It’s hard to look into the mirror. I mean really look.
It’s why preachers avoid using mirrors in the pulpit. Mirrors that make us see ourselves as God sees us. It’s why they don’t say “sinner” or quote passages like, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins...” (Eph 2:1)
That’s the problem with the modern church, a Christian leader wrote recently. It’s “growth without depth…a superficiality of discipleship everywhere.” 1
Because we don’t want to look! Plus the poor preacher is constantly under the gun just to get people to come to church – let alone stay. Especially with stiff competition. There are all kinds of churches out there committed to making us feel good, do good, think good, be good. Simple rule: No mirrors.
People want superficial. Give it to them. Disciple them later, when they’re not looking. When they least expect it. For now, just get them in the door.
Spectacular church growth…without depth.
Here’s what I think. I think we need mirrors.
I know. It’s hard to look in the mirror. Really hard. To see me as God sees me. Not the image I put on for others. But me, alone, by myself, the way I am.
I remember being eight. It was my first big trip out with my mom. Every year she had to go to Chicago for medical tests. One year she took my brother, the next my sister, then it was my turn. And I mean Chicago!
My aunt Jo and uncle Lee lived in an apartment way up high in a big skyscraper overlooking the city. It was spectacular at night – all the lights, the hustle and bustle, as far as the eye could see. For me, at eight, breathtaking.
And my own room. With big windows to see out. But that night, in the middle of the night, something happened. A bad dream. Those kind I got when I was sick and everything was whacky out of proportion. Big things little. Little things big. And I shot out of the bed and ran to the window and looked out. Then down. Way down. I felt this hand behind me – pushing me.
For a split second I could see it, feel it. My insides flipping, my head spinning. As if I was falling. Like the window had broken open and out I went. We were so high up. And all I could do was open my mouth and scream as loud as I could. With everything inside me.
Fear, outright fear.
Rushing through every part of my body. Coursing through my veins. Not some monster from the outside – but a monster inside. Roaring so loud I actually felt it was going to happen. I was going to hit the ground. I was going to die. And I didn’t want to die. All I knew to do was scream. And cry. And wail.
What kind of world is this?
There are monsters in it. It’s dark and scary and completely unsafe. Even at eight, I knew fear real and big inside me. And specific, a fear of death. Afraid to die. Scared to fall and fall and fall and then die. When the only thing I knew to do is scream. Scream until someone comes and makes it safe.
Will someone come? Can anyone hear?
It didn’t take me long to find out that there was more than fear in me. There was sin and selfishness, rebellion and pride, lust and longing for things to satisfy me, and all kinds of ugly if I didn’t get it. It’s about me. Me. ME.
Mirrors. The real me.
Finding our real identity. Going back – way back – to when the first couple entered this world. Not the world of Eden for which we were intended. But I mean the world after Eden. This broken, fallen, demon-filled world where death and the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2) reign outside.
And then trace the story. Read through the opening six chapters of Genesis. What mess. What horror! A world engulfed in sin, evil, murders, lusts, and open rebellion to God. A people already so irreconcilably wicked that God unleashed His wrath on them. World-wide and cataclysmic judgment.
Mirrors into who we are without Him. Best not to look. Best to play pretend.
Best to run to our dressing rooms. Put on our disguises. Tons of make-up and make-over until we can stand in the mirror presentable. Palatable.
Best to get preachers who tell us we look good. God thinks we look good. Never talking the language of sin and fear and monsters with power2scare.
Fake mirrors that don’t tell the truth. That make us feel safe, fake safe.
Lest we see ourselves the way we really are. The way God sees us. And then do the only thing we know how to do. Must do. Can’t stop from doing. Scream. Scream until someone comes and makes it safe. Until we honestly, sincerely turn to Him with nothing in ourselves to help ourselves.
And growth with depth begins.
1 John Stott, The Radical Disciple, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 2010. p. 38