Why Jesus Wouldn't Have Been Grumpy in Your Church

I'm convinced that Jesus never sat in worship at a synagogue complaining to others that he "didn't get anything out of it." That's pretty remarkable if you think about it, because I'm quite sure that he never really "got fed" from the rabbi's comments, and I'm also sure that he is one who actually knew better than everyone in charge of the synagogue how to do the things they were trying to do.

I'm writing with a large amount of ignorance about ancient Jewish worship practices, but I'm pretty confident about a few things:

  • The synagogue in Nazareth (or the majority of the other places he spent time) probably didn't have the best band around.
  • If Jesus had invited a Gentile friend, no one in the synagogue would have gone out of their way to make him (or especially her!) feel welcome.
  • There weren't two rooms in the synagogue with different styles of worship opportunities, one where older, more traditional Andrew would have gone, and another that the younger, Rock-n-Roll Peter liked better.
  • And, perhaps most shockingly of all, there wasn't even a coffee bar.

Yet, as the Scriptures tell us, "it was his custom" to be in the synagogue. As a young man, it was the primary place where he learned the Hebrew Scriptures which he himself embodied. He continued to be there, and be shaped by what happened there, as an adult before he went to cousin John to be baptized and begin publicly proclaiming the availability of God's kingdom. And, once he had a group of disciples and began to be one called "Rabbi," he was still there, despite some pretty serious disagreements and tension with other people in the room.

Had he lived many more years, I'm quite sure that Jesus would not have become a grumpy old synagogue-man. So what's the difference? Why do so many of us go from church to church, as mentioned in Renovation of the Church, like Goldilocks, looking for leaders who preach the way we think they should preach, sing the way we think they should sing, and for a church that's not too big, not too small, but just right? And we usually do so convinced that we're following God's leading.

I'm writing as once again as one who sits in the pews, rather than who is up front leading in church, so I won't be concerned with saying this gently, as they would: if you're not being fed in your church, stop placing blame for your lack of growth on other people and start taking responsibility to cooperate with the work of God's grace that is abundantly available to you right now. You probably have a good idea of how you can shape your day today in a way that will give God more room to work in you. Do it. It's not anyone else's job, and God will be there to help your efforts.

Yes, we certainly read of Jesus having some stern things to say to the religious leaders of his day, but on a normal morning in worship, he wouldn't have been grumpy in your church or mine. He would have prayed, listened, noticed what was happening in the lives of those worshipping with him, and continued living knowing that he would be fed by doing his Father's will, rather than being dependent on the people up front to always do the feeding.