Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Church and Obsession

Lately, I have been rather obsessed. Obsessed with trying to figure out exactly what this thing we call Church is suppose to look like. So many of us grew up in a Church in transition, steeples that now shadow flashy new signs, pews that gave way to padded chairs, hymnals that gave way to over heads which gave way to power point, music that went from the staid hymns of old to easy pop choruses, and preaching that sometimes sounds more like a philosophy lesson than the word.

Some of the changes I really don’t like, and some I fully support. I have found that many of us who went through these changes in our teens and early twenties like to experience something new when we go to Church, and I have found a lot of us are disappointed when we don’t get it. And I have found that it has left many of us open to the discussion about what we think Church should be.

So often I hear, “I want a New Testament Church.” And to plagiarize a line from one of my former teachers, I ask, “Which one?” Most of the New Testament was written by Paul addressing problems within these infant Churches as they struggled to define themselves inside an adverse culture.

When I talk to people about what Church should look like, more often than not I hear about what it shouldn’t be. After all, we have all experienced churches that fail to meet either our or God’s standards. We have all attended churches devoid of life, bound up in religion and programmed so tightly that if God himself suggested a change it would be rejected by the appropriate committee. We have been in churches who only derive their identity by what they are against, and while there is passion it is usually marked with disdain for anyone who fails to adopt their philosophies.

We have been in churches that are social clubs, filled with good people who like to get together, but forget that sipping coffee with your clique is not the reason we gather. We have been in churches where the Spirit seems to be on the move continuously, but teaching is neglected in favor of an emotional high. We have been to churches where the Bible is taught, but all the lessons are learned by rote and become sterile in the absence of compassion. We have been in churches who confuse compassion with blind acceptance, and churches where no matter how long we attend we are still the outsiders.

Maybe the smorgasbord of options have left us overwhelmed, leaving us to think that somewhere in this myriad of possibilities there has to be one that is right. One where we can find seats that don’t put our butts to sleep, or one with a preacher who doesn’t leave us wishing he would just shut up so we can get to lunch. Maybe we have become too picky and we find ourselves quick to point out the flaws without embracing the good. Or just maybe the Church is broken and has reached a time when we need to completely redefine who we are and why we are here.

A friend of my mine said she sees Jesus and his bride as that really great guy with the horrible girlfriend. The guy you want to slap because he doesn’t seem to realize that she treats him like trash, and the girlfriend you want to kill for treating him so badly. Sometimes, more often than I like, I have to agree.

I don’t think it is a bad thing that we see where we can do better. I don’t think it is horrible to admit that we get it wrong sometimes. I think that it is the only thing that saves us from hypocrisy, but when do we stop complaining and start doing something about it? And how?
Even after having gone through so much transition with Church, many of us still think there is something more waiting to happen. I wonder if we are waiting for God to move, or if He is waiting for us.

Many of us are willing to sit back and complain about the Church, but I have seen far too many of us fail to take an initiative and pursue a solution. A lot of us armchair quarterbacks and back seat drivers will chime in about what others should do, but then blame our hectic lives, finances, kids, and global warming for our lack of involvement. It might just be me, but if you are one of these I think your griping privileges have been revoked.

And I hope that griping is not all I am doing as I work through this latest obsession. I hope that I am seeking answers and actively pursuing what God would want in this situation. I want to know what he desires for and of his Bride. I want to be a part of something larger than myself, and I want to see her operate as a fitting bride for the King.


Larry said...

Excellent! Very well said.. I often find myself in the same place... having an acute obsession with how I think church should look and feel.. does it bring glory to Jesus.. does it understand suffering.. or is it a pseudo substitution for a real relationship.. and am I part of the problem or part of the solution..

Emily said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emily said...

Allow me to make a better response.

I am encouraged when I am reminded there are others pondering, obsessing, about the same issues. I believe our culture has reached a point where church has to be pivotal to there faith and practices if people are going to participate. I hate to use the word relevant, because it seems to carry the connotation of being watered down, or another source for self help.

The question becomes how can we be pivotal without sacrificing integrity. And sacrificing our integrity doesn't always mean we fail to present the word, it could mean that we fail to focus on the word, wherein we allow issues or programs be our focus. It's a fine line between addressing needs and letting needs dictate. I am reminded of the woman with the perfume she used on Jesus feet and how she was chastised for not using it to help the poor.

Jesus acknowledged that there were poor to be cared for, and I believe he considered it an admirable thing to care for them. But to spend the time focused on him, living as if the power of his words and life is worthy of our devotion, and can change this world without all the props, if we were to place all we have at his feet to be used according to his direction - how amazing would his bride be?

I have enough artistic free spirit in me to loathe programs, but as our friend Katrina, points out organization is a must with large groups. So another dilemma - how do we use the resources (programs) without letting them use us?

Short answer- relationship. Relationship. Relationship.

And what that looks like will be determined by those if us who engage in this obsession, are brave enough to participate, and humble enough to learn from each other.

Trotsyuk said...

well said, the Church is a product of our society it will change as the society changes. I agree there are some positive and some negative things, I can't even decide which one wins.