Let me begin by saying I'm not that important. I used to get around 75 to 100 emails each day, most of which I never opened and would immediately send to the trash. This never really bothered me, though it was a waste of time. In fact, I barely realized it was happening until my wife looked at my phone on a long drive. Absolutely appalled, she asked me how in the world I had so many unread email notifications, wondering: Do you even use this stuff??
Evidently, over time, I had subscribed to all kinds of author email lists, company emails, news outlets, podcasts, and more that would use my email to send me daily alerts on their services, products, or content. Most of what I subscribed to never actually impacted my life.
And so on that long drive, Alanna pulled up each email, one at a time, and asked: Do you need this? I'd answer yes or no, and most of the time it was "no" and she would hit unsubscribe. My inbox is much cleaner today. However, this experience did make me think about all the things in my life that clutter my environment.
There are attitudes, philosophies, habits, messages, rhythms, and assumptions that I have subscribed to that actually don’t bring any real value to my life.
For example, being on Zillow’s email list, unless you’re looking for a house, is pointless! And it's not that I’m so important that I receive these attitudes, philosophies, habits, messages, rhythms, or assumptions. Instead, there is simply a great deal of stuff out there, attempting to influence the way I think and the way I live. There are a lot of voices telling me what to buy, how to look, what to hope for, what success looks like, where to find fulfillment, how to eat, what to fear, what to love, and what to hate. And often it doesn’t really bother me. I don’t really pay too much attention; in fact, I almost don’t even realize its happening. But it's filling up my inbox and keeping me from paying attention to what matters most.
Sometimes I think its easy to think this way when it comes to being part of a church. Its just one more thing in life that many of us subscribe to; something that truth be told, doesn’t really make an impact in life. Sometimes I show up, listen to what it has to say, and find it never really makes a difference. Often it's just another subscription in my inbox that I delete without ever opening. It goes on the pile of other voices like MyFitnessPal, Zillow, West Elm Friends and Family, Zulily, or Goodreads.
If that’s true for you, if church has become one more subscription in your life’s inbox that doesn’t really have an impact on how you live your life, I’d like to say two things: 1) I'm sorry and 2) Unsubscribe.
- I’m sorry. I’m sorry that people like me, people who get up every week with a microphone strapped to their face, telling you what to fear, what to love and what to hate, have turned church and the faith into something so easily discarded. I’m sorry that we have veered away from the life changing truth that we claim we are called to carry. I’m sorry that we have made the divine into something so easily dispensable, something that makes very little difference in your life and the lives of those you love.
- Unsubscribe. Consider unsubscribing from that way of church. Unsubscribe from the voices that fill up, clutter up, and mess up the inbox of your life. Let me be the voice of reason that asks you the question: Do you even use this stuff? And if that means church, unsubscribe. Your life is needed elsewhere. You were made to do good, neh, great things. You were made to live in relationship with people, to cultivate the dirt you live on, and to know and be known by the God behind it all. You will flourish when you do that well.
I’m convinced that this comes through following Jesus.
It seems to me that people are looking for three things in life: identity, community, and purpose. Who am I? Who are my people? And why am I here? Church worthy of your subscription is not a talking head, with good music and something — anything — for your kids. Church worthy of your subscription gives you not an answer to those questions, but a pathway leading to them. It invites you to find your identity as a child of God, eternally loved by Jesus. It surrounds you with people who share that identity and can walk with you through life’s ups and downs. It provides a vision for your purpose, and a space to sort out your unique mission in life.
So if church has become dispensable, as weird as it sounds, I’d love to be the first to encourage you: unsubscribe.
No judgment. Do you even use this stuff? Unsubscribe.
But if you’re curious about finding identity, community, and purpose…
And if you’re committed to helping others do the same…
then start following Jesus toward flourishing,
find some people who are doing the same,
and receive from, and join God in, the amazing thing He’s doing in the world. There are plenty of gatherings doing just that. They’re not perfect. But they’re worth subscribing to. You’ll find value for your life.