Monday, March 28, 2016

On Being a Bunny Hopper

Today I became a Bunny Hopper

Well, not exactly.   Let me explain.

Back in the day, when the church doors were open, I was there.  Sunday mornings (sometimes twice), Sunday School, Choir or Orchestra, Sunday evenings and Wednesdays.  If I had the time, I showed up for evangelism on Tuesday nights.  Later in life, I became a Sunday school teacher for a while.

One of the things that irritated me most was Easter.  Not Easter itself, but all of the people who otherwise never darkened the doors - who for what ever reason - showed up on Easter.  What right did they have to be all pretentious and some how think they could make right for all of the wrongs on one day out of the year?  I called them Bunny Hoppers - they hop in once or twice a year, and then hop out.  I'm going to guess that there are a number of people who believe or feel similar to how I felt, in that regard.

For you see, I earned my position within the church, I worked for my right to be there and partake of the family, the friends and the worship.  They, the Bunny Hoppers, weren't there at all the rest of the time - so why right did they have to show up and ruin it for everyone else, or presume they were even half as spiritual as anyone else?

Eventually, things changed for me.  I began to see todays' Church for what it was, an Institution - divergent from the Assembly, the Ecclesia - a construct made mostly by man, driven to collect tithes and maintain a status of quo of laity vs. clergy, men vs. women; filled with teachers of the traditions of men and people comfortably numb to the Spirit and Truth.

I came to the place where I could no longer tolerate the doctrine of "God doesn't do that any more," so easily taught in complete conflict with what is in the Bible.  So I excused myself from the Institution.  The day I left, my Sunday School Director said to me, "you're an out of the box type of person," and motioning to the walls around us said, "and this is the box."

Today, worship is no longer what I do on Sundays, its' something I do every day.  On one day a week, I rest - usually that's Sunday.  To me, the assembly is family and friends in the Lord - people who can speak into my life because they know where I am, what I'm doing, how I'm living in Christ.  To put it bluntly, a Pastor can't do that.  They can cast a wide net, but that's about it.

If you're in a Evangelical church, you've heard the Gospel three dozen different ways; and if you're a good christian, you've re-examined yourself ten times that amount.  But in actuality, the Gospel was efficacious once - beyond that, we don't need to hear it again: so what good has repeating it done us?  We hear the Gospel being preached yet again from the pulpit and somehow think that's what it's all about: let the ministry save the people, not the priests sitting in the pews.

The Church, the Ecclesia, has been corrupted.  We show up, sit down, shut up, pay up, get up and leave.  And if you're really spiritual, you'll do it all over again in Sunday School.  Where exactly is that modeled in our scriptures?  And therein is the problem: it's not.  We've been duped into a false sense of security, spiced with condemnation and guilt for not paying our tithes and serving the pastoral staff.

So I bowed out (more or less), and set out on a journey to find Jesus, rejecting the notion - as I was taught in my church - that The Church is Jesus and by bringing people to The Church, we're introducing people to Jesus.

Eventually, I joined another church and their Community Group - they didn't have Sunday School, which was more than fine with me.  The Community Group was a place were we could discuss life and things we were learning in Jesus.  That suited me just fine.  I actually preferred the small group setting to the large congregation.  I found myself going there more than I went to Church.

So today, I found myself going to Church on Easter.  Just like all of those other people, whom several decades ago, I condemned because they hadn't earned the right to be there in the first place.

I had become what I loathed: a Bunny Hopper.

But today was different.  Today it didn't matter to me where anyone had been, or why they were there, or why they might not have been there consistently in the past.  I injected no presuppositions of spirituality (the lack thereof) upon their souls.  I didn't consider them as being spiritually aware as a brick, or spiritually stupid as I have known other people to do.  And most of all, there was no self condemnation - which is a miracle in-and-of itself.

I found that instead of saddling them with rules, regulations and condemnation, I had found that suddenly, I was able to extend grace.  I wanted to build them up, not instruct them on how to better live their lives or to measure up to a standard; I found myself not judging them for any perceived or imagined lack of prior participation.

So when the invitation came, I ignored the pastoral instruction to close my eyes.  I found two people raising their hands, indicating they wanted to know Jesus - to pray the "sinner's prayer," as we called it.  So I prayed for them, I blessed them, I stored up some treasure in heaven.  And I walked away knowing that my prayers were impactful, not because of who I am in and of myself, but because of who I am in Christ - a King and a Priest (Rev. 1:6).  This means I have the authority to affect change in the natural (as a King) and to affect change in the Spiritual (as a Priest).  It's my identity.

So today I learned that I've become something better than I was decades ago.  I've not been stagnant, I've changed, I've grown - I've produce fruit of the spirit.  Not because I tied it on like I used to, not because I picked it up and purposed to do it: because it is a natural by-product of who I have become.

If that makes be a Bunny Hopper, then so be it.  I'll take that any day over who I was in the past.

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