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The “Bible Bug”

091216-N-9187B-007 GRAND BARA, Djibouti (Dec. 15, 2009) Army National Guard Sgt. Rafael Rivas approaches a water-station during a 15K run through the Grand Bara Desert, Djibouti.  Sgt. Rivas, 55, placed second overall in his age bracket finishing in just under 58 minutes.  Hosted by the French Foreign Legion, the 27th Grand Bara Run included runners from American, Japanese, French, and local Djiboutian militaries.  Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Bryce Bruns.My sister-in-law was always trying to persuade me to join a local running club that she goes to. I came close to going a few times, but I felt put off by the long distances they would run. I relocated at the end of 2010, so I decided to join a local running club early in 2012. I’m really glad I did! I enjoy going to the running club every week. It seems to motivate me to run better when I’m with a group of other people. I tend to be a fair-weather jogger and sometimes struggle running when it’s cold and dark outside. But I find that if I can just get into the car and drive to the meeting place – I’ll be okay from there. So far, I’ve hardly missed a session – never because I don’t feel like it.

There seems to be such a buzz of excitement when you meet with other people around a shared interest. I tend to be rather quiet at the running club. Unlike church, I don’t feel compelled to introduce myself to everyone and to talk a lot. But I do find that I naturally engage people in conversation during the session – in a way that feels normal and comfortable. The people are often excitedly discussing upcoming races they’re going in for – be it a 10k, trail race, half-marathon, full marathon or even something more. Some of the people travel far and wide for races, such as Berlin or Budapest.

The “Race Bug”

Suffice to say, you find that in a running club you feel more motivated and, if you don’t already have it, you find yourself catching the “Race Bug”. I’ve already done three 10k races this year and plan to do another race by the end of the year. For me, running a race is exhilarating and I excitedly anticipate each one I go in for. The desire to set goals, achieve them and to perform in general – is intensified. When you’re running with other people, there is a subconscious desire to keep up with other, faster people: to maintain a pace that is faster than you would normally run at – which is great.

The “Church Bug”

This made me think about the way in which a person’s motivation is increased when they’re around people who have a shared interest. This then led me to consider the way in which this concept applies to the church. People get the “Church Bug” as they get excited about attending church and discussing upcoming church events and visiting speakers. There’s always someone who announces they’re going to attend more than one service on a Sunday, or they’re going to a conference over a hundred miles away – you feel that you should do the same.

Pep Talks

As I pointed out in a previous blog post entitled Pep Talks, much of the preaching and overall focus of the typical charismatic church, is positive thinking and encouragement. I see a lot of preaching in charismatic services as being akin to a Biblically oriented Anthony Robbins seminar. On the surface this seems to be all well and good, but I’ve found from my own experience that it tends to get a person all excited – but without actually being able to instil the necessary wisdom and patience to sustain the required effort over the long-haul. There is also a tendency to raise the bar to a very high standard, which is difficult to achieve for the average person. The net effect is often disappointment and frustration as you try to be, do or have something that you don’t already experience.

The “Jesus Bug”

At church, you soon catch the “Jesus Bug” – you find yourself using the name of Jesus much more than you normally would do. You find creative ways of diverting a conversation from something secular to something about Jesus. You learn to divert the focus away from your own life and your relationships – to Jesus.

The emphasis then turns to being like Jesus. In the 15th June 2012 Into the Wild podcast Challenging the Man of God Teaching, the hosts discussed the way in which Christian men have been encouraged to be like Jesus. The problem with this is that no-one really knows what Jesus was like, because there are only scant writings about Him and, of course, no video footage. I understand that the church seeks to encourage people to adopt the obvious, and Biblical, positive attributes of Jesus: what Paul lists as the fruit of the spirit in the book of Galatians. But what often happens is that the church forms an impression of what Jesus was like, which ends up being non-confrontational, soft and rather feminine – instead of just being normal and expressing, rather than repressing, emotions.

The “Bible Bug”

Church also fosters the “Bible Bug” – you find yourself memorising and quoting Bible verses on a regular basis. In fact, you would look a bit silly around your new found Christian friends if you didn’t learn to sprinkle your conversation with a good amount of scripture. I suppose this aids people who struggle to talk about themselves, because they feel their life is not interesting enough. If you find conversation running dry – why not tell your buddies at church that you’re believing God for some material thing, according to Philippians 4:13? Soon you can become an expert at finding analogies from the Bible, quoting chapter and verse, for almost any situation in everyday life.

In the 13th April 2012 Into the Wild podcast The Day the Music Died, Darin Hufford remarked on the way in which we’ve substituted the Bible for God so, instead of looking at our hearts for answers to life, we’ve been taught to look to the Bible. I’ve found my need to read the Bible is now non-existent.

Church – Did it Do Me Any Good?

When I look back on all of that church life now, I can’t honestly say that any of it did me any good whatsoever. I can’t think of many sermons that I’d like to keep and to reference in the future. I can’t claim to have benefited in any way from constantly quoting Bible verses. I can’t think of one instance when I’ve “believed God” for something, according to scripture – and it has come to pass. Neither can I see any benefit of injecting Jesus into my conversation. I believe in Jesus, honour Him, perhaps even love Him to an extent. But I’m not sure if I, or others, were really supposed to talk about Him as much as we were trained to do in the church. Now that I’m out of the church, I wonder sometimes if I’ve backslidden, because I don’t talk about church, Jesus and the Bible – anywhere as much as I used to.

I believe that the institutional church has painted a picture of the Christian life, which is far removed from reality; I also doubt if Jesus and the apostles meant for Christianity to become what it has over the centuries. Despite all the spectacular stories we read in the Bible and hear at church - I think the Christian life looks more like everyday life than anything else.

I believe it is good for Christians to get together over their shared interest. But who says it has to be in buildings dedicated for that purpose? Who said we had to meet on a Sunday – or every Sunday for that matter? Who said we have to focus on and quote the Bible so much? Who says that we should even focus on Jesus as much as the church does?

Photo Guardsman places second in 15K run through Grand Bara Desert, Djibouti courtesy of The National Guard.

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