I recently received a phone call from a friend who I had not spoken with in several years. I was thrilled to receive the call – but there was one small problem: I was in a movie theater. As I removed my vibrating phone from my pocket and saw his name on the screen, I decided that the opportunity to catch up with a friend was more important than seeing the whole movie. I left the theater and took the call.
Half an hour later the call ended, and I re-entered the theater. As hard as I worked to piece together the parts of the story that I missed while talking on the phone, I finally had to resign to the fact that I had no idea what was going on. The story had taken a twist while I was gone, and I had no hope of understanding of what was happening on the screen without knowing the details that I had missed. I finally had to admit understanding the movie was a lost cause. I had completely lost the plot.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation like that? You were following a story in a book or a movie, only to discover that you have lost touch with the plot of the story, and now you are hopelessly off-track? Perhaps you have a favorite television series, and after missing a single episode, you find that nothing in the show makes sense.
Or maybe you have found yourself dedicating time to an activity that doesn’t really capture your heart, or going through the motions of something that might actually be worthwhile if you were fully invested – but you’re not. Instead, you’re distracted. And in the midst of your distraction, you’ve lost the plot.
I believe that a similar case can be made about the general state of Christianity in the United States. At some point, we became distracted. We have misunderstood details and made assumptions. And now we are left with details of a story that are inconsistent with things we once knew, assumptions about where we the story might be going that never quite pan out, and a sense that we’re floundering when we should be thriving. We have lost the plot.
Our focus has been on going to heaven, and we have lost the plot.
Our behavior has been shaped by a fear of God’s wrath, and we have lost the plot.
Our efforts have been to build Christian empires, and we have lost the plot.
Our sermons have focused on death instead of life, and we have lost the plot.
Our churches have focused internally, and we have lost the plot.
We have treated personal piety as our sole mission, and we have lost the plot.
We complain that we don’t hear enough sermons about hell, and we have lost the plot.
We’ve used big theological terms without entering into the mystery of God, and we have lost the plot.
We’ve treated discipleship as the mere transmission of information rather than coming to the feet of Jesus with a desire for genuine transformation. And we lost the plot.
How do we recover the plot?
I am convinced that if we can recapture the story of God, so that it is more than a collection of disconnected stories about our past and future which say nothing about our present – only then may we begin to recaptured the plot. When we discover that there is more to this life than awaiting death, and the good news is about more than going to heaven when we die, and Jesus has not only given us a mission and purpose for today, but also invited us into a partnership with him, in order that we might take part in the order of the Kingdom of God – then finally, we have started to recover the plot.