If you’ve been in the Austin Christian community for a few years, you may have participated in one or more citywide sermon series and discussions. Last year, the series was called “What’s After ATX?” and it was about exploring what we believe about the afterlife. Hundreds of churches in Austin participated in this event, offering resources, sermon series, and small group discussions for their members and the community.
Ten years ago, the first of these citywide events was held, with 37 churches participating. We’ve come a long way! It was called “Walls,” and it was profoundly helpful. The stated mission of the Walls series was to, “face and break through those walls that separate us from God, from each other, from our community, and from our purpose in life.” Week five of this series was called, “Walls between Church and Community.” At the time, I was attending Hill Country Bible Church (HCBC) Austin, so I was there for Pastor Tim Hawks’s message. I have reflected on this message many times in the past ten years. If you’re in the mood for some great teaching, I highly recommend that you listen to it.
My big takeaway from this message was what Tim called the “wall of weirdness.” To introduce this concept, he read this passage:
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,1 Corinthians 1:18-19, NKJV
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
The wall of weirdness has two implications. First, we feel awkward talking to our non-Christian friends about Jesus because what we believe is weird. Second, when we do bring our non-Christian friends into our homes or gatherings, those friends feel awkward because they don’t know how to behave in that setting. We’re so used to raising our hands during worship, or bowing our heads to pray, or (at least at 5twelve) prophesying over one another, that we forget that the uninitiated person in the room may be confused and unsure of what to do next. Tim explained that it’s important to guide that person along the way, explaining the “weird” aspects of our gatherings ahead of time and preparing them for what to expect.
I grew up in a very conservative, very fundamentalist, very isolationist church tradition. We had no instruments during worship, few discussions of the Holy Spirit, and certainly no prophesying or speaking in tongues. We believed that all the other Christians were “getting it wrong,” and we were by no means certain of their salvation. My family moved all over Texas when I was growing up, and none of the churches I attended had more that 120 people in attendance… ever.
I left that church, and the church as a whole, in my 20’s. When I came back to Jesus in my 30’s, I jumped in with both feet. I was craving Jesus and His peace in my life. But the church I came back to was HCBC Austin, at the Lakeline campus, with three services every Sunday morning, 6000+ members, and a band. It was double culture shock! I had the shock of being in church again for the first time in over a decade and being at a church that was a stark contrast to those I’d attended growing up. It took some time to settle in, but once I did, I loved it.
When we helped to plant 5twelve City Church, I can honestly say I didn’t know what I was getting into. For all that HCBC was far more inclusive and progressive than the tradition I’d known before, there were still certain routines and expectations. We studied the Bible in depth and worshipped with passion, but nobody interrupted the service to get on the mic and prophesy over the congregation or individuals in it. Nobody was anointed with oil, no women preached, nobody spoke or prayed in tongues, and nobody danced to the music. These were the things that made it easy for me to get comfortable at HCBC. Even though it was big and had instruments during worship, the routine there still felt familiar.
Now, I’m not throwing shade at HCBC by any stretch. I loved and still love the pastors there, the friends I made, and the things I learned there. I have a tremendous respect for the work HCBC has done to reach the city of Austin for Jesus Christ. I’m just saying that things at 5twelve are… different.
If you’ve been at 5twelve for a while, you’ve probably heard Karin pray in tongues, seen Melissa (either one!) get up and pray or prophesy in the middle of a service, anointed someone’s head with oil (or been anointed), and heard a message from a whole team of laypeople. These things are all Biblical and all deeply rooted in a love for Jesus and for people, but for those of us who are either brand new to Christianity or have come from a less Spirit-filled tradition, this all might seem really weird.
Let me reassure you. As the scripture above shows, Christ’s message is supposed to be weird. It’s OK if you feel a little uncomfortable or curious; Christ pulled people out of their complacency and comfort all the time. He knew what was best for those around Him, and what was best was love, and worship, and healing, and calling. When the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, what was best was for them to speak in many tongues, bringing thousands to Christ that day. When you’re hurting, what’s best for you might be for someone to interrupt a church service, look you in the eye, and tell you, “You are worthy, you are loved, God sees you, and He has a plan for your good.”
This coming Sunday is another day of Pentecost. We are praying and expecting that God will show up, as He always does, in amazing ways. Have the courage to come and experience what He has for you, even if it’s weird. It’s weird in the best of ways, and it can transform your perspective, your relationships, and your life. And don’t be afraid to overcome the “wall of weirdness” – bring a friend! You’ll be there to help guide them through the weirdness, and it’s so worth it to see a life changed by Jesus.
Do you have a story of life change? We would love to hear it. Let us hear how God is transforming your life and the lives of those around you through the power of Christ. Drop us a line at [email protected] or submit a form using the button below! We’ll get in touch and work with you to share your story.