In a previous post, I described a recent non-conference that I attended with about 200 young lead pastors. At that conference, Brian Houston shared with us about the culture that they build and live out among the church staff at Hillsong Church. You can read the 10 principles that he share with us in this post.
One of the other guys who took some time to share with us was Tim Chaddick. He serves as the pastor/elder for preaching and vision of Reality L.A., a church he planted in 2006. (You can read his bio and more about the church here.) Recently, Tim finished a series of messages regarding the book of Ecclesiastes and has subsequently published a book on the subject entitled Better: How Jesus Satisfies the Search for Meaning. During the gathering, Tim shared about some of the things he had learned as he navigated their church through the book of Ecclesiastes.
As I’ve thought more and more about our missional lives in this increasingly non-religious and skeptical culture, I believe that Ecclesiastes is prime biblical territory that we need to revisit. In previous generations when there was a greater cultural familiarity about the Bible, we could easily witness through messages on Romans, Ephesians, and the four Gospels. Now, people are farther from an understanding of God, the gospel, and Christ’s kingdom. They are living out the same pursuits of Solomon that he recorded in Ecclesiastes.
Here are a few of the highlights from what Tm shared that I think will help us to think about how our culture intersects with Ecclesiastes.
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” The great boxer (and philosopher) Mike Tyson reportedly said this statement. Ecclesiastes punches our worldview in the mouth. It makes us step back and reevaluate all of our thinking about life.
Christianity used to ask the hard questions. Now, it is the culture and people outside of the faith that are asking the hard questions. We, in the church, should lead the way in asking the hard questions.
The Christian faith is always a problem for the status quo. We should be the ones that are helping people move forward. It is our faith that should disrupt what everyone considers to be normal.
How does the gospel take us beyond vanity? The word “vanity” or “meaningless” is used in a very blunt fashion in Ecclesiastes about the pursuits of our lives. The gospel is the only thing that can help us escape it.
Ecclesiastes is the story of us. We cannot just assign this as a story that was lived by someone thousands of years ago. Ecclesiastes is the story of today.
Ecclesiastes helps people ask the questions they are afraid to ask. Everyone is living out a story that needs to be challenged. Tim is finding that Ecclesiastes relates to people outside of the faith that the struggle for meaning is universal. It is also a struggle for those inside of the faith. The book helps us remain focused on what truly matters in our days.
Jesus is alive. This changes everything. So what are we living for? Hearing this statement from a Los Angeles dwelling, former rock and roller, church planter is fascinating. Like several at the gathering, they want to go hard after presenting the gospel. They have great worship bands, great multimedia presentations, strong small group ministries and all the rest. But what Tim really wants to talk about is Jesus.
The church must reclaim its role as the holy provocateur. I cannot stress how true this statement is. The church is not to be the reactionary force in culture but the people who provoke the search for meaning, permanence, and answers.
If you read all of Tim’s story, you’ll find out that he was the guy that Ecclesiastes was written to. He was in several punk bands trying to become rich and famous in Los Angeles. Alcohol and drugs had a deep hold on his life. Romantic relationships all ended badly. And then a close friend committed suicide. The Christian faith was a distant thought. But a friend convinced him to attend a church event and Tim heard the gospel. The Holy Spirit drew him and he was saved. Now, having planted a church in Los Angeles, it is fascinating to hear Tim discuss Ecclesiastes because he lived it. I hope that we can all recognize how we have lived it and others are now living it around us.