taking the words of Jesus seriously

Jesus is famous for many things—like performing miracles, claiming to be God, and dying on the cross—but one of his most underappreciated characteristics was his ability to just hang out.

Whether it was attending weddings (John 2), resting from long journeys (John 4); participating in religious festivals (John 5), spending time with his followers and disciples, having dinner with the tax collectors (Matt. 9 and Mark 2), or eating and talking with Pharisees and prostitutes (Luke 7), Jesus spent a lot of time with people in casual, familiar, and very unremarkable circumstances—it was within these situations where the most profound miracles occurred!

Average interactions suddenly became divine—filled with transformation, redemption, and life-changing events. But the original settings were so ordinary.

Today, many churches leave little room for just hanging out. Instead, we do everything we can to contrive an extraordinary experience. Therefore, churches scheme, plan, design, create and facilitate multiple platforms for ultimate experiences to happen—but they often don’t.

Related: We Need New Wineskins (Or Why Evangelicalism Needs to be Abandoned)

Sunday morning schedules are completely filled with songs, liturgies, sermons, presentations, videos, speakers, offerings, and communions, but only a few moments are reserved to “greet the person sitting next to you, and say hello to someone you don’t know.

In reality, many of our most life-changing conversations, interactions, and relationships happen outside of the church’s walls, beyond the realm of Sunday school rooms, Bible studies, small group meetings, and cathedral sanctuaries.

In many ways the church has bought into society’s expectation of creating perpetual busyness, where every waking second is dedicated towards improving our leadership potential, becoming more successful, educated, and obsessed with self-improvement. Contrary to expectations, these often leave us unfulfilled and discontent.

Christendom has become an environment flooded with staged interactions: church services, Bible studies, presentations, retreats, break-out sessions, support groups, committees, clubs, mission trips, ministry opportunities, camps, and conferences. These are all great things in and of themselves, but they’re all pre-planned, structured, formal, and filled with clear-cut and defined expectations.

Church-sponsored events are almost always designed to serve some sort of religious agenda: evangelism, missions, discipleship, marriage enrichment, serving the poor, and worship (along with many others).

But moments of divine interaction, clarity, vulnerability, holiness, and meaningful, deep, and real conversations and experiences often happen unexpectedly in our homes, at our work, at school, and while we’re at restaurants, bars, coffee shops, sporting events, and within the routine environments of our lives—the ordinary places of our existence.

Many Christians have lost the ability to just hang out with friends, relatives, and those around them—to be content and comfortable with just spending time together.

Instead, relationships have turned into agenda-driven formulas, where individuals are perceived as religious targets for zeal, judgment, discipleship, and “love.” This type of interaction is based on the false premise of authenticity, when in reality we’re often motivated by fear, legalism, and the sense of duty to “love everyone no matter what.”

Too often, Christians treat their relationships like a job, a chore, and an assignment that they’re supposed to complete in order to satisfy a religious obligation.

Thus, our conversations are often filled with spiritual clichés, religious jargon, and carefully guarded words. We manicure and protect our reputations for the sake of appearing righteous—abandoning virtues such as honesty, transparency, vulnerability, humility, and truthfulness.

Why can’t we just hang out? Experiencing spontaneity, freedom, relaxation, and peace with others is becoming a rare event.

Obviously, structure shouldn’t be abandoned in order to accommodate chaotic social venues where people just do what they want. But Christians must complement their tightly-wound institutions with the liberty and opportunity to interact beyond platforms that are poisoned by religious schemes, expectations, propaganda, defined methodologies, regulations, and systematic approaches.

Also by Stephen: 4 Reasons Jesus was Millennial

Surveys and polls continually suggest that the biggest regrets people had in life were not spending enough time with family and friends—because they were too busy.

Let’s practice the sacred discipline of hanging out—getting to know people for who they really are instead of trying to convert them to who we want them to become.

Being like Jesus is often misinterpreted as changing people, but in reality Christ spent more time honestly getting to know them, truthfully talking to them, really listening, and sharing in life together—if only we could do the same.

About The Author


Stephen Mattson is the author of "The Great Reckoning: Surviving a Christianity That Looks Nothing Like Christ." Follow him on Twitter (@StephenMattson_)

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