In trying to figure out what to do about church, I've been giving a lot of thought to the bandwagon-type movements that seem to cycle through American Christian culture. It seems so often a person feels led to follow a specific path, and the next thing we know they are organizing conferences, printing slogans on t-shirts and bracelets, selling glossy teaching kits, and trying to convince everyone that what they came up with is the "Christian" thing to do.
I often wonder if these people ever pause to ask if it was supposed to be something to try to sell to the Church or if their revelation was instead meant for their own heart, a decision for their own life. I wonder if the people jumping on the bandwagon with them ever take the time to examine if it is really what is best for their own life. Many things sound like a great idea at first, but unless we ask ourselves a lot of questions before following along, we may eventually look around and see we’ve gotten our own journey off-track.
As well-meaning and based in scripture as some of these bandwagon movements may be, I think there is a real possibility that things like kissing dating goodbye or a specific money-management system or fill-in-the-blank wasn’t intended to be sold to the church as the model for all of Christianity. This isn't to say that the reasoning behind these things are bad or that they aren't right for some people; It's just that when we attempt to paint all Christians with the broad strokes of these movements, we run the risk of missing a different point-of-view that is just as God-inspired and may be better for others.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t tell others what we've learned or share our insights, but I worry about these things morphing from our personal convictions into a litmus test for the spiritual health or integrity of others.
Certainly there are some things that are supposed to be universal to all Christians, but these slogans and pledges and movements can distract us from BEING the Church. If we are all exactly the same, doing everything in the exact same way, there will be a lot of places we won’t go and a lot of people we won’t know. It is not my place to tell others that their bandwagons and teaching kits and t-shirts aren't the right way for them, because I am not them. But my life may not lead me to buy in to all of those things because, even if the scripture behind it is something I have to live out, the way the movement does it may be a wrong fit for my life.
No one else is the wife of my husband, the mother of my children, the eldest daughter of my parents, the friend of every single one of my friends, the co-worker of everyone I interact with at work, and so on. Even if other people are part of one of those environments, none of them have the exact same relationship to those people I have.
I want to have the grace to listen to the people on the bandwagon and work on hearing their heart, but I also want to have the strength and discernment to opt out when my life and my faith takes me places the bandwagon isn't going. Just as it would be wrong for me jump on for the sake of fitting in, it would be equally wrong for me to automatically dismiss the heart behind these things just because I'm uncomfortable with packaging of the source. Listening without joining is okay.
I may not agree that when a person feels led in a certain way they should look immediately for how to leverage it into an idea to market to the church. I may not feel comfortable defining my faith in a teaching kit, confining it to a bumper sticker, or proclaiming it on a bracelet, but I can't say if others should or shouldn't. Faith is complex and I have to wrestle with mine in the best way I can. I have to be able to embrace all the aspects of my faith and work it out in my own life with the people I am in relationship with.
I know that for me, this is not something I can do on a bandwagon, wearing a one-size-fits-all t-shirt.