Are you worn out trying to be a ‘good Christian’ ?

Exhausted guyA couple of blogs I follow have recently suggested that pastors are wearing their congregations out with expectations, pressuring them with “to-do” lists for the Christian life instead of reminding them that in Christ, it’s all done. For example, from The Resurgence:

“It’s About What Christ Has Done, Not What We Are Doing: Preachers these days are expected to major in ‘Christian moral renovation.’  They are expected to provide a practical ‘to-do’ list, rather than announce, ‘It is finished.’ They are expected to do something other than placarding before their congregations’ eyes Christ’s finished work, preaching a full absolution solely on the basis of the complete righteousness of another. The irony is when preachers cave in to this pressure, moral renovation does not happen.

And from Rachel Held Evans:

“It seems that a whole lot of people, both Christians and non-Christians, are under the impression that you can’t be a Christian and vote for a Democrat, you can’t be a Christian and believe in evolution, you can’t be a Christian and be gay, you can’t be a Christian and have questions about the Bible, you can’t be a Christian and be tolerant of other  religions, you can’t be a Christian and be a feminist, you can’t be a Christian and drink or smoke, you can’t be a Christian and read The New York Times, you can’t be a Christian and support gay rights, you can’t be a Christian and get depressed, you can’t be a Christian and doubt. I am convinced that what drives most people away from Christianity is not the cost of discipleship but rather the cost of false fundamentals.”

Here’s what I don’t get:

Most of the Christians I know are very busy. They hold — whether married or single — that keep them occupied an average of 46 hours a week and commute 27 minutes each way daily, adding another 4.5 hours to their “work” week. They get home and start running their kids to soccer and baseball and hockey practices (or ballet and tap and piano lessons), grabbing meals in a different drive-through every night and somehow finding time to maintain their average suburban home of 2,427 square feet on a quarter-acre landscaped lot. (“I dust my kitchen once a month whether it needs it or not,” one of my girlfriends once waggishly told me.)

They make sure the children make it to youth group, and they themselves get to a Bible study, and everyone is at church on Sunday, and “if we didn’t earn the kind of money we do, we could never send him on these youth mission trips,” one parent acknowledged, with some frustration.

Plus, if the child didn’t have the advantage of all of these activities and experiences, he or she might not get into the particular college that Mom and Dad think is the one best college in all of the universe …

Are we worn out trying to follow Christ?

Or is it a different voice that is calling us along this path to exhaustion?

Those who know me know that even though I got my spiritual start among Quakers, I’m not a big fan of the “be still and know that I am God” school. I am a gigantic fan of listening meditation. I am also a big fan of the great-grandma school of wisdom that says “Idle hands are the devil’s playground.” And I am a true believer in the global missions school of wisdom that says, like the Berean church: “Test the spirits.” That is to say: There is one Lord, whom Christians worship, but many spirits who are more than happy to give you a different word of direction.

So as we seek “train up our children in the way they should go,” are we also being directed to think that “the way” must be the strait and narrow route to our alma mater?

As we seek to enter by the narrow gate, are we also being directed to think that we need to pull in our shoulders and elbows and be pressured into a tight mass, so we can be shoved through the gate like the last ticket-holders crammed onto a Japanese subway?

When I hear someone saying that people are worn out because they’re trying to “do” Christianity instead of realizing it’s already been “done” for them, I get nervous. I’m afraid we’ll end up sitting somewhere chanting the Jesus prayer (not a bad thing in itself) instead of doing whatever are the unique and wonderful things that God has designed each of us to do … and that God has laid out in advance for us to walk into.

God does have work for you. It’s work that you were designed to do. And it’s not burdensome. It’s fun. God’s not in the burden business.

I am still learning myself to discern which opportunities to take and which to pass over. Sometimes, the opportunities that I think I should pass look like good ideas (sell my jewelry at a monthly arts market; teach English to international pastors at a nearby college). Sometimes the opportunities I seriously consider look really bizarre (launch a “Byrony” line of satirical photographic art with my husband). Only you and God in consultation can make the right decisions.

Do you get tired trying to be a ‘good Christian’? Are any other things wearing you down?

About Carlene Byron

Writer, editor, publicist, communications project manager ... I've written technology and infrastructure; I used to edit New England Church Life and The New England Christian and I've freelanced to publications ranging from Commonweal to Christianity Today. I'm now living in my hometown in Maine and am speaking about global perspectives on suicide prevention.
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5 Responses to Are you worn out trying to be a ‘good Christian’ ?

  1. Pingback: Should Pastor’s Be Held Accountable For Misleading Their Congregations | HOLY MAYHEM

  2. Heidi Smid says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Carlene – I observe & think these things a lot – in my life and in others’ I know. I think often of Eph. 2:10 – That we are God’s workmanship, created for good works, which He has ALREADY PLANNED for us, that we should walk in them. It is not a rat race or a hamster wheel, but God’s carefully planned works that we are made for! For some, that will mean more activity for others. For me, it means that each morning, I remember that what matters for TODAY is that I do all GOD has planned for me, even if His plans differ significantly from whats on MY to-do list. Jesus is our Sabbath rest – HE is the one who has done what is needed for us – and our UNION with Him, by faith, by His grace, will ALWAYS empower us 1) to BE who He’s called us to be, and 2) to DO what He’s called us to do.

  3. Debby says:

    You ask a good question and one I fear many will answer “yes”. I quit trying.My husband and I are ordained ministers. Our congregation is 100 men, most trying to live in recovery from their addictions. It’s a very liberating way to worship and serve Christ. All the trappings of trying have fallen away and I’m so grateful for that.

  4. Pingback: False Doctrine Destroys Innocent Lives; Forcing You To Fight A Fight You Can’t Win » BABE IN CHRIST

  5. Great and thoughtful responses! I find myself in a “emptying” mode right now … clearing files, clearing shelves, finishing projects, clearing time, as if there is something to come. I’m very curious what it may be.

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