Sunday, October 26, 2008

hard talk

I have been increasingly uncomfortable in church over the last years, and particularly in the last few months. My discomfort is generally that church seems to have become an exercise in spiritual-sounding personal development, whereby the primary motivation is to know God because he will make me feel better. Like a drug, we continue to be addicted to what we like about church because it meets our needs for a spiritual rush. Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with Jesus of Nazareth.

A couple of bloggers I know are also struggling with this, including John Smulo, who concludes that the problem is that church is all about Sundays and Mark Berry who suggests it is because of an emphasis on Worship over Mission. Both are worth looking at if you want to think about this issue further.

Personally, I think the issue (tangentially linked to both John and Mark's blogs) is that we are all engaged in Me Worship rather than the Worship of Christ as Saviour. Because if we actually loved the Christ in the way we profess in a thousand soppy songs in church, we would follow his commands with at least the passion we belt these things out. Worship of Christ is not primarily about standing in church and saying (and/or doing) the right things. It is in following his commands. Like visiting the prisoner and selling our house and giving the money to the poor. How many people do you know who actually do that?

Yes, we often do need to know that God loves us. Yes, we often do have self-image problems and no these things are not bad in themselves. But we have screw the message big time. Christianity is emphatically not about what we normally talk about in church. Church is not about feeling great and thinking of ever more elaborate ways to get other people to have the same feelings. If you don't believe me, try reading a gospel and noting the words of Christ as if he is actually talking to you.

In our particular church, we have a very old building and a major financial issue. Which is not a great mixture when your focus is almost entirely around services (we have 10 a week with 10 distinct congregations). Without going into great detail, the financial issue is not going to go away and is exacerbated by the fact that most people do not want to throw their own money to the bottomless pit which is the building fund. Perfectly understandably. I don't either.

I am attempting to spread the idea that this is actually an opportunity to be more engaged in our community. If we believed that we had to raise significant sums, we would be forced to consider how we might (ethically and sensibly) attempt to raise money by offering worthwhile services to our community. Or we might just prove to ourselves that we cannot afford to pay for our building and take steps to leave it in trust to the national heritage (or something else which doesn't involve us throwing significant sums of money at it).

The reaction is generally positive, so I am encouraged that things will change.

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Anonymous John Smulo said...

I empathize with your struggles.

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Bob said...

Hey Joe -- I know this is an old comment but I like what you had to say. Sometimes it's disheartening but I hold out hope. And I do see more than Sundays when I look. I see people making tangible differences in lives throughout the week. I hope for a faith with a heart for people every day. Thanks for your conscience and awareness.

9:25 PM  

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