Trying to explain the culture of any organization, institution, or church is difficult without experiencing it. I call the gift of “discernment of spirits” the gift of being able to see the present. And it’s one, when you have it, that allows you to see what’s happening in the moment. It allows you to understand things, intimately, like culture. People look at the culture of their church or their business and often they miss what it really is in light of what it ought to be.
That may sound confusing, but I can’t tell you the number of churches I have been in where they say their mission is [insert pithy statement scrawled on a six foot tall banner] and then assume that I totally connect with and get that. Instead, I tend to see things how they are. Which was one of the reasons planting a church was exceedingly difficult for me, personally.
And what is so refreshing about my church, not to the exclusion of other, gospel-centered Jesus-loving, churches, is that our culture is tangibly demonstrated nearly every time any of us are within even a moderate proximity of another.
Every Tuesday the men and women meet separately for Men and Women’s Theology. I covered one of the lessons last week, but I want to hone in on is one specific thing that happens every Tuesday, but happened in explosive fashion last night: showing honor.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (ESV)
Those last six words, for some reason, are almost anathema to the American church. The number of times, and number of churches I have been in, where when I tried to do something nice for someone and their response was nearly offense is too danged high.
“Why are you doing this?”
“But I didn’t do anything for you.”
Well, yeah. That’s sort of the point of that verse. It’s not a debt nor an obligation. It’s not like I get assigned a secret Santa and I have to buy them something. And how this works out on Tuesdays is pretty straight forward: somebody in our group tells someone else in our group how much they mean to us. A room full of men from diverse races, ages, and socioeconomic backgrounds paying honor and respect to each other. It’s beautiful and totally antithetical to the world we live in. Where our current political climate says that I ought to look at you with suspicion, at best, and should ostracize and diminish you at the worst, these men look at each other, sometimes through tears, and say how much they mean to each other.
It’s haunting, at times. It’s so different from our world in the best way. I have been a part of men’s fellowship breakfasts (here’s an excuse to eat bacon and pretend we love Jesus), and men’s bible studies (less bacon, more Jesus, but still) and I have never, not once, watched a group of men laud each other this way. In fact, I used to know a man who would intentionally insult other men in our group because, and I quote, “I don’t want them to think too much of themselves.”
Because that’s a real problem among Christian men, let me tell you. Why, there are so many Christian brothers I know who are so full of confidence and security that we often have to tell them to tone it down.
And the women do exactly the same thing. And for the same reason. And with the same result. The result being that Jesus is made much of and that we all gather in, closer to Him, and to each other. We encourage one another and it’s real and palpable. And this is the first church I have been to, both before and after my salvation, that does this. Twenty eight years of going to any church where people do what the bible actually says to do. And ultimately, this is just a piece of the demonstration of culture that I am experiencing. I don’t have a t-shirt for “Showing Honor” or a wristband or a snapback. And that’s perfectly fine by me (even if I might now work on said items), because I know I get to be a part of how it is, not just how it ought to be.