I don’t do the “mall thing” very often. I can count on one hand the times I’ve been to a mall in the past couple of years. However, today I found myself having need of some peppermint oil, and I figured the mall would be the surest place to find some. I live out in the country, and from time to time a mouse will find his way into my home. According to my internet research, peppermint oil strategically placed in the house can serve to deter “unwelcome visitors.” So, it was off to the mall.
Once at the mall, I simply couldn’t resist a trip to the food court. I completely justified my actions with, “Well, I’ve been doing good for nine months, I’m at the mall, what harm can a sandwich and some fries really do at this point? I’ll run it off tomorrow…blah, blah, blah.” Anyhow, as I sat at the table surrounded by hundreds of others, I felt my eyes began to burn and tears welled up. Children were riding the carousel, music and videos blared out of TVs hung high up on the walls, and the whole atmosphere was kind of like a carnival. I thought how strange I must look, sitting there eating, crying, and looking around like some kind of weirdo who just discovered that there was such a thing as malls. But I couldn’t stop.
I decided to walk a bit, and as I did; I passed a man sitting on one of the benches. He reminded me of a figure out of the old west, weathered and square-jawed. There seemed to be an inner strength within him, but what really struck me was the sadness in his eyes. We made eye contact, I gave the cordial head-nod, but he would barely look at me. I wondered what made him so sad, and felt as if I should stop and say something, but I didn’t. As families walked by laughing, and lovers lazily strolled, holding hands, oblivious to everyone else; I considered the sad “cowboy,” and my heart broke within me.
As we occupy ourselves with playing church and going about the business of religion, we have become no better than shopping malls. We do what we can to attract the people into our little “shop.” We do the coolest worship songs, have the hippest preachers, and know all the latest religious catch-phrases. And hey, if you don’t find what you need in here; there’s another shop just around the corner that may have what you’re looking for. Sadly, while we’re trying to be relevant and hold onto our little corner of the “church mall,” people are sitting right outside our doors, broken-hearted, without hope, and in need of Jesus.
Today, thinking of mice and men, peppermint oil and malls, my prayer is that we who call ourselves Christians will be done with our shopping mall mentality, come out of the carnival we call church and take Jesus to the world around us.