I’ve been a pastor for less than a minute. The following reflections will therefore say more about me than anything else. But in the little time I’ve spent in pastoral ministry there is one thing blatantly obvious about our churches. We don’t talk much about Jesus.
We have Jesus in our mission statements, on our banners, in our children’s drawings and at the end of our prayers. Hopefully Jesus is central in the pulpit, our songs, the baptistery and the communion table. But beyond those places where we would expect to find Jesus why don’t we talk about him?
Where is Jesus around the tables at church-wide meals? Where is Jesus in the hall before congregational worship? Where is Jesus when we recap our weeks to our brothers and sisters? Where is Jesus when we return a borrowed tool to a brother? Where is Jesus when we return a casserole dish to a sister? Where is Jesus when we unexpectedly meet a family at the store?
Why is it that we can talk extensively about most other things, but when asked about Jesus our tongues go on lock down? Where is Jesus when asked about the recent doctor’s visit? Where is Jesus when complaining about a new co-worker? We talk freely about beer, tongues, doctrines of grace and Israel, but where is Jesus in our conversations? Where is Jesus when asked how we’re doing?
Frankly, we just don’t talk about Jesus much: what we’re learning about him, how he lives through us, how his death/resurrection has shaped a new life experience, how he is transforming our minds to conform with his, how he is helping us overcome sin.
We’d much rather talk about something else. We gladly make our children, grandchildren, hobbies, politics, gas prices, jobs and weather everyone else’s business. But our walk with Jesus is somehow considered a private affair that is not anyone else’s business. “My brothers, these things ought not be so!” (Jas 3.10).
The Apostle Paul told the Colossians (and us) that Christ is our life (lit. the life of you) (Col 3.4). And we inevitably talk about those things that define our life. That being the case, how could we not talk about someone who is our life? The only way we would not is if he is really not our life, but only a part of it at best.
In Col 3.16, Paul commanded the Colossians (and us) to let Christ’s word dwell (enoikeito) richly or abundantly (plousios) in us. God spared no expense in giving the Holy Spirit to us (see Titus 3.6 where plousios is used). Therefore, we are to spare no expense in getting Christ’s word into the soul. We are to be frugal in many things, but never with Jesus. That deeply-rooted seed will then bear fruit in teaching and admonition of one another in all wisdom, often in the form of songs.
Where is this teaching and admonition of one another that those rich in Christ enjoy? Paul didn’t write this to the elders at Colossae, but “to the saints and faithful brothers” (1.1). We are all responsible to teach and admonish one another with the word of Christ.
In Eph 5.18-21, Paul commanded a Spirit-besotted life as opposed to (alla) a wine-besotted life. What does the Spirit-filled life look like? It’s a life of addressing one another with heartfelt, grateful, Christ-revering songs. (That is the Holy Spirit’s main purpose, by the way–to help us make much of Jesus.) It’s helping one another worship God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. The alternative to drunkenness is not sobriety, it’s Spirit-filled worship with the brethren. If we don’t strive toward Spirit-filled, Jesus-saturated conversations with one another then we’d might as well share another glass of wine.
There is another sobering (pun intended) implication of this. If it’s true that we talk little about Jesus in the church, then how little must we talk about him with the lost?
I need to talk about Jesus more, even (or especially!) if it makes others uncomfortable. Better to be uncomfortable in this life and comfortable in heaven than to be comfortable in this life and uncomfortable in hell. You can help. Don’t ask me how “it’s” going. “It” is pathetic, lifeless and Christless. Ask me how Jesus is going in my life. Make me consider him and how my life cannot be defined without him. Help me sing.