Monday, July 19, 2010

First M.E. Church

There's a beautiful new stained glass window installed at our church. It used to be in the old building downtown -- they moved it into a frame and stored it when that building was sold. They've just now pulled it out and hung it.

The stained glass was made back when our church was the First Methodist Episcopal Church -- a denomination that no longer exists on its own but is a part of the United Methodist Church. "Methodist Episcopal" has too many letters for a stained glass worker... they shortened it to M.E.

First M.E. Church. Every time I see the window, I get a knot in the pit of my stomach. It's beautiful, yes, and the intended meaning is innocent enough. But every time my critical eyes view it... I see a commentary on the culture of our church... and the vast majority of other churches I've visited.

First, me. I'll pray, but first me. I'll worship, but first me. I'll serve, but first... me. My needs, my wants, my preferences take higher priority than serving the Lord. I'll join the Bible School committee, but only if we do it my way. Does this ring true for your churches? Not everyone, all the time... but some of the people at least some of the time. First, me.

Lest we be too harsh on the modern church, the "me first" mindset has been a problem since the very beginning:

Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give
to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When
the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Matthew
19:21-22

The young man was focused on his wealth, his comfort, his earthly security blanket. He was saying, "First me."

He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."
Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord, but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family."
Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." Luke 9:59-62

These situations seem good -- caring for family -- but Jesus declares them both to be unfit. These men, too, said "First me." I'll follow you after I do the things that I want to do. Even good things can be bad if we lift them to a higher position than following Christ.

Jesus never said that following him would be easy. In fact, he said the exact opposite: "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." John 16:19. We are to be hated, despised, persecuted. Even if that person hating you is your own family (Luke 8:19-21).

So who's first in your heart? Yourself? Or Christ? Although I still struggle with this every single day, I'm glad there's a window at my church reminding me that I don't want to be a part of the "First Me" church culture.

1 comment:

Sarah Jane said...

Oh my goodness Jenny. The First M.E. Church. It didn't hit me until I started reading your post but you are so correct. What a stunning reminder this will be, every time you see that window.

We have been visiting a different church and attended there this past Sunday. The pastor spoke about this issue and about how easy to is to slip into the me-first mindset, about how Jesus can be a part of our life, but not in it entirely. And how that is wrong. It was convicting to say the least! We were encouraged to be radically obsessed with Jesus.

I think it will be a daily and lifelong decision, since me-first is what our flesh naturally tends towards! I pray with Gods abiding and abundant strength that the struggle will be weaker as the years pass.