Just how big is God, anyway?
At this weekend’s NBA all-star game, some of the best players on earth will assemble to put their talents on display. The game of basketball has certainly come a long way from the day James Naismith first nailed a peach basket to a wall in Springfield, Massachusetts 125 years ago. Imagine the difference in the way it was played back then with the way it is played today.
What caused this rapid development of skill and talent? Passionate people building upon what was learned by others.
Twelve years after the peach basket was put up, two bicycle builders from Dayton, Ohio taught the world to fly. The discipline of aviation started primitively, by flying only a few feet. Mankind took what was learned from that first flight and, over the next 113 years, has landed on the moon, built a space station and daily transports tens of thousands of people from one end of the world to the other.
What caused this rapid development of aviation? Passionate people building upon what was learned by others.
Ironically, the church has not done that with the teachings of the man from Galilee, even though it has had nearly two thousand years to figure it out. I think it is safe to say that if the church had been in charge of basketball’s development, its players would still be trying to get a ball into a peach basket.
The church seems to struggle getting past “because we’ve always done it that way”. Basically, that is why we have a marketing problem for reaching this generation of young people.
As Christians, we have the greatest product on earth, which can transform lives and give hope to every person on earth. Properly implemented, it could end child hunger around the world. Actively engaged, it could end domestic violence and child abuse.
But instead of building upon the things learned in the past, the church keeps recalibrating itself backwards, limiting its integration into each subsequent generation. So for the church to flourish in the 21st century with its young people leading it instead of leaving it, the church must change its marketing campaign.
This is how the church currently markets itself to its young people:
1. Numerous rituals
2. Tells them of future events that aren’t likely to happen in their lives for the next 75-80 years
3. It can’t fully explain most of the things it teaches in this Internet age
4. It’s about things you have to do, instead of things you get to do
The church is trying to market itself to the world with a 2,000-3,000 year-old portrait of God, which was drawn against the backdrop of superstition, mythology, and ignorance. It should instead be showcasing God’s available power for the current world they live. Right marketing campaign; wrong time.
It may have been the best portrayal of God those inspired writers could muster in their effort to inspire and motivate their audiences toward a likeness of Him, but, viewed through the prism of modern day discoveries and scrutiny, much of what we read in the Bible can’t hold water in this Internet age.
Nor was it intended to. It’s the difference between trying to appeal to tens of thousands of people back then and trying to appeal to billions of people today.
Here are some illustrations that highlight biblical inconsistencies:
1. When the Israelites left Egypt, God thought they might turn back if He led them directly into Canaan, and had to fight against a strong Philistine army. God didn’t know if they would or wouldn’t? God was not omniscient?
2. In the story of Abraham being instructed to sacrifice his son Isaac, God ultimately stopped Abraham because then God knew of Abraham’s faith. He did not know? God was not omniscient?
3. Several times when the Israelites messed up in the wilderness, God would become angry when he saw their behavior. So God didn’t know beforehand? God was not omniscient?
4. Throughout Scripture God is given human attributes, as if He is a man in the sky. The problem is that does not allow God to be at other places at the same time. When God was over Jerusalem, was He also over Tokyo? Australia? Personification is a great teaching tool for novice minds (like Saturday morning cartoons) which is why God metaphorically sitting on a throne like a person might was used so to help the Israelites get their arms around God.
5. Solomon wrote that nothing happens to a person after they die. No heaven? No hell?
6. Solomon also said that man cannot comprehend what goes on under the sun, which was true three thousand years ago, even for the wisest man on earth. But now any fifth grader can unravel many of the biological complexities of mankind as part of their educational process.
7. In the ten commandments, Moses noted that there should be no other gods before God while Matthew wrote that God is God Most High. So there actually are other gods? In Greek mythology, the higher the altitude, the more powerful the god. It’s not “God Most High”; it’s just “God”. Matthew was just parroting his religious training.
The inspired writings were supposed to create a rocket launch, with each subsequent generation building upon what its charter members created. Instead, the church chained those teachings to the first century, not allowing them to be built upon, threatening doom and gloom for anyone who thought outside the box.
Statistics show that thousands of people leave the church every day. To turn that around, the church needs to re-market, re-brand, and re-package God so that His full available power for their lives can be seen.
Consider this: there are over three-quarters of a million words in the Bible, written by forty or so inspired men over a thirteen-hundred-year span, but here’s the reality: you could take the worst photograph the Hubble telescope has ever taken of the farthest reaches of the universe, and it does a far better job of describing the essence and dimension of God to this generation than all of the words of the Bible, combined.
Imagine how differently the Bible might have been written had Luke, the doctor, seen a heart transplant surgery, or sat in a neuroscience class to understand how the mind works, or had a better working knowledge of the causes of diseases or temptation.
Imagine how differently Paul’s tone might have been in his letters had he spent a week up in the space station or had even known that Jesus would not return for at least the next two thousand years.
In effect, the God described in the Bible thousands of years ago, in the eyes of many in this generation, does not exist.
The reality is that He is bigger. Way, way, way, way, way, way, way, way bigger.
Bigger than anything Moses could have possibly understood; more powerful than David ever dreamed about. And the way Paul tried to explain God, when compared to God’s actual Presence, is like comparing a firecracker to an atomic bomb.
For this God we serve is not a person up in the sky, but rather is a tower of strength that occupies every inch for trillions of light years in all directions, like a blanket. God is a reservoir of spirit large enough to fill everyone on earth with His power, with plenty to spare, to help alter the course of history. And, if you want to know where to send your prayers, just look in the mirror, because God lives in you. Rituals won’t help young people understand that.
The best way to look at Christianity, and its available spiritual firepower, is to think of it like training for a triathlon. Always thinking of ways of becoming stronger and staying away from things that are counter-productive to the goal. Then it wouldn’t be necessary to parse words in the Bible to allow people to eat what they want, drink what they want, and look and act as closely like the world as possible, but still sneak into heaven.
While there may be five or six growth metrics toward becoming a triathlete, there are 20-25 growth metrics for growing spiritually. For example, having the same patience, mood, and focus with only two hours of sleep as you would with eight hours of sleep is a derivative of spiritual growth.
Why do you think Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry? Spiritual boot camp, to spiritually prepare for anything thrown at him for the next three years. For us, that is the role of the church.
You will reach this generation of kids once you allow them to test drive God’s available horsepower based on the octane of their own faith, and on their own terms. From there, the sky’s the limit.