Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Friend's Church

One of my oldest friends was grousing about not being able to find a church. We have had this discussion before without illumination on either side, because we seek different things. He seeks good worship and good Biblical teaching. I believe those things can only occur as byproducts of community.

I don't mean to kick him - his life is harder than mine and he's bearing up well. Also, he was church chair during a recent large controversy and split, so he has been rather immersed in the negative aspects of community these last few years.

What jumped out at me was this repeated phrase "I just want..." For those who remember their Screwtape Letters, the danger of that is clear. The variations on the theme are no better: I only want...all I want is...all I ask... That thinking is a guarantee of disappointment and unhappiness. Think about it in yourself. Whenever you get that thought running through your head that you have nobly limited your requirements, and expect the world to produce that minimum, you are going to be miserable indefinitely.

In a related item. In searching for a church, if you find a really great one, run away screaming. There was a book title years ago that is supposedly based on a Buddhist teaching If You Meet The Buddha On The Road, Kill Him. I didn't like the title at first - those were my pacifist days, and the idea of advocating killing anyone, especially a well meaning but misguided exemplar of another religion, seemed abhorrent. A fan of the book explained that if you meet any Buddha or enlightened one you are deluding yourself - it is not the real Buddha, and so must be some dangerous imitation. Kill it. So too with churches. Churches are made up of annoying, sinful people like you and me. If you find one that seems different, you are likely missing something or are deluding yourself. Cult alert.

Perhaps we would learn more lessons in real Christianity if we went to the church physically closest to our dwelling, rather than shopping and selecting. We say we want biblical teaching, but neglect the one great method of learning, by learning to love and work with those who are at hand. I write this as a great offender of this principle. I travel over half an hour to church and pass by many that are closer on the way.


Dubbahdee said...

This business of going to the closest church around...it has bothered me for some time. I'm in the same boat. There is something to be learned by learning to love the one you are with -- meaning the community that circumstance and place had put you in.
When we landed back in NH in 2004, we did not really church shop. We simply went to the Covenant Church, because we were members of an ECC congregation in Green Bay. So, in a sense, we simply took this church as it is...knowing full well that it was going to be quite different than our Green Bay church. We have learned, and are learning to know these people, and work beside them. It's a good learning. God is using them and using us.
A good friend and former pastor once said of his congregation, "The will give plenty of chances to practice forgiving them." It's a good way to view it.

Count Grecula said...

Repent and parish!

Anonymous said...

Good post.
While we lived in the Air Force, we needed to find a new church every few years. It never took us more than two weeks.
Sometimes tho, going to the next-door church is not possible. When we moved to Battle Ground I looked forward to joining the church eight blocks down the road. Unfortunately for our family, everybody there was white, and they would not even consider opening a ministry to the mentally handicapped.
When we found the church that had blacks among the leadership and already had handicapped people and had the type of services that our hooting, moving autistic daughter could not disturb, we joined before we could find something we did not like. And a few months later the pastor resigned due to moral sin. That turned into a ride, but you're right. As Americans, we are used to demanding everything be our way, including the church. And I say, no, we are supposed to be focused on service and praise to God.
Oh, I just realized that some of the above does not make sense unless you know my husband and I are caucasions and two of our children are labelled black.

Erin said...

"I travel over half an hour to church and pass by many that are closer on the way."

Jay and I are currently driving 75 minutes and passing MANY churches along the way. It's not that ours has all we could ever dream of, but it has become our church family, so we take the good and the bad and love them because of and despite all that (kinda like a certain Bible study group I know of).

As one of the other women in the church says, "A church that's alive is worth the drive."

Anonymous said...

"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." (Matthew 18:15-17) The Lord's words must have been misreported here. He must have concluded it this way: "if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him go down the street aways to the next church; after all, each individual's judgement is paramount."

"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching." (2 Timothy 4:1-2) The text must have been corrupted here. Surely, the Apostle must have concluded like this: "try to make people feel at home and most certainly do not ever even think of rebuking them for they are quite free to find some other pastor who won't have the effrontery to do anything like that. Just who exactly do you think you are, anyway?"