I’m a huge Rocky fan, yes. But that is not what is behind this post. Seriously. This scene hit me hard tonight. As I watched it, I felt a deep connection to the heavy message being conveyed by Mic, the old school, rough and tough trainer, and his young champion boxer, Rocky Balboa. Now, you have to watch the scene in order to get the jest of my thoughts here. The church has went and gotten itself civilized.
Early in its formative years, the church was raw. It was outcast. Scattered throughout the world, the church had to survive by sheer faith and grit. The believers were without comforts that we take for granted these days. There were no messages tailored around the idea that “to walk with God will keep you safe”, or that “God wants you healthy and wealthy”. Those messages wouldn’t have worked for a congregation that suffered at the hangman’s gallows or in the fire. No, but the church was thriving nonetheless. The early believers possessed sacrifice and hustle. They worked long and hard, through sufferings, and saw the world turned upside down.
Some days, I feel like Mic. I hear the church saying they want to win. Yet, I see a church that has gone and gotten itself civilized. We have donned big elaborate buildings and polished sermons. We live off the past victories, assuming we will always have the same successes once afforded us through an “easier” time. Like Mic’s love for Roc, I love the church. And in that love I have made a huge mistake. I’ve protected it by letting it “win” at things that matter very little. I hadn’t the faith in this new civilized, soft organization. I didn’t believe they actually could win. We had grown too comfortable, resting on our laurels.
However, the church is still calling out, begging for a chance to live again….to fight, to win. Can it happen. In my opinion? No. At least not in its current state.
If you are remotely familiar with Rocky 3, you will remember that Rocky got beat viciously by the antagonist, Clubber Lang. He stood no chance against this killer. But Rocky learned a vital lesson. As long as fear and being “civilized” dominated his life, he would never win. And so, his return to the ring would follow a return to the fundamentals of boxing and training. He had to return to his roots. His training, his diet, even his surroundings had to become un-civilized. He had to dig down and find that raw, unrelenting spirit that had made him the champion that he was.
I believe the church can be what it once was. But it will take being the church of AD 80… not 1980. We will need to stop celebrating past victories and look to present challenges, honestly. We will need to become uncomfortable again. We will need to go back to being the raw, determined, sacrificially suffering people that we once were. And then, you will see the victory that is the Kingdom.