The Flight Simulator Church
I remember hearing Paul Scanlon use the analogy of a flight simulator to describe what church is often like…
“The church I grew up in was great. I loved the people. We all knew each other and loved each other—and we loved God. But we were turned inward. We liked things as they were and we weren’t looking to be changed.
God began to speak to my heart. I couldn’t explain it but I felt this overwhelming sadness and I knew I needed to change. So I left that church, and it was painful. The people I knew all my life were upset with me for leaving. It was like I’d left an Amish community and I was being shunned or something.
I spent 20 years at that church. We’d pray for our city sincerely and often we were weeping. We wanted God to move, but we weren’t willing to change and move with Him. It’s not enough to feel distressed about the poor and the lost. You have to make some kind of impact. You have to be of help.”
Paul went on to say that his church experience was like getting into a flight simulator each week – it felt like something was happening and it felt like they were going places, but nothing ever happened. Although they sang songs about shining brightly in a dark world, making a difference in their city, and sharing the love of God with people, they weren’t actually shining or making a difference or reaching people.
The flight simulator church felt good, but much of what was happening was merely an illusion.
Jesus told the following story…
A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, “Son, I need you to go work in our vineyard today.” His son answered, “No, I don’t want to.” But later on he thought better of it and went. The father gave the same command to his second son. This son answered, “Sure, I’d be glad to.” But he never went. Consider this story – which of the two sons did what the father asked? —Matthew 21.28-31
In His story, Jesus was comparing the religious in-crowd to the brother who sounded good, but didn’t actually do anything.
One of the temptations we face in the church today is to spend all our time on sounding and feeling good, but not actually doing good. We can talk (and sing) a good game while we’re not even in the game.
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This past December, our church was in a sermon series entitled, “Hope Arrives.” On the Sunday before Christmas, Pastor Angela preached a great message, “Hope Arrives Bringing Gifts.” Although her sermon was both encouraging and moving, the real power of the message was evident when she stopped talking. Why? Because that’s when we gave hundreds of Christmas gifts to children in our community.
I believe that’s what Jesus wants from us – not just sounding and feeling good, but doing good.
Sons and daughters who get outside and work in His vineyard…
Shining bright, while serving with all our might – loving people and making a real difference in our community.
I find that this happens a lot when the church “preaches Love’ which honestly I don’t actually hear a whole lot of. People as christians say that they Love people and say that they show it but most of the time all I see is “the flight simulator.” It’s like they have an ulterior motive to being good and open with people. Once that motive has been drained or pushed away by the person they are trying to be compassionate toward, they either become forceful or abandon the people they were trying to help. If you have a motive to be good to someone or to be compassionate then it’s not Love. They say that they want to Love like God because for them it feels good, until they try and it becomes outside of their comfort zone. For me it’s a real risk to Love anyone that fully because I have heart pains if I’m forced into being separated. The first time it happened was 10 years ago and I had heart pains so bad that they would last for hours until I blacked out. Last time I had a motive and that’s why it ended so badly. This time I don’t and I don’t expect anything from him, I’m just glad everyday that I get to see him and his wife and see them smile.