I’ve been in Oklahoma City for the past few days, attending a writer’s conference. Not a Christian writer’s conference, mind you, but the secular type.
It wasn’t too secular, of course, because of the location. As everybody knows, you can’t swing a dead armadillo in Oklahoma without hitting a dozen Baptists, a handful of Charismatics, and a Nazarene or two. But, still, the conference had a refreshingly unreligious feel to it.
What I liked best about it was the marvelous variety of “characters” I encountered there. A motley crew, it included plump grandmothers in polyester knit, earth-mothers with waist-length hair and hiking sandals buckled over wool-socked feet, pot-bellied men wearing Wrangler jeans with enormous belt buckles, floppy-haired 20-somethings taking notes on their Ipads, romance writers so frumpy that you know at a glance they are not “writing what they know,” and a science fiction author whose monotone voice and expressionless face left me wondering if the aliens she invents had taken her over unawares.
I came away from the conference wishing I could more often find such a vivid mix of individuals in church.
I don’t mean that I wish we drew more unconventional unbelievers to our services so that we could preach the Gospel to them and get them saved. I’m in favor of that, yes, but it’s not what I mean.
What I mean is that I wish we could reach this vivid mix of individuals and, having reached them, enhance and encourage their uniqueness. I wish our church sanctuaries brimmed like oceans with a stunning variety of personalities as different from each other as sea horses and shell fish—and that the differences were more celebrated than shunned.
I wish that we could figure out a way to direct believers onto the highway of holiness without trying to get them all to drive the same kind of car.
I don’t think we intend to do this but all too often when “characters” join our ranks, we set about to homogenize them. The sharp edges of their uniqueness and their pungent personalities disturb us. So we toss them into the blender of churchianity and turn them into contemporary Christian smoothies—bland but sweet, with about the same texture, taste, and political viewpoint as everybody else on the pew.
I think church would be a truer reflection of the many-faceted magnificence of God if we got rid of that blender, don’t you? I think the world would be more interested in Jesus if we, as His disciples, encouraged each other not only to be holy but to be the characters God created us to be.