We’ve all heard the tired adage bounced around each year that “Wise Men Still Seek Him.” It almost seems like a good sermon title. Almost.
The question we need to ask ourselves is whether or not that’s a valid statement in these post-modern, post-Christendom days. Are wise men and women still seeking the Jesus of the manger (or the house, as the case may be), or have they “moved on” having looked and been disappointed at what they found.
Let’s face it, the Church has been the keeper and dispenser of Jesus for a very long time. The Protestant Reformation, at least in part, was a rebellion against that very practice. But nearly 500 years later Jesus has once again largely become the property of the Church. Sure, in theory each member carries the mandate, the ability, and the inner fire to share Jesus from their doorsteps into all the world. In practice, though, if a wise woman or man is still seeking Jesus, they’re going wind up having to go to church. And what will they find there?
According to a recent study by Net Results magazine, over 70 percent of all first-time guests show up at a church’s 11 o’clock worship service (between 10:30–11:00 start time). Since most churches today still schedule their traditional worship service during that time-slot, and since many, if not most, traditional services are created with an unstated expectation that participants will be familiar with Christian vocabulary, practices, music, technology (or lack thereof), and so on … when a wise man or woman seeking Jesus visits that service they’re more likely to experience the Church in Residence than an experience of the Incarnate God.
And so the Church is faced with two choices … and both are good choices. First, we could adequately equip our members to share the good news in ways that (1) can be heard, and (2) will be shared. And then, like the Star that shone in the heavens, each of us can guide our friends, relatives, acquaintances, neighbors, and co-workers to Jesus. The second option is to engage a process whereby we rethink and rework our traditional worship services so that they are accessible by those wise women and men who are still seeking Jesus. That doesn’t necessarily mean bringing the drums into the worship center (though it might). But it does mean either changing our vocabulary or else defining it … every time we use one of those obscure words like benediction, doxology, New Testament, sanctuary, incarnation, etc. It means introducing each biblical character (Hezekiah who?), explaining the background of each story we reference (the exodus what?), and presuming that there are those in the audience who wouldn’t know Moses from Abraham, Noah’s ark from the temple’s ark, or that nothing particularly noteworthy happens if Jesus sees his shadow when he comes out of the tomb on Easter.
Of course, both options depend on the Church giving up its hold over Jesus. Members will have to build relationships … authentic friendships … with the unchurched in order to be a guide to Jesus. And members in those traditional services will have to bend a bit in tolerating repeated explanations and definitions and introductions.
Wise women and men are still seeking Jesus. But instead of going to the manger (or the house, as the case maybe), they’re journey almost always takes them to church. The question is, what will they find when they enter in.