I try to walk every day. For those of you who do likewise, you know how easy it is to become rather bored with the route choices around town. So imagine my delight when my wandering today takes me to a section of town I haven’t visited in some time and I discover that an artist has painted the sequence of stone pillars I once wrote about.
Approaching them, I find that it’s a funded art project visualizing a parallax. They’ve helpfully written up the definition.
A different position can change our view. That resonates with me. I live perpetually looking for a new angle on things. Curiosity about others, which I wrote about recently, is fueled by the belief that I can benefit from their takes on things, even if I don’t agree with them.
The irony here is that, in the extreme version we find in our current society, this parallax principle doesn’t pull everyone together into a unified whole, as viewers of this art are encouraged to do. It fragments the whole into isolated pillars of individual belief systems, each only true on a subjective level.
But as I head toward the appointed vantage point, I’m not thinking about society in general. God is reminding me of the church.
Recent research by Barna’s Cultural Research Center shows that the percentage of adults in our country who regularly attend church services is now down to 33%. Granted, this includes people who are only nominally religious, but it must also include disillusioned Christians. Many believers have decided they’re just better off without church.
I know the feeling. Though I’ve never given up, I’ve had my own deep frustrations with local congregations in which I’ve served. But it’s clear in Scripture that God’s will is for us to be connected to other believers:
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Heb. 10:24-25)
You want a different view? Here it is. Whatever strength, beauty and learning you have – what makes you you – isn’t meant to be just for you. Maybe even not primarily for you. It’s for the people of God. Sometimes, our gifts won't even make sense out of that context.
That tendency I have to seek out odd angles on things? It isn’t simply to entertain me. It’s meant for God’s family. It’s to encourage them see outside their boxes, to learn to be inquisitive, to be curious about each other. So that his Kingdom can grow.
There are things about each of us that just don’t make sense out of this larger context.
Finally, here is the connected view of the art.
I’m so pleased that the aligned landscape of these disconnected murals leads to one of the signature lampposts of my town. It reminds me, as does the writer of Hebrews, that the unity of the church leads to a dawning of light.
The Day when Jesus sums up all of history is coming. And when it does, we’ll finally see the glorious panorama that he has been painting all along.
Using each one of us
Jesus, thank you for how you are transforming each one of us. Help us to put that into the bigger context of the church. Heal those who are discouraged and disengaged. Align us all with your purpose for your people.
Reader: How have you engaged with people who want to be done with church?