So I had the chance to speak on a panel for a back to school event last week. I love speaking on panels. I love public speaking in general, because every time I speak, I end up doing some kind of life reflection (which I also really love to do just to remind myself of the growth). On my way there, I thought about how much of a church kid I am. I’ve been in church all of my life. I’ve spent just about every Sunday of my life in somebody’s church. So much so to the point that it feels sooooo weird to not go on Sundays (like…what else do you on Sunday mornings?). There aren’t many things that I know better than I know church. Growing up, I could play church very well (academy award levels of well lol). I love music, so I knew when to jump around & bounce when the shouting/dancing music came up. I knew the typically shouting parts of service (most popular: right before the offering & when pastor has wrapped up his sermon). I knew when to stop walking. I knew when to sit, and when to stand. I knew when to lift my hands. I knew how to look and how to respond. I knew to always give honor to God who’s the head of my life, then the pastor & first lady, before I got up to say certain things (or to say 'the house has been addressed’ if 50 people had given honor before). I knew ALL of that. I knew every step of the protocol. I knew what to do and when to do it. But for the decades I’d spent in church Sunday….after Sunday….after Sunday…I couldn’t tell you who God was to me. How on Earth does that happen? It's actually quite simple: I knew church before I knew Jesus.
Now don’t get it twisted, if you’d asked me who God was, I could give you the generics. I could tell you that He’s my lily in the valley! My Rose of Sharon!….but I couldn’t tell you what any of that actually meant or how He’d been all of that in my life. I could tell you that He woke me up this morning and started me on my way (put running in my feet and clapping in my hands, boo!)….but I couldn’t tell you how important that was or why it was a reason to be truly grateful. I could give you all of the fluff of church…without one ounce substance. I'm surrounded by church kids, so I know I wasn't the only one going through this, which made me wonder about how many other people out there know church…and don’t know Jesus. (If you can’t tell, we’re going to get kinda heavy this week)
Somewhere along the line, I think that people have tried to replace the God that we’re supposed to worship with the routines we’ve used to worship Him. We've fallen deeper in love with how we worship than we have with who we worship. We’ve pushed the protocols for decades (don’t get in the pulpit if you aren’t a preacher, don’t walk during prayer, etc.), but we haven’t pushed the God that they reverence/respect as much. Now, please don’t misunderstand me, I think that things that are sacred should be treated that way; however, I also believe that we should educate people more as to why those sacred practices are to be reverenced. The issue that I see, specifically in my generation, is that we really don’t know. Maybe we didn’t listen to Mama as much as we should have. Maybe we couldn’t grasp it then. Some people simply weren’t told at all. Whatever the reason, we’ve reached a point in our lives when we're being told that we are the next (or now) generation of the church, and many of us are just beginning to know the God of the church for ourselves…instead of just the protocols of the church. We know the protocols really well now. Church kids can have some (form of) church!!….but do we know church more than we know Jesus? Do you know church more than you know Jesus?
The issue with talking about this concept is the fact that many people think church and Jesus are one and the same. It’s become a common thought that if I can do pretty much whatever I want to throughout the week, and still get to Heaven as long as I go to church on Sunday and act like a "good person". Allow me to burst your bubble boo, that would be a lie. You can know every scripture in the Bible, but if you don’t apply them to your life and allow the God of the scriptures to change you, you won’t make it in the gates, suga. T I think the one of the best ways to try and break down the difference between simply knowing church and actually knowing Jesus is to see the difference between just having religion, and having a relationship with Christ. See, religion will make you think that once you mess up, you’re done. That’s it. Your name is out of the Book of Life for good. However, once you have a relationship with God, you recognize that His grace covers you even in your lowest of moments. You recognize that sin has not weigh that His glory can't handle. YET, you don’t abuse the grace that He gives, because you have begun to see how much He loves and cares for you. Religion will have you thinking that you aren’t holy and acceptable before God if you listen to anything outside of gospel music. But a relationship with God helps you see that it’s not just the genre of music that you listen to, but it’s how it affects your mind and your actions which in turn affect your relationship with God. Religion teaches you a list of “thou shalt nots”, without giving you one explanation as to why outside of the classic: “you will burn in hell”. It’s not until you get a real relationship with God that you see that He’s not a God of “don’ts”, but He’s a God of protection and gives all instruction with a purpose (I could write about that for days, but don’t worry…I won’t lol). So, I’m going to ask you one more time before we move forward: do you know church? Or do you know Jesus?
It wasn’t until I got to know God for myself that I was able to tell you who God was to me. I can tell you He’s my comforter today because I know what it’s like to have a pain nobody can heal. Not only will I tell you He’s my protector, but I can tell you of various times in the past few years when I know He’s protected me. When I tell you that He’s my friend, I can follow it up with stories of how He kept me in loneliness. When I tell you that He’s my provider, I can follow it up with memories of when I didn’t have money, joy, peace, happiness, etc. and He made ways and gave me what I wanted and needed when I couldn’t find it for myself. When I tell you He’s my deliverer, I can tell you what He’s delivered me from. That’s the difference between knowing church and knowing Jesus: having the ability to tell me (or anybody) how He’s fulfilled the cliches people hear every Sunday. That’s why I started this blog, because I don’t want you to know church so well that you cry and fall out after hearing about a great God on Sunday…without knowing that God for yourself on Thursday. It’s time to stop faking, y’all. If we’re going to make it through, we’ve got to be real. This isn’t the time to know of God…thiiiiiis would be the day to know (or start the journey of really knowing) Him.
As I come to a close (and channel every black pastor in America lol), since the day I started undergrad, and especially since I’ve started going to law school, I’ve heard “it’s not always what you know, it’s who you know”. I’ve come to realize that this phrase is just as important out of the corporate world as it is in the corporate world. Whether you’ve been a church kid all of your life, or if you haven’t been in church in 10+ years, please recognize that simply memorizing or replicating what you’ve heard or seen in church will only take you so far. What you know means nothing if it’s not connected to who you know; and who you know is what will matter when all of this is over. I don’t know about you, but Jesus is who I know, and because I know Him, I know that I can handle anything that comes up against me. Because I know who I know, I know that while I may fall and while my life may get really rough, I’ll come out better than I was before the storm started. Because I am confident in the character of who I know, I am certain that He who began a good work in me will complete it, and that it’ll work out for my good. Once again, (just like last week’s post) I’m not just telling you what I’ve heard or seen others get excited over. Suga, I’m telling you what I know.
If somebody was to walk up to you and ask you who God is or who He’s been to you, would you be able to give them anything outside of the things we recite every week? Would you be able to give fluff or substance? I want to challenge everybody reading this to reevaluate and rededicate yourself (because even the veterans of the faith can get numb with the routines of church every week). Remind yourself everyday of who you know. Don’t just participate in the routine Sunday after Sunday; worship the God the routine is supposed to reverence and exalt. It’s always a good time to remind ourselves of who we know, and not just what we know. It’s one thing to know that God doesn’t change His mind about you; it’s another thing to know that He is the essence of what it means to be unchangeable. It’s one thing to know that He loves all creation; it’s another thing to know that to know God is to have an everlasting relationship with love itself. So, one more time, say it with me, now: who…do…you…know?
Background Music: Give Me You - Shana Wilson...because if we don't have Him, we don't really have anything at all....
Words from the Author
At the end of the day, these posts are the thoughts that run through my mind. These are the lessons I've learned. The doors that I've walked through. The path I've chosen. This is part of what it means to be me. Hopefully, it'll help you be...you. Let's grow together, kay?
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