I grew up with the Muppets, first on Sesame Street, and then the show that bore their name. I cried when Kermit the Frog sang ‘It’s not easy being Green’. I laughed at Fozzie Bear’s lame jokes. I loved Animal, the maniacal drummer (is there any other type of drummer?). The least likeable Muppet characters were a couple of grumpy coots called Waldorf and Statler, who would sit in their theatre box each week and watch the performances on stage, always ready with a biting, sarcastic and often hilarious criticism. (Waldorf: ‘They ain’t half bad.’ Statler: ‘No, they’re ALL bad!’)
Waldorf and Statler were armchair critics taking potshots from the balcony, while on the stage the actors risked it all each night. When it comes to the church, there is a little bit of the spirit of Waldorf and Statler in me. I find it way too easy sometimes to stand back and point out all that isn’t as it should be. When I do, I forget momentarily that if I claim allegiance to Jesus Christ, the church is not something ‘over there’, but a community that is around, and encompasses me. For the believer, the church is never ‘them’; it always ‘us’.
Make no mistake; God’s church – made up as it is by broken people is in need of constant reform, and reform will often begin with loving criticism from within. Renewal arises out of repentance. The choice we have is whether we will sit in the balcony watching on, arms folded, criticism on the tip of our lips, or instead join the other actors on the stage as together, with faltering steps and imperfect lives, we are caught up in the drama of God’s redemptive plan for the world. Stage or balcony, which will it be? Right here, right now this is what I believe God is saying to all of us who call Newlife home:
Don’t spectate; participate. Don’t sit back; step up. Don’t observe; engage. Don’t come to church; be the church.’
I’d rather be Kermit or Fozzie, than Waldorf or Statler any day.