In Not Of

You have probably heard this before: Christians should be in the world, but not of the world.  This is a shortening or combination of things Jesus says in John 17: 16-18

16They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

There is plenty of discussion among followers of Jesus about what it should look like to be in the world but not of the world. For instance,  J. B. Phillips famously translated Romans 12:2 as “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.”

Yet the Church has just as famously not only let the world squeeze us (it) into its mold, too often we are more worldly than the world.  The divorce rate is as high or higher among clergy as among lay people. Being a Christian is no predictor for better, let alone “more Jesus like” behavior.

Last week, I thought about this in a whole new light. It is time, fellow followers of Jesus, for us to learn to be

“in the Church but not of it.”

Let’s face it: Church is challenging.  Churches too easily become about maintaining buildings or pecking orders or status quos.

Reflecting on what church membership tends to do to us, Steve Taylor sang 28 years ago:

I’ve gone through so much other stuff
That walking down the aisle was tough
But now I know it’s not enough
I want to be a clone
I asked the Lord into my heart
They said that was the way to start
But now you’ve got to play the part
I want to be a clone

Be a clone and kiss conviction goodnight
Cloneliness is next to Godliness, right?
I’m grateful that they show the way
‘Cause I could never know the way
To serve Him on my own
I want to be a clone

They told me that I’d fall away
Unless I follow that they say
Who needs the Bible anyway?
I want to be a clone
The language, it was new to me
But Christianese got through to me
Now I can speak it fluently
I want to be a clone

Send in the clones…
Ah, I kind of wanted to tell my friends and people about it, you know?
What? You’re still a babe, you have to grow
But give it twenty years or so
‘Cause if you want to be one of His
Got to act like one of us

So now I see the whole design
My church is an assembly line
The parts are there, I’m feeling fine
I want to be a clone
I’ve learned enough to stay afloat
But not so much I rock the boat
I’m glad they shoved it down my throat
I want to be a clone

Everybody must get cloned!

The catch is that we cannot follow Jesus on our own.  To follow Jesus, one absolutely needs the support and encouragement of others.  How do we, as followers of Jesus, learn to be in the Church but not of it?

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One thought on “In Not Of

  1. When I first saw your phrase, “in the Church but not of it,” my thought was, “Yes, there are many people who are IN the church. They may be regular attenders. But they hold themselves back from real incorporation into the Body of Christ. They are reticent or even afraid to connect with the rest of the people.”

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