I Am Giving Up Church for Lent

On Sunday night, our Youth Worship team played a song that they’ve never played before. I’ve heard the song many times, and it’s always impressed me with its lyrics:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

The song led to a discussion between the young adults and the youth leaders about what it looks like when our trust is without borders. I spoke about Simon Peter going out onto the water with Jesus. The lesson of that story has always been that Simon Peter didn’t trust Jesus enough to walk on the water.

But, I think that a more important lesson is that Peter was the one that stepped out of the boat in the first place. He saw Jesus walking on the water, and he left his place of safety to join Him.

We love our places of safety. We love the walls that we build for ourselves – the borders in which we seek God – because they make us feel safe. For too long, followers of Jesus have viewed our churches as places of safety in a world that is often cruel and frightening.

Yet, the Church isn’t a safe place for everyone, and Jesus never promised us safety in the first place. Jesus never told us to seek it. In fact, if we follow the teaching and the example of Jesus, we find ourselves in a place that is highly unsafe. We find ourselves trying to make peace in places and amongst people who are dedicated to violence and conflict. We find ourselves trying to bring hope to places where hopelessness has lived for generations. We find ourselves out in the cold, where people live who can find no warmth or shelter. We find ourselves in dangerous places, amongst dangerous people, preaching a dangerous Gospel that gives us promises of discomfort and death.

We don’t find that often enough in our churches.

Another amazing topic that was introduced by a young person on Sunday night: when is it time to challenge our faith? My answer was that it’s always time to challenge it. Challenging our faith means living outside the walls and the borders that we place around our trust, our love, our service. As I tried to teach this, I realized that I do not do this. I have become as comfortable and safe inside a church as anyone else. I have taken solace in the programs and the lesson plans, in the strategic visions and the mission statements. And every time that I have been challenged to take a step, in faith, out of the boat and onto the restless waves, I have made soft sounds of protest about my safety. The church is dying, and it’s death knell sounds like, “Maybe next week.”

I’m going to spend the rest of Lent finding the borders of my faith, my trust, my love, and smashing through them. I don’t know what that will look like. I might find myself at the end of 40 days in the same safe and complacent place that I was when I started. But, if that happens, I will at least know that I don’t really want to follow Jesus. If that happens, I will know for certain that I’ve only ever been interested in playing church.

My Love to you, wherever you are,

Michael Woywood