food for thought:
By Denise Stephenson
Denise Stephenson is a trained Spiritual Director and, until December 2020, was Spiritual Formation Pastor at LifeWay Baptist Church Devonport. What is #nofilter church? Read on to find out!
I love Instagram!
All those squares filled with beautiful pictures of magical places, designer interiors, and adorable children dressed in linen!
Most of us (on our good days) recognise that Instagram is the home of “This Filtered Life”. Isn’t it tempting to apply a “filter” to life so it looks good on the outside?
Whilst none of us really expects social media to be an honest reflection of life, most of us hope our communities of faith would be the one place we feel safe enough to be our “unfiltered” self. But if I am honest, church is often a place, as much as any other, where I have felt pressure to look, act or feel a particular kind of way.
We say, “Come as you are”, but really we mean come if you feel upbeat, on top of things, happy and well – and if you’re not, at least try act as if you are. Apply the “worship” filter where it’s smiling, happy people holding hands. “We’re here to worship God!!” Amen?!
We try and “stay together”
What would our community of faith, and our worship, look like if it was #nofilter? In the weeks following my husband Mark’s cancer diagnosis, I really didn’t feel like going to church. But, being one of the pastors, I turned up to church each week, determined to keep it all ‘together’. I had my “filter” firmly in place.
As soon as the songs started, every word would punch into my gut, and I would start crying… which was the LAST thing I wanted to do. Welcome to #nofilter! It was awful but it was real. Without me noticing, people would come to stand with me, and after the service, friends would slip into the chair beside me and pray for me.
I would go home, still in pain, still afraid, a blotchy, red-faced teary mess but having what I needed to keep going.
Embrace what God does for you
It takes guts to show our vulnerabilities, our weaknesses, and our messiness – to be real. But that’s exactly what God wants from us. God isn’t fooled by the filter, and wants to see the real person made in his image. I find that such a relief. I love The Message translation of Romans 12:1-2 which says:
Here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life–your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life–and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:1-2 MSG
Let’s start #nofilter Sunday, and see what happens when we give God our real self. I think it could change church.
Denise, and her husband Mark, recently moved to Lymington (south of Cygnet) where they are exploring new ways of being a community of faith in their new neighbourhood. Even so, Denise still works in Cygnet as an offshoot of LifeWay Devonport. Denise and Mark sail, garden, chop wood (it’s cold down here!) and hang out in cafes, getting to know their new neighbourhood, and keeping a lookout for what God is doing down in the deep south.