On a recent TV quiz show in the United Kingdom named University Challenge, one of the teams represented was a British theological college. They faired well against their opponents and were able to answer most of the questions on philosophy and religion with a good degree of accuracy. But on questions related to popular culture, they failed miserably. So much so that it prompted the quizmaster Jeremy Paxman, to say, “You need to get out more.”
That is good advice to theological students who have been called by Christ to minister in the contemporary world. It is also a good reminder to all Christians to stay connected to lost people and a perishing world. If we are not careful, our walk with God and our worship of God can become a cul-de-sac, an end in itself. We pour our energy and direct our time into worshipping God but not loving our neighbor, yet the one should naturally lead to the other (Mark 12:28-31). The God we worship loves the world; therefore, worship in the church should lead to service in the world. That is what ought to be happening but sadly doesn’t always happen. Unless we fight the temptation to live indoors with church folk rather than outdoors with lost folk, our worship can become a placebo, prayer an escape, and Christian service a self-serving act.
The temptation to live indoors can be seen in Peter’s desire to stay on the Mount of Transfiguration with Christ, James and John, Moses and Elijah (Mark 9:5). Along with the two other disciples, Peter had just been given a preview of Jesus’ Second Coming glory and he is captured by it (Mark 9:1-5). Believing perhaps that the millennial kingdom is about to be inaugurated, Peter suggests that they set up camp and bask in the glory of the moment and what it promises (Zech. 14:16). Peter wanted to make this permanent. Peter wanted to bottle this wonderful experience and take a long and refreshing drink of it. But he was mistaken (Mark 9:6)! There was a broken world below them that needed their service, service underwritten and sustained by a glorious vision of the Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 9:7-8). That is why the movement of the story switches dramatically from the mountain to the valley below (Mark 9:9, 14ff). Look and learn! The interplay within the text shifts from God to man, from worship to service, and from inspiration to perspiration. Peter, James, and John needed to get off the mountain, and back into the community for gospel impact. Why? Because Christ-centered worship and Christian fellowship is meant to be a pit stop not a parking spot.
The true worship of Christ is never an end in itself; rather, it is the fuel that drives our desire to share the gospel (Isaiah 6:1-8). When our lives brim with a glorious vision of Christ and love for Him, then others will enjoy the overspill. The proper balance in the Christian life is to meet God in the holy place and minister to man in the marketplace. As Christians, we need to get out more, we need to salt the culture more, and we need to bring the light of the gospel to a world that sits in darkness and the shadow of death.
The church ought not to be an isolation ward for Christians in a world of hurting people!