Mental Filters. They are frustrating. We all have them. Yet we’re unconscious of them. It makes communication between Christians (regarding spiritual things) almost impossible.
You’re talking to a Catholic and you mention “church.” Immediately, your Catholic friend thinks of Mass, priests who wear black, a hierarchy of bishops, etc. You may be talking about something completely different by the word “church.” But your friend has “filtered” your words through his experience.
You’re speaking to a Baptist and you mention “church.” Your Baptist friends thinks of a steeple, a building, pews filled with people who are well-dressed and have leather Bibles sitting in their laps, a preacher wearing a dark suit giving a salvation message, etc.
Now those are easy illustrations. But let me probe a little deeper.
Our Personal Experiences
Recently, I’ve been in a few conversations with Christians about gathering in an open-participatory meetings under the direct headship of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Upon hearing me talk about it, one person thinks I’m speaking about a Quaker meeting. Another thinks I’m talking about a Plymouth Brethren styled gathering. Another thinks I’m speaking about the old-school charismatic “body ministry” meetings in a home. Another thinks I’m speaking about the typical glorified Bible study that marks most house church/simple churches today.
That’s how they filter what I’m speaking about. My words are interpreted through their personal experiences which have created a mental filter in their brains through which all phrases pass.
But none of those kinds of meetings are anything like what I’m speaking about. None can compare to the glorious, every member, open participatory, Christ-centered meeting that is under the headship of Jesus by the Holy Spirit.
None of those meetings can touch the hem of that garment.
A Break Through
Not long ago, I was in a conversation with a friend of mine who was asking about what it means to involved in a Christ-centered, organic expression of the church. This person immediately filtered everything I said through her experience of a few house church gatherings she had been in.
Every word I said was processed through that filter. In her mind, she understood what I was speaking about.
But she didn’t. So I got really specific. Here’s what I said.
“Okay, regarding these house church meetings you’ve seen . . . let me ask you this question. Did any of those meetings look like this: For two or three straight hours, every member of that group was speaking of the riches, the glories, the majesty, and the incredible Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. They weren’t talking about doctrines, they weren’t talking about how God answered a prayer for their aunt Matilda, they weren’t talking about their salvation experience, they weren’t talking about what God told them to do the week before, or what thing they’re not doing that the Holy Spirit convicted them about doing.
No, THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT THE PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST in deep, rich, and profound ways. And they were excited about Him as they all shared of His glory. And they did this for hours on end, without anyone being bored or tired.
And when you left that meeting you thought to yourself, “My goodness! I’ve never seen the Lord Jesus like this! I’ve never seen a Christ who was that glorious and that vast. I’m overwhelmed. I’m blown away.”
She then responded, “No, that doesn’t fit the house church groups I’ve been a part of at all.”
What happened? I managed to break through her filter.
I give that as just one example, but this has happened so many times I’ve lost count.
A few months ago a Seventh Day Adventist pastor wanted to meet with me. We had lunch together. Nice guy. Very young brother.
He asked me a few questions, and I talked to him about organic church life. I also talked to him about Jesus Christ (the two are inseparable by the way).
I spoke to him about being totally free from the Law and being intoxicted with the Lord Jesus. He nodded his head at everything I said, thinking and assuming that he knew what I was speaking about.
The truth is, he had no idea. When he described his congregation, their beliefs, what they were doing, etc. we were talking about things that were galaxies apart. Yet his filters were kicking in and taking my words and interpreting them through his own experience.
I couldn’t break through, and I didn’t try.
1. Mental filters are real. They exist. I believe only the Holy Spirit can break them down. We can all do the best we can to communicate with the clearest language we know how, but ultimately, God Himself must blast them to bits.
2. Those who are hungry in heart and humble in spirit seem to have mental filtering systems that are easily penetrable. Such people can pretty quickly see when someone is speaking of a spiritual experience they don’t have. And they aren’t too proud to admit it. In fact, it makes them more hungry!
I think this comes pretty close to what Jesus said when He told His Father, “I thank you that you’ve revealed these things unto babes, but hidden them from the wise and prudent.”
Hmmm . . . something to consider.
May God break down our mental filters and cause us to hunger for more of our Lord Jesus Christ. For His depths, His fullness, His riches. HIM!
In case you didn’t know it, Jesus Christ is what organic church life is all about. It’s not about anything else. And if you’ve had the idea that it was, then you’ve missed the point by a considerable distance.
The Lord make us all poor in spirit.