had correct technique, form and skill to use the free weights. Some things you just don't loose. Strength and stamina may go, but the knowledge of how to use the tools that make you strong never leave.
In many ways the Church in America is like my current physical condition. We look back to the glory days of what Church used to be in American life and long to be that way again. Gone are the days when pastors woke early and prayed for hours in the morning, (George Barna notes that the average pastor only prays for 20 minutes a day) bars closed on Sunday and schools did not schedule activities on "church nights." (Typically Wednesday)
Looking at what we "used to do or be" will only keep us from moving forward from where we are today. We gradually accept our cultural limitations look back in hopelessness at what the church once was. We become lazy and complacent. Christians no longer seek the depth with God that we once had. We become insipid sermon tasters who hear yet do not hear the message of the scriptures.
We keep ourselves busy with the "activities" of church life yet deny the very lifeblood of what makes us the church. To be frank, we have an identity crisis. The church has been looking back at an idealized history in America.
In a misguided attempt, we seek relevance and influence so we do-what-it-takes to attract a crowd. In the process we loose the very distinctive that make us an alternate community. We begin to look like the predominant culture and therefore are marginalized as inauthentic. We courted the world and lost ourselves in the process.
I have to accept myself where I am and take responsibility for my physical condition if I am to move forward. I can't measure myself by what I was 17 years ago. I have to make an honest assessment of myself and look to the future.
In the same way, the American church must take responsibility for her spiritual condition, repent of her sin and look toward her future. We should take seriously the calling to be a people of a different kingdom. We should not look like the word, we should look like Christ.