I am a pastor, and as a pastor, the single most popular question that people ask me is “How is the church going?” Different people ask for different reasons, but they all say the same thing: “How’s the church going?”, as to inquire about its size. I’ll be honest and say, depending on who asked and why I think they asked it, determines how I answer the question; but I always answer the question honestly. For the sake of brevity I will be direct with you, mostly because you didn’t ask. I pastor a small church. A very small: like smaller than the average small church. For me it is both outstanding and overwhelming. It is simultaneously fantastic and frustrating, because small churches, just like everything else in life has its pros and cons. I really enjoy the intimacy of the small church, because it feels like family, but the limited resources present a burden that many larger church don’t have to stress about. So long story short, our church work is good but it’s not easy.
Here in lies the problem. People’s response to however I answer the question is generally the exact same as well. “It’s not about the size anyway.” Regardless of their initial motive, it now shifts in the attempt to encourage me. “It’s not about the size anyway.” While this is true, most of the people who say it, don’t even believe it. It has just become a cliche.
A cliche is a phrase or opinion that has been so overused, that it actually undermines the original intent and meaning. The reason I say the afore-mentioned response, “It’s not about the size anyway,” is a cliche, is because if size truly didn’t matter, why ask about it in the first place? Yet time and time again, the same question is asked and the same response is given. We say these things in the attempt to make ourselves and others feel better, when in fact we rarely believe what we say. It’s just a cliche.
The Christian cliche, may be one of the most dangerous things we regularly participate in. I’m guilty as charged. As a preacher or teacher we tend to know what will produce a response. Most of us in church culture have been trained and programmed to respond to certain cues, be it verbal or non verbal. Church folk know how to be “churchy”. And regardless of the ethnic, socio-economic, or denominational culture there may be in your church, everyone at some point will perpetuate a Christian cliche. Finish the following phrases:
- “It is more blessed …”
- “Weeping may endure for the night …”
- “The Lord is my shepherd …”
- “He may not come when you want Him …”
While all of these sayings (except the last one of course) are in the Bible, and we say them with so much conviction, our actions often betray our speech. If in fact it is more blessed then it is to receive, why aren’t more people generous? If weeping actually only endures for the night, then why are so many people battling continual depression?
The danger of the Christian cliché, is that we say them, but don’t live them. We think we believe them, but our lives prove otherwise. I am in nowise suggesting that we throw these encouraging phrases away, but I do challenge you to dig deeper than these familiar words. Take a closer look at your heart. I often have to ask myself, am I going to say this just so they can feel better? I’m putting this in my sermon because I know I will get a response, or do I actually believe the words that are coming out of my mouth? Knowing truth, speaking truth and living truth are not all the same.
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