Earlier, when I was washing dishes, I was thinking about music and my mind wandered across a band that I haven’t listened to for a while but really enjoy: a funk band that came out of Berklee College of Music called Lettuce.
Their name comes from the early days before they were established as a group. They would travel around to clubs asking owners to give them gigs or just haul their instruments with them when another group would play. Over the course of the different musicians would approach the band asking “let us play, let us play”. By the end of the night none of the original band was on stage, it was only this nameless group that asked to play along. Soon they became know as the “Let Us” band, which they chose to modify to “Lettuce”, and so it stands today.
A quick disclaimer before I dive in too far: I love listening to Lettuce. They are an amazing band of very talented musicians and I have nothing against the way that they formed and became recognized.
That being said, I think the church, especially in America, has become similar to Lettuce in their early days. However, this is not a compliment.
Think of it this way: God is like the funk band jamming away on stage, and has invited us to join in the glorious, creative work being done as the Kingdom is brought to earth. We as the church have joyfully accepted the invitation. But somehow over the course of the night we have co-opted God’s work, and by the end of the night it is only us doing what we think is God’s work, though God no longer has any part in it. We follow trends that we believe are God’s work without truly following the spirit of God and allowing ourselves to be led in our decisions. We never stop to question the long term effects of our actions or if what we are doing is truly of God, or if it is only of our own ambition and desire. We assume that because we are doing things “In the name of Jesus” that God has endorsed our actions and we can do no wrong.
I see this often in the emphasis that is placed on short-term missions trips in the evangelical church. Each year we go to a different town that needs our help so they can be better off and they can partake in their share of the American Dream, without bothering to even ask if what we are doing is helping or if it may be hurting those communities over the long-term.
There may be seasons when God invited us to join in some in some form of discipleship or giving to help a specific person or community. We assume because God said it once it must be true for all people, communities, places, and times. We sit in that fun, exciting, or comfortable groove where God said we should focus for a while and don’t realize that God is no longer on stage jamming with us. There may be a new rhythm God wants to focus on but we’re too busy focusing on what was said back then that we don’t realize the new thing being said now. God may not even be in the building anymore, instead there’s a new gig happening down the street at the next club.
But we’re too busy wrapped up in the old to notice.
Jesus says in John 3:8 “The wind (or spirit, they are the same word) blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.” We have this idea that what we are doing or where we are going is always the will of God.
How arrogant can we get?
It is not our job to set the agenda or steer the ship. We follow, God leads. We join God in what God is doing, not vice versa. That is not to say there is no place for planning or for a leadership team to set the course of a church for the next days, weeks, months, years. But in that planning we must always be aware of the direction God is moving and the leading of the Spirit; we should be trying to join God not do our own thing and hope that God joins us.