No, it doesn’t.
And no matter how much those smiley mega-church pastors, or those trendy pastors, or those evangelists with their little bottles of snake oil want you to believe it does, it doesn’t.
Christianity does not work the way your hammer works. And you may want to hammer in the morning, or in the evening all over this land, but it still won’t work.
It doesn’t do that.
I read a recent article online about a church that was welcoming in their new pastor. They lauded the pastor as being “energetic and enthusiastic,” claiming that he “grew his previous congregation into one of the fastest growing churches in the denomination.”
No doubt that is an article that tries to get you to think that it works. It creates energy and enthusiasm, growing and multiplying and expanding.
Expanding influence. Expanding pocketbooks.
We’re talking about success here.
But Christianity doesn’t do that. It is not a magic pill that you swallow to become successful. It does not, as I recently read on the cover of a free evangelical e-book, help you “conquer life.”
In fact, it helps you lose your life. Christopher Hitchens hated that part about Christianity. He said it was cruel to expect people to give up their lives in deference to others, especially enemies and those they never met. This point is about the only point about Christianity that Hitchens ever understood: self-sacrifice and self-giving love is at the heart of the Christian.
And it encourages you to adopt tactics that don’t work. Forgiveness, for instance, doesn’t work. It doesn’t automatically repair relationships. It doesn’t automatically make you feel better or heal your insides. It doesn’t do any of those things, as a recent New York Times article points out. Sometimes revenge satisfies more than forgiveness.
And yet, the Christian is called to forgive. It is but one example of how Christianity doesn’t work in the way the world wants things to work.
Christianity doesn’t work. And that’s going to upset some people to hear it, but it’s true. And I’m a reluctant Christian because so much of our church culture today is about success and numbers and winning and…and about it all working.
The Christianity I practice doesn’t work. It hasn’t made me successful. It hasn’t made me wealthy. It hasn’t made my marriage perfect or my parenting perfect or my manners perfect or my morals perfect. It certainly hasn’t given me all the answers. I have more questions then ever.
It has given me a lens, though, to view my work and any successes I might claim. It’s given me a lens to view my pocketbook and my marriage and my parenting and my manners and my morals. It has given me a lens to view questions and has encouraged me to ask more questions.
But it doesn’t work.
And quick growth in faith communities, or enthusiastic pastors, or wealthy congregations, or any of these business markers for success are smoke and mirrors covering this truth: Christianity doesn’t work.
Thank God. So much of what supposedly works in this life is killing us.
And so much of Christianity is about self-sacrifice. And somehow, it gives life.