Rich & Rob
Richard Wayne Mullins
October 21, 1955 – September 19, 1997
Ok, so while I’m still writing a lot of thoughts down about Summer Camp and what’s happening in my own life right now, I wanted to pause and post this here. This interview with Rob Bell came to me in the weekly newsletter from The Wittenburg Door. What Rob had to say to the interviewer really hit me. It’s something that I’ve been ruminating on myself since camp, and have discussed with the Men’s at Men’s Group on occasion – this notion that the Church is not acting like the Church but rather like spoiled children most of the time. Especially among Christians in America, myself included, there is often an attitude of entitlement and sometimes a blind ignorance to the needs of the poor and destitute right on our own front porch, much less throughout the world.
So what to do to change? What can I do to affect change?
There’s a lot of different “emergent” and “post-modern” movements out there now, but I think that unless they are anchored to something bigger than themselves they’ll ultimately burn out. In all honesty this is what I love about Orthodoxy and the Ancient Faith. It’s there and has been so for 2000 years. It is an anchor in a time when folks think they need to re-invent the wheel. The Church has always been about social justice and mercy. But it is a scandal that people have no clue about it. Orthodoxy is “one of the best kept secrets” among American Christianity. How can this be so?!? And then, what to do to change that? And of course, where do the Orthodox need to change? We too act like spoiled children but then occasionally add to that a lot of pride and you still get the Church not being the Church. But I suppose most of all, how do I need to change?
I guess really, for me what it boils down to is that I think Christ meant what He said in the scriptures. I was discussing this with my brother-in-law Tim on Saturday. It seems that often the “church” goes out of it’s way to “explain” the scriptures and many times that explanation lets us off the hook of actually doing anything. Too often we are able to justify not doing the very things Jesus commanded us to by claiming that “Oh, He meant that metaphorically.” Or perhaps, “Well, he didn’t really mean to give up your stuff and not worry about food or clothing.” For instance, I don’t think that just throwing a monthly check to your church or local charity is quite what Christ had in mind when he said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” It’s easy for us as Americans to doll out cash – and believe me, being someone who works with youth camps and needs budget money I am not at all saying that I’d prefer people not give – it’s just that I think He meant that we all need to give our resources financially and of ourselves physically and in a personal way.
God made the Sabbath for man, not man for the Sabbath. And yet in my own experience what I see in myself and in others is that often we’re too busy going to church and church meetings to be the Church! The simplicity of the Christ’s commandments in the Gospels are almost too simple it seems. It baffles us that it really is as simple as offering ourselves in the Eucharist and taking care of our neighbor. St. Maria Skobtsova of Paris and her life comes to mind here… Or, as Rich said,
We love the sensation of Christianity and the sensation of spirituality- we like the illusion of it, but we don’t want the reality of it. The reality of it would be way too glorious and too boring for any of us to handle.
My point is that the older I get, each passing year I’m aware of how much time I spend trying to figure out how to help others, and the less time I spend actually doing so. I need the Church – I need Liturgy and I above all need the Sacraments. I need to confess my sins to my Spiritual Father. I need to give of my finances. I need to come and offer the world back to God in the Eucharist. BUT I also need to walk away from that strengthened and then finish the job. I think a lot of things can dissuade me and others from being who Jesus asks us to be, but I think mostly it’s just fear. Fear of death. Fear of the unknown. Fear of what will happen if I really take the Gospel seriously, not just lightly. And what happens when we don’t fully commit ourselves to the Gospel? People know it. People can sense it. And in the end it proves to people that “this Jesus” is nothing more than a guy with a moral code who’s followers are more interested in preserving their own way of life than helping others, and then being able to feel good about themselves. But what would happen if I really, truly, believed that the Gospel is true and I can change things? I may die trying to do so, yes, but man can you imagine? The disciples figured out quickly what happened when they gave themselves and their entire lives completely to Christ. Suddenly the lame walked, the blind were able see, the sick were healed, and they themselves were astonished – a bunch of poor, uneducated fisherman – performing miracles and seeing the lost return to God.
I need to be the hands and feet of Jesus. He asks nothing less than that I lay down my very life. It is this message that I got from the interview with Rob Bell. It’s this that was at the heart of the message and life of Rich Mullins. And this is what Jesus commands us to do even now.
Jesus looked straight at him with love and said, “You need only one thing. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” Mark 10:21 (GNT)
I don’t think he meant it metaphorically. I don’t think he meant it allegorically. I don’t think he meant it as a good idea for a rich man. I think he meant it for all of us. I think he still means it. I think he asks nothing less of me as His follower. I suck at it – I really do. But I’m trying to change. I believe Lord, help my unbelief!
For too long many churches have been nothing more than a support group and a social club. This must not be. And of course, any change has to start with me. We are the Church and the Church is not supposed to just be a bunch of people who sit around remembering how great things were when Jesus was on the Earth. The Church is who He left to take care of the world – and we are who He’s asked to do it. We are the Church and we are called to feed the hungry, care for the sick, take care of the orphan and widow, clothe the naked, and give water to the thirsty. If we do not, then what are we? Are we a social club? Are we a good group of people who just want to make it through life unscathed and protect our own? And if we don’t care for the lost and broken, who will do it? Who will? Lord have mercy and give us strength.
There’s more I’d like to say – but I’ll leave it for another post this week. And if you found this post and have comments – I’d like to know what you think. What do you think about the Church? What do you think about Christianity? I appreciate your thoughts.
I’ll leave you with a few more of my favorite Rich sayings…
Never forget what Jesus did for you. Never take lightly what it cost Him. And never assume that if it cost Him His very life, that it won’t also cost you yours. ~Rich Mullins
And this is what I have come to think: That if I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, whom I claim to be my Savior and Lord the best way that I can do that is to identify with the poor. This I know will go against the teachings of all the popular evangelical preachers. But theyâ€™re just wrong. Theyâ€™re not bad, theyâ€™re just wrong. Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken. ~Rich Mullins