In part 1 of How to Get Christians to Act Like Christians, I argued that we need to rethink what most deeply motivates a person to do something. Many people take the stance that either knowledge or belief dictates action, and therefore spend all their energy educating Christians and forming a Christian worldview. Although these things are helpful and necessary, I don’t agree that they are enough to get people to act in a certain way. People need to want to act a certain way, they need to desire it. People are driven by what they desire most deeply.
In this post, I want to look at the first of four ways we as pastors can help those in our congregations to act like Christians given this new underlying premise.
A Reorientation of the Church Towards Liturgy
Liturgy, as a word and concept, has been diminished in many people’s minds to be the sit down, stand up, tired recitations of a church that is becoming increasingly irrelevant. I think that liturgy is probably the last thing people would suggest in order to inspire people’s desire towards kingdom living. But bear with me…
Since finishing seminary, I have taken an interest in exercising consistently and eating healthy. Although good diet and exercise is still a challenge with a three year old and eighteen month old waking up at 5:30 every morning ready for breakfast, it has become a bit more realistic in the absence of thousands of papers to read and write on top of work. So I’ve made the commitment. I’m in it to win it, as some may say.
In light of this commitment, I have looked into books on diet and downloaded apps to help track exercise progress. I have asked other people’s opinions on their diet and exercise habits. I am trying to educate myself on the topic and get a broad understanding of the culture of diet and exercise through my conversations with others who do so. However, if I were to only do those things, I can guarantee you that I will turn thirty next summer with a bigger gut.
The change starts to happen when I actually begin to participate in diet and exercise. I get up and run in the mornings, I go to the gym consistently, I eat the healthy food that we buy at the grocery store. At first it sucks. Every muscle in my body hurts, I dream of whataburger at night, and wonder why anybody would torture their body like this. But after time, my desires change. I wake up wanting to jog or go to the gym. I look forward to my Kale salad and drive by In’n'Out without a second glance. There is no doubt my knowledge of diet and exercise helps me and my acceptance of a worldview that values diet and exercise contributes to the new lifestyle. But without actually eating different food and forcing my body into exertion, my desires would never actually change.
This is what I mean when I say the church needs a reorientation towards liturgy. In general, our view of church is an institution of education. We like the preacher because he teaches us the Bible well. We like our small group because we study good books. Our children go to Sunday school and we ask them what they learned in class. In general, the body is bad (The evil flesh) and the mind is good and our churches reflect this belief by neglecting the body and feeding the mind.
This may do well in educating Christians, but it will fall short in forming and aiming our affections toward the kingdom of God over and above the world surrounding us.
The body matters to the Body
If I was a personal trainer (which I am not), I would never hand a client a book and tell them to go sit on the couch and read for thirty minutes a day. I would make them hurt and sweat. As pastors, we need to do the same thing. We need to realize the path to a person’s desires is the habitual participation of a person’s body in physical kingdom disciplines. On Sundays, encourage people to taste and see the goodness of the gospel through Communion. In small groups, don’t read books about the poor, go and regularly interact and care for the poor. Pray and fast with regularity. Bring your kids with you to participate in the work of the gospel.
If we as pastors want to get Christians to act like Christians, then church needs to stop being a university and start being a culture of embodied practices. We need to stop being a library and start being a gym.
What liturgy do you regularly participate in? What needs to change in your church to reorient it towards liturgy?