Dealing with an Institution: Racing Toward the Answer

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, January 19, 2009 1 comments

Last week I recounted how the film WALL[E] really affected me and discussed the lessons that we can learn from the story.

This week I will focus on what I believe is the best film of 2008. Like WALL[E], I was not expecting anything great from this film.

No, it is not Batman: The Dark Knight. Surprisingly, the movie is. . . (drum roll please)…

Speed Racer.

From start to finish I was blown away! The graphics were spectacular, but the message was even better. Although the connection I am going to make may at first seem far-fetched, please bare with me. As I watched the film, many controversial thoughts rose to the surface of my mind: Is the church as we know it really the way that it is supposed to be? Is the corporate and business-like institution that it has become of God or of men? Is this really the church that Jesus envisioned? These musings do not necessarily apply to all congregations. I am merely referring to the institutional methods that many churches push and how many Christians (including myself) have gotten caught up in these models. I may or may not be addressing your situation; you know if this applies to you. So I encourage you to watch this movie with these questions in mind.

Being a young, na├»ve youth worker, I used to believe that I was essentially a pastor to students and their families. They seemed to agree, for I would perform “pastoral duties,” and the families did not object. My senior pastor stressed that since I was considered a pastor, I should use my God-given gifts accordingly. I was hesitant at first because of my respect for the church and what it represents, but I gradually became comfortable with the idea due to the ministry that was happening in the community. Thus, many “ordained” pastors and I considered myself a pastor. As I was encouraged, I continued to try to use my gifts in a positive way for the Kingdom of God.

However, a few years ago my world was rocked! Well, it was more like a major earthquake. A senior pastor told me that I was not a pastor and was not even considered one, even though I was already performing pastoral duties. Confused, I asked why he believed this. He stated that since I had not received seminary training and was not ordained, I was not a pastor. (I am not bashing a seminary education. I am sure that it is fine teaching.)

He then informed me I was not qualified to baptize anyone or “bless” communion, even though I had already been doing so for several years. I asked him for an explanation of why I needed to be ordained. He simply stated that that was the church’s requirement. I wondered where this teaching is found in the Bible.

I wondered aloud, “Were Phillip and Peter ordained?” They both baptized people. He gave no reply, so I moved forward.

“Was John ordained?” He certainly baptized and offered communion. Once again, his reply was silence, I pressed on.

“And for that matter, was Jesus ordained?” Now he had an answer for me: “Well, He’s God. And the disciples were with Jesus, so it was acceptable for them.”

“What?!” I said. (I was thinking, “Are those words really coming out of your mouth?”) I continued, “I have a conversation with God everyday!”

Now, I am not trying to start a battle or divisions within the church. But let’s consider: what is the church? Is it Sunday morning in a building, singing a few songs and listening to the “professionals” sharing their wisdom? Or is it the Church, the body of Christ, living every day to bring glory to Christ in all that we do? Every day, everywhere we are, not just in a building. I believe Acts 2:42-47 is an example of what the Church is supposed to look like.

If you believe that I am out of line, please let me know. One of the reasons that I write this blog is to encourage discussion. We can discuss issues with gentleness and respect, as I Peter 3:15-16 encourages us. Whether you agree or disagree with me, I would love to hear from you.

Let me stress that whether or not you agree with my musings, my desire is to pursue the truth and expose any falsehood, so we can better serve Christ.

Let me explain how these questions arose from my watching Speed Racer. As my wife and I both watched it with our children, she looked over to me with tears in her eyes and asked, “Are you hearing this?” The words that were coming off the screen were so strangely familiar to us, so real, that we had to stop the movie and rewind it just to make sure that we were hearing it correctly. At one point in the movie, Racer X (considered the villain until we see the whole truth) and Speed are treated unfairly; causing Speed to wonder if racing is worth all of the difficulties. Racer X and Speed then have a dialogue about the racing industry:

Speed: Racing hasn’t changed, and it never will.

Racer X: It doesn’t matter if racing never changes. What matters is if we let racing change us. Every one of us has to find a reason to do this. You don’t climb into a T180 (car) to be a driver. You do it because you are driven.

Speed: If you know so much, why don’t you tell me why I should keep driving?

Racer X: Sorry — that’s for you to figure out. I just hope when you do, that I’m there to see it.

This scene led my wife and me to consider our journey with Christ. Throughout the movie, I identified with Racer X. I almost let the institution change who I am in Christ. I almost let this “beast” tame me, as I began to fall into the mundane and the status quo cliques. But praise God — He woke me up from this stupor to face reality. Somewhat like in the movie, the Matrix, in Speed Racer everyone was simply happy with normalcy.

Another scene that stood out to me is the final race. Speed Racer is not welcome in the race because he is going to ruin the plans of the powers-that-be to make money promoting their engine to the world. Through much adversity, Speed Racer passes each driver and is finally battling the best driver on the circuit, Cannonball Taylor. Taylor tries to win by cheating but is discovered by the onlookers and finally crashes. The truth begins to come out.

This scene is given significance by an earlier scene that astounded my wife and me. In that scene, Speed speaks with his father, Pops, about doing something to reveal the truth about the racing industry. Pops tells him, “If it’s a fight they want, it’s a fight they’ll get.”

Speed asks, “How? . . . How can we fight this?”

Pops concludes, “The truth will come out.”

My wife and I are excited because we believe that the truth is slowly coming out. It has been a long, hard road, which may only get more difficult. However, God does not call us to a comfortable life.

Doing this type of ministry has been exciting, difficult, and crazy at times. But no matter what, we are committed to completing this journey. We believe that we have been called to a ministry of lifting up the body of Christ and, when necessary, helping her tackle the difficult issues. I believe these are two aspects of the calling of the body of Christ, the Church.

Know that we at Worldview Warriors are here for you. More importantly, God is here for you, as we all walk this journey of the Christian life.

Let me close with one more thought. Over the years, I have been in dialogue with many pastors over the “church” issue and the pastoral issue. Surprisingly, many of them agree with my assessment of the situation but are afraid to speak up for fear of losing their credentials and retirement. Ladies and gentlemen, fear God and not man!

I had actually considered becoming a pastor for awhile. However, I could not understand the need to get a piece of paper in order to legitimize what I was already doing. Since I believe that leaders are learners, I did begin to research that path and started thinking in this institutionalized way. I almost sold out. Before I go on, I know that some of you have been called into pastoral ministry within this “institution.” You may also want to help change the church’s mindset from the inside. (I was under the leadership of one of those awesome men.) If that is your desire, I applaud you and want to encourage you to go for it! Do not wait, for the longer you wait, the more you will change. If you are planning to go into pastoral ministry, I encourage you to remind the bride of Christ of her calling.

In Speed Racer, the rich sponsor, Royalton, says, “Racing has nothing to do with cars or drivers.” Instead, he says that it is about money and power. Then he asks Speed, “Are you ready to be a real race car driver?!” And to that I say, “No!”

Everyone, let’s become the Church of Christ that we have been called to be. Amen and so be it!

Here is some further reading for your consideration:

• Acts 2 (especially verses 42–47)

• Acts 3 (Are you witnessing in the streets? We are called to it.)

• Matthew 28:18–20

• I Corinthians 6:1–8 (Something to think about. Should we be wronged? The truth will eventually come out.)

• Matthew 5, 6 and 7.


Anonymous said...

WOW! I never knew this happened to you until Amanda told me about this! WOW! God used you & Derek to build that church up to what it is today! God Bless you Jason & your family! You are a fine youth pastor and pastor!!! The more I learn about the behind the scenes of my church, the more dissappointed I get! I really like Pastor Jim tho;) But the church as a whole is getting more and more disappointing to me:( Thank you! Sarah Pierson