Saturday, May 20, 2017

Me and Jesus

We have lived in eastern Kentucky for going on 9 months now.  That's 3/4 of a year, if anyone is counting.  During this time, when talking to old friends, I have been asked the same question multiple times: "What's the spiritual climate like there?"  (You must remember that many of my friends are seminary nerds like us - so these are normal conversations - haha!)

That's a hard question to answer; it is often difficult to make such a generalization.  Everyone is an individual, after all.  However, I have found that my answer came rather easily:  "Jesus and Me have my own thing going on."

If you are familiar with country music at all, you may remember Tom T. Hall's song "Me and Jesus."

The basic worldview of the song can be found in the chorus and bridge:

Me and Jesus got our own thing going.
Me and Jesus got it all worked out.
Me and Jesus got our own thing going.
We don't need anybody to tell us what it's all about.
We can't afford any fancy preaching.
We can't afford any fancy church. We can't afford any fancy singing.

After almost 9 months of knocking on doors, having gospel conversations, answering faith-based questions, etc... I have come to see that this is the major worldview here as far as spirituality - me and Jesus got our own thing.

We have found that those our age (mid-30s) and older, there is a church background.  At one point, they attended church.  Often, at one point they made a profession of faith.  But now, they are dechurched (fancy word being one is no longer in a church).  The families in this area struggle with many things: alcohol and drug abuse are rampant, domestic violence is common, few are married but rather choose to live together as if married, etc...  However, when you try to reconcile their lifestyle and behavior with any faith you get the "Me and Jesus got our own thing going" answer. 

Now, before you accuse me of throwing stones.  Yes - one can be a believer and struggle with those sins.  We are not a perfect people.  However, scripture makes it clear that the one who obeys Christ's commands loves him.  That means, the key is the struggle against the sin.  Struggle against substance abuse.  Struggle against desire for sex outside of marriage. Struggle against prioritizing work or pleasure over church.  One who is willfully living in those circumstances is not struggling against them - but has resigned to them.  That person may not be a true believer. 

Each time James or I have tried to talk to someone about their faith in contrast to how they are living - you hear the "I'm okay, I know Jesus loves me.  I'm baptized, I'm forgiven." Me and Jesus got our own thing going.  There is a disconnect between what is a person's spiritual condition and their present life.  It's like the two aren't connected. Like one's spiritual beliefs don't impact their day-to-day living. I'm sure some of my philosophy-minded friends can word that better. Add this disconnect to the Appalachian strong streak of independence and man, it is hard to convince someone that they need Jesus.

Faith in Jesus is a personal thing.  It is a Me and Jesus thing.  However, the Christian life isn't lived that way.  We live in obedience.  Jesus tells us how to live in his word.  We live in community.  He places other Christians and the church in our life to help us toward that end.  So while you and Jesus may have your own thing going, it may not be the thing you think/hope it is. 

So pray for James as he shares the gospel with those in our church and community.  Pray for our association here in this county.  Pike is the largest country in Kentucky and it's one of the most lost (percentage-wise).  There is a lot of work done to bring somebody and Jesus together in an authentic relationship.

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