26 June 2009

A Boring, Theological Post On Church (Part I).

"On the whole, the Sunday school programs of today are statistical failures. There are few Sunday school classes that exist that really instruct a young person in sound doctrine, to encourage him or her to understand what the Bible teaches and the reasons why its teachings are true."

This article postulates just that. And I'm not sure if it's a problem. I'm so doctrinally backwards that I'm not sure why I'm going to church anyway except for some vague verse about not giving up fellowshipping together in Hebrews 10:25. So, in this post, I'll chat about church attendance, and in some future post, I'll cover teaching children more specifically. Do you feel obligated to attend church and why? Personally, I like *most* of the people there well enough, but I don't know that "hanging out for a couple hours a week and sharing prayer requests" is really what fellowshipping is about.

Our pastor says that church should be like family. But my folks haven't been out to see the youngest two children, so I'm not sure how applicable that analogy would be. God loves ya, and he sends you some money every now and then... but He's too busy helping other people than to spend time with you. And you wonder what you did wrong that things are like this, but there's nothing you can do to fix it now. You wish you had lived your whole life differently so that you would never get to this point. You think of the five million things you've done wrong, and wonder which one of those five million is the root cause of the broken relationship. Bummer to be alienated from family AND God. Sucks to be you. I keep thinking maybe if I just become an atheist again, it wouldn't be so hurtful. Kinda tough to do that, though, when you really believe the stuff deep down. Though I hear from my atheist friends that when you keep going to church to get your programming updated, that's what happens. Hm.

And if church is like family, and family is expendible, then we're back at the "why bother" question. I mean, if I got to decide, I'd boot the church lady who told me that it's ok for schools to have "safe rooms." Because that's different from a closet because the teachers know what they're doing... well, she can go rot, and I halfway wish I could tell her so somewhere off church grounds (bring it on! Just not in church. Decorum and stuff.) Once I interrupted her little "discussion" about how she's surprised the pastor's kids did well in public schools since they were sheltered at home before and blah blah blah with a, "Guess-what? I'm homeschooling, too, and so do lots of people because public schools STINK." And watched her little face wrinkle up like a lemon as she had a "guest" listening. Who never came back! Too bad! Don't go fishing for trouble by gossiping about the pastor in front of me during "fellowship" next time, then. Come to think of it, we were off church grounds then. I should have been a little more specific about what I thought of her opinions then. I wish I could be more outspoken. Maybe that is a fault of mine, and all you people reading my blog aren't quite sure about my opinions. Interesting. I will have to think about this and devise ways to be more outspoken. You are welcome to leave ideas in the comments section, or a link to your blog on how you did this.

I think I'm skipping those "fellowship" times now on. People just start kicking doo around and I have a tendency just to pick the doo up and fling it back at the kicker full-force instead of speaking in love and all that. I just don't have the patience for that, and I'm not good at mincing my words and being all sweet and political. So whatever. (How's that for Christian talk? Maybe I'm just a bad Christian. I have a lot of trouble hearing things, like "I know you're very busy, but I just wanted..." means "I want something from you. Quick. And I don't specially much feel like talking to you." I read things SO SO literally. And I'll be pretty literal back after the old patience limit has been reached. And I get hurt when "I know you're busy" doesn't really mean "I know you're busy." Just tell me you don't want to talk and it's a quick call.)

I think I'd have a whole list of people who wouldn't make the grade and if I lived long enough, even I'd be on it. So is everyone who feels like attending a church included in the family? No matter what they do, anytime they do it? I don't think that, though I try to *act* as though I do, make nice while I'm in the building and let the pastor/leadership deal with the private matters because they know more about it and I have enough to do without worrying about who's doing what and howcome. (Hopefully that made sense.)

Since I'm telling pretty much everything in this blog post, I may as well mention that mostly, I go to church because I think there are at least a few people there who care, and that matters a lot to me. I also go because Elf needs to go and see other children. Well, so does Emperor, for that matter. It would be nice to say that I go for spiritual reasons like "glorifying God" and whatnot... but that isn't my real motivation when I look on my own heart. No point dissembling.

16 comments:

  1. Mrs. C, I think where you attend makes a huuuuge difference. I remember traveling around trying to find a church that met my convictions. I found so many that were more "pleasers" than "preachers" or "teachers". I ended back up where I started because I realized how truly blessed I was. The sermons are so packed full of "meat" rather than just baby's milk. Say for example the topic for that sermon is training your children. Or about Marriage. Or about encouraging each other rather than gossiping about one another. I don't want baby milk. I love to sit and hear something that strikes right at the heart. With Sunday School, my kids go every sunday morning before the regular service and they love it! It's exactly how it was for me growing up. A time to examine a certain story in the bible or topic. Making crafts, reading scripture together and understanding it's meaning. It's fun and exciting for the kids. In the meantime, we're in the adult bible study upstairs. Fellowship is good with others when you can go somewhere where people have a like heart and mind where they care about serving God rather than just to learn what special event is coming up. We encourage one another. Have fun friendships! Help each other through tough times. Of course there are the bad apples. There always will be. The ones that make you walk and turn the other way when you have to pass them. But church was never meant to be about just "doing a good deed" and going back home. It was a time of refreshment. Of learning. Praising God together. The world is like the battlefield for me. Going to church is like getting much needed rest and comfort and encouragement before I have to go back out again. THAT'S why I go three times a week. I love being in God's house. That's why I know it's important to talk to God and study his word throughout the week because I need it so badly. Not doing that is like going under water without your oxygen to help you breathe. You'll last only so long. Christianity was never meant to be a burden. His yolk is easy. That's not to say you don't go through trials. Instead, God gives you the strength AND the wisdom to get through them. :) I hope I didn't go on and on. Just sharing my heart with you.

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  2. I agree with Virginia -- it's all about finding the right church. When we adopted Brennan, we knew that we would need to find a new church that would fit for us. Over the last four or five months, we've gone to a bunch of different churches and eventually discovered that we were looking for different things at a church, so rather than choosing one, we now alternate between two churches. But there were certainly churches that did not fit us, and churches that fit us much better. I don't think there's anything wrong with "church shopping" -- it was actually quite a learning experience to see how different churches practice their faith differently, and how we felt welcome and naturally a part of some congregations, but not others.

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  3. Thanks, Virginia. I really do feel that this is the place I need to be right now. There are so many GOOD things going on. I am just going through a very hard time right now, and it's difficult to get out of the house *at all.* I am starting to avoid Bible reading, prayer, and generally talking to anyone except on the blog. Last time I got together with an IRL friend? Over a year ago. I'm a little isolated... most of that is my fault... but so much going on around me it's like I am treading water just to make it to the next day.

    Patrick, I find even congregations within the same denomination can be very different. The one I'm in now is *very* different from the church in the same denomination I went to in Florida. The one in Florida had about every tribe and language represented and was HUGE. This place, everyone is white (wait! I'm not good at judging whether someone is Hispanic or not. We have Spanish-speakers, too, so maybe not) and suburban, and not very many people.

    But I spent years "church shopping," though I didn't mean to. Having three autistic kids means it's kinda tough to get everyone's needs met. But one *great* thing about it? If D has to work on a Sunday, I can send my older (14 and 15) y.o. boys to church by themselves because I can see the place from my house. It worked out that way... they used to meet across town in a school, but then they moved here when they bought the building! Yay!

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  4. Rich Mullins said that an hour in a bad church was better than not going at all. :-)

    I'm a church girl. I do like church, all sorts of (Christian) churches. I blogged about it once. Here it is for the recap:

    http://gombojav.blogspot.com/2008/05/in-company-of-committed.html


    I go because I need to acknowledge that I'm just like the rest of those people in that building--all acknowledging that we can't do it alone. I need to be in the company of the committed.

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  5. Dear MrsC: I shall be the dissenting voice. lol Our last church I found was leading me in to sin I was getting that riled & it ended up not being about God at all & I was just plain angry all the time I was there. We left. Now, as you know, we are homechurching ~ just us & one other family. I feel we are all getting our needs met & solid food. No, I don't think it's optimum, but better.

    I have no advice. Only you can know where God wants you for now & you have such specific needs that need to be met which is an opportunity for your church to express love towards you & your family. My heart aches for you. I'm not a fellowsipper either ~ don't do chit~chat well. Introverted. socially inept. Oh, & I don't suffer fools well.

    If you need to vent you have my e~mail. No earthly help but more than happy to share your burden long distance. (((Hugs))) my friend. I hope this too passes quickly.

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  6. Daja, it IS my problem that I don't connect with other people well. And you're right about the hypocrites. Just setting Jesus as the standard and trying to follow it makes us ... well... fall short every time.

    Ganeida, you and I are much alike in this respect. I'm starting to have a hard time just leaving. It doesn't help that little Elf is already freaked about going places where there are crowds, and we have Woodjie and Rose... so it's an extra bunch of energy I need just to get out the door, let alone when I'm feeling down.

    Nosy me wants to know how you figure out where to send your tithe if you homechurch, or if you tithe at all. You don't have to answer that though. I'm just curious b/c there are so many great parachurch organizations out there that I would be torn.

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  7. You're allowed to be nosey; I don't have to answer. :) At present it is really simple. Every week we feed the other people who come a meal. It is part of our ministry as a homechurch. If we get extras, as we occassionally do, we feed them too. If I send money anywhere it is to Ethiopia's fistula hospital.This is the *concerne* the Lord has laid on *my* heart. Giving everyone something different to be concerned about is one way the Lord covers all His bases.

    Church is meant to bless us as well as glorify the Lord. When one or other of those isn't happening I think it's time to reassess.

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  8. That makes sense, Ganeida. I guess I just pictured myself as overwhelmed with the choices if I ever felt led to do that. BUT then again it may be if God ever led me there, He'd guide me as well. :]

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  9. Mrs. C, you know me but I am posting anonymously so I can be honest. Call me Mrs. G, mother of Princess P, who is 20 years old and in the spectrum . . .

    I go to church for several reasons: to gather together with fellow believers and worship God. I feel less nerdy knowing there are others who believe. When I don't go to church, I feel more isolated. The kind of music is very important . . . the hymns remind me of important truths and I love the harmonies, and the few contemporary songs we do are catchy, but not as rich. . . like eating cotton candy. The sermon is very important to me. If the pastor gets platitudes and empty-headed fluff, I get annoyed--I could read a little devotional and learn more about God. . . .

    The church you go to makes a HUGE difference. I dreaded going to church in my last church. We went there because my parents did and it was a terrible spiritual match for me. Country club. Fluff. Cotton candy. Grace without any truth--we don't want to step on any toes. My peers acted like they believed but also talked about the plots of Desperate Housewives and Sex in the City before Sunday school or at a youth parent dinner. HUH????????

    We left that church and have been attending another. Our concern was to find a church that preached the truth of the Bible without becoming legalistic--lots of truth and lots of grace. And we found one. They have regular Bible study every Sunday and Wednesdays all year, and, during school months, there are two different women's Bible studies going on. They do have special outreach going locally where they actually spend time with people in need and help them (as opposed to writing a check and not giving of themselves).

    In my last church, I felt obligated to go. At this church, I look forward to going. Sometimes, I do feel the presence of the Holy Spirit as we worship God. Sometimes, a song makes me tear up or fills my heart with joy. Sometimes, the sermon makes me think about new things that have never entered my head and, at other times, it reassures me about what I have believed for some time. Rarely does my mind wander to my to-do list or what I am going to write on my blog because what is said is full of meaning and fresh.

    You would love our Wednesday nights. We eat a "short" dinner (about 45 minutes). Then we spend a half hour, catching up the latest on people on the prayer list (praise reports, new people to go on, updates, and people who can come off) then the pastor leads us in prayer, mentioning each and every person on our list! The next half hour, the pastor leads us in Bible study. We regularly have about 30 people who show up on a Wednesday nights (Sunday attendance is 150--so I think that is pretty good).

    I did not feel like family in my last church. However, this one I have felt like family. From the first day, when at least ten people noticed we were not regular attenders and went out of their ways to welcome us . . . every Sunday different folks introduced themselves and welcomed us. I do feel like family and they all love my daughter. They are concerned about how to approach her without upsetting her. She is very responsive to them, too. That is always a good sign.

    We do have some whiners that drive me crazy. I try to keep positive and change the subject or make a wisecrack to keep it light. BUT, the key is this: if the whiners, gossipers, and complainers are on the staff OR on important committees/boards, then you will have problems! But, if they are not high up in the food chain, I chalk it up to them letting God working in their hearts more just as He needs to work in mine when I am crabby and tired.

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  10. Anonymous, you mention that when you don't go that you feel more isolated. Turns out I have not been able to go for a few weeks because D has been working Sundays. Maybe since I am going this morning, I will feel less isolated later? I don't know.

    That's a good point about the whiners and how high up they really are. LOL in a small church, though, you know how that goes. The pastor and his wife are *awesome* though, and I can't imagine going anywhere else at this point because of the love they've shown to my family. I feel like I belong when I am with *most* of the people.

    I think the people that don't get it need to purchase a clue. BUT they've never had to go shopping for the clue. They don't know what life is like for me and my family. (Not that they'd care if they did, but hey. Trying to see things from other perspectives and being open-minded and liberal and all that.)

    I look back and remember when I only had Patrick, the self-righteous feeling I had when someone else's kid lost it. Because Patrick, honestly and truly, has never pulled that crap. I could even take him out to restaurants when he was a toddler. You know there ARE a few kids out there like that, and thankfully, mine is the oldest of the bunch. :]

    I do increasingly wonder if government will make the church as we know it change. Though that is a different issue entirely. But what I find when I look at my own heart ... the reasons I go... they aren't spiritual. They probably should be!

    And how much of my life am I pouring into others at the church? Right now I am a taker. I *used* to be a giver until life at home got so crazy. I am at the point where I know I need something other than what I have, but I don't know how to get it.

    If I knew what it was, that would make the process easier. :]

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  11. Do I feel "obligated" to go to church? ...well, yes, and no.

    I go to church. I go every week (though, when camping, I sometimes miss). I think church is super important.

    However, both my best friend and my wife (who wasn't my wife at the time) stopped going to church almost altogether in college. They didn't see the point, hated the lame sermons, and couldn't really stand the people.

    In college I discovered a church that was fully of nice people who loved me even if they didn't have a very good grasp on theological matters. The pastor was a great guy who was a horrible teacher.

    And that was when I learned a few things about church: It's not about me or what I get out of it (though I should be getting something out of it because that's what happens when you're around people who are loving and reading the Word).

    Church is about equipping the saints for ministry.

    It's about being with others who are also trying--or not--to follow Christ.

    And it is very important, but not so important that I won't be your friend if you don't go (otherwise, I wouldn't have my best friend and my wife now [smile]).

    Sorry, wanted to jump in here but only have a few random/jumbled thoughts.

    ~Luke

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  12. Luke, maybe I'm just not saved enough. I'm not a people person usually. But reading the Bible, it sounds like Jesus was an extrovert who enjoyed being with folks.

    I'm interested in seeing if folks think the current model of "church" is working. I think in some ways it really does. And does membership mean a blessed thing? Would Jesus be a church member?

    Well, maybe you can't compare real people to Jesus because you know what? Whatever Jesus does is kewl because He gets to make the rules. :]

    I also wonder how combined all of us are supposed to be in one another's lives, ideally. I've seen some nasty examples of people getting too into other people's stuff... but the same church is the one that won't help you financially when you're in need after you've tithed for years and years.

    THANKFULLY that's not my church! They're drumming up a "benevolence fund" for unnamed people going through hard times. Which I think is awesome. I feel like I can trust my leadership to know who needs what. :]

    I have had to delicately (ok, not delicately LOL!) tell my older sons that the bread and bagels and stuff they leave out for "whoever can use it?" That's really not supposed to be for us. Ok? Like, after everyone's about gone if there's bread left, go ahead and take that because we will use it and best not to waste. But... it isn't meant for us.

    Yeah. One week my sons came home with 30 pounds of potatoes! Another week they skipped in the middle of service to pick out the best breads. Guyyyys... don't do that!

    Well, at least whoever really needs it won't feel they're the only ones. :]

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  13. Mrs. C. wrote: "Daja, it IS my problem that I don't connect with other people well. And you're right about the hypocrites. Just setting Jesus as the standard and trying to follow it makes us ... well... fall short every time."

    Here's something on which I've been meditating lately from Henri Nouwen. "When the imitation of Christ does not mean to live a life like Christ, but to live your life as authentically as Christ lived his, then there are many ways and forms in which a man can be a Christian."

    Also, I tend to disagree that Jesus was an extrovert. He certainly was around people a lot and lived a public life, but I don't think that fact alone determines whether someone is an introvert or extrovert.

    I tend to feel that the difference between extrovert and introvert is in how that person "refuels" themselves. Does a person feel charged and revitalized after being with people in a social setting? Or does a person feel more charged up and refueled after some time all alone (reading, walking, etc.)?

    Jesus many times walked away from teh crowds, withdrew by himself to pray, etc. So, I don't see him as an extrovert so much.

    But about going to church...

    I think of church attendance more in terms of it being a sacrament. When it comes right down to it, it's not something I do because my needs are always met or because I necessarily like all the people all the time or because the music is great or anything else. I do it because it identifies me with Christ's mystical body. And I need to do that "religiously." I need to do that every week and probably more. Just so that my flesh doesn't forget that I a part of Christ--and the rest of the body is just as flawed as I am.

    Even if my heart is not always in it, I think it honors God when my spirit and body are there. Two outta three parts ain't bad! :-)

    When listening to Catholic Radio (I love Catholic Radio) someone was taking about sitting in front of the Eucharist for an hour in prayer. When he began this meditation it was really difficult. His mind would wander and he'd be tired long before the hour was up. But, he said, "It still honored God that my body was in the position of prayer." And eventually he was able to discipline his mind to remain in the position of prayer as well.

    We tend to be all-or-nothing sort of people. If going to church can't meet all our needs and if we can't thoroughly enjoy it, we sometimes think there is no point.

    But there is a point. God accepts acts of devotion even if they are not 100% up to OUR standards.

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  14. "We tend to be all-or-nothing sort of people. If going to church can't meet all our needs and if we can't thoroughly enjoy it, we sometimes think there is no point."

    I think you're right exactly, Daja. And interestingly enough you've addressed the fact that my mind is not always *exactly* on the prayer. Everyone else looks like they follow so well!

    What I'm not (THANKFULLY) hearing from you is to fake it till you make it. More of a... practice makes you closer to perfect sort of thing. :]

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  15. I still haven't found a place I really feel at home yet. Lately, I do Quaker services, which I like because sitting in silence just strikes me as more authentic (maybe that's not the right word) than being made to feel bad for not signing up for every single potluck, etc. I've also attended services at a synagogue for years now. A group of mostly college profs broke off and do what they call Quaker-style Judaism every week - same service, but with far fewer people and a more academic tone. Most of the mainline Protestant churches around me tend to be just too MUCH for me. Too much distraction and events and not enough stillness and being, if that makes any sense.

    So, no, I don't feel obligated to go to church. I used to, being raised a good Catholic girl, who went to Mass because that was simply what you do. Then I realized that God and I do better on our own - walking, gardening, etc. So while I am still looking for a home church and I do have some ties to various houses of worship, I'm not nearly as stressed about finding The One as I used to be.

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  16. Wow, I wonder what that looks like... Quaker-style Judaism. Is it Messianic Judaism, or Judaism without Jesus?

    I don't do most of the "events," either. Though the pastor has a point about not just being there for a couple hours on a Sunday and thinking you're church "family."

    It's just hard for me. I know it's super-hard for the children.

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Non-troll comments always welcome! :)