Every culture, organisation and church has a prevailing myth that tells the story of who we are and what we value. And every myth is held up and carried along by its heroes. These are the human vessels that carry our ideals, our dreams, our aspirations. These are the men and women who put flesh onto our values. They are the ones who have succeeded in living the ideals and the dreams we hold to in some significant way.
What is the prevailing myth in your church? Who are the prevailing heroes in your church? Meditate on this for a while. The question is not what should be the prevailing myth in your church or who should be the heroes in your church. The question is; what IS the myth and who ARE the heroes?
We say mission drives our church but yet we spend most of our energy and time on maintaining our existing structures and programmes. We say we want to see our community reached for Christ but yet we employ numerous staff members whose primary responsibility is to care for us and our needs through teaching, youth work or kids programmes. We say we serve Jesus and not money and yet we create an elaborate system of church which requires a large amount of money to keep it going. We create a system that actually hinders us from mission rather than propels us forward into mission. We speak about what we think ought to be the prevailing myth but yet so often our lives are driven by a darker, less obvious shadow myth.
Who are the heroes in our church communities? The dashing youth leader? The talented musician? The eloquent preacher? The brilliant exegete? The successful business man? Any defining myth we create is carried forward by its heroes. If you truly want to know what the defining myth of your community is then ask yourself who are your heroes?
The bible teacher as hero betrays the myth that knowledge about God is our functional salvation story. Bible college is seen as the ultimate experience for young Christians. The worship leader as hero betrays the myth that the high that shared experiences bring is our functional Saviour. The successful business man as hero betrays the myth that we will find happiness or significance through money and success. The family man or stay at home mom or home-school parent as hero betrays the myth that family is the most important thing in the world. All these heroes and myths contains some truth but as is the case with all great lies, the object of truth has been stretched to breaking point, beyond it’s ability to hold the disproportionate value we have placed upon it.
What if the myth that defined our church really was the gospel. The gospel of Him who left all the security, the pleasure and the comfort of heaven to lay down His rights, his preferences, His desires in order to serve us. To become one of us. To die for us. What if the myth that defined our values, dreams and aspirations was this gospel story? What if our goal was sacrifice and not comfort? Risk and not security? Service and not pleasure?
What if our lives were defined not by our rights or our pleasures but instead were marked as those who joined their story with the great Story, who laid down their lives for the True Myth, who become heroes in the Ultimate Adventure and who risked it all for a share in the Kingdom of our Great King. What if we really were known as the friend of sinners, the defender of the vulnerable, the light in the darkness, the peacemakers, the kind and the just?
What if we really did believe that a man’s life did not consist in the abundance of his possessions? What if we really did believe that it is more blessed to give than to receive? What if we really did believe that our Father in heaven will clothe and feed us as he does the flowers of the field and the birds of the air? What if we really did believe that our God is a good God and that his Kingdom is better than all the pleasures and joys the kingdom of this world has to offer? What if we really did believe that the gospel is true?
I am not reaching for some utopian ideal of church. I know that anything we touch this side of Jesus’ return will be marked by our brokenness and sin. What we need though is honesty, an honesty robust enough to admit that our defining myths are too small. We have shrunk the kingdom vision into easily containable chunks that we can use to control our lives. Our heroes have become too small and our dreams are too reasonable.
We have shrunk the Kingdom to a coke lite, kid friendly version of the world, without the sex, drugs and swearing. We need an honesty that leads us not to self-inflicted lynchings of guilt but an honesty that admits that we have been living for the wrong myth and inspired by the wrong heroes. Our myth is sadly most often the coke-lite version of the world, without the sex, drugs and swearing.
We need an honesty that inspires us to join our story with the Great Story, to give up our small ambitions and our small dreams. We need heroes that inspire us not to greater church attendance but who lead us to far wilder, less safe and more beautiful places where only our faith and our hope in the Great King can ever hope to sustain us. For it there that we will win glory for His Name and find the life we so desperately crave. “ For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35)