Saturday, March 11, 2017

Missing the point

I while ago I wrote a post that was, in part, written in frustration.  I received some criticism for that post particularly from the church I was in the process of leaving because they saw my article as an attack on, as they put it, "the bride of Christ".  I didn't mean it to be taken that way and fortunately others have written or spoken to me in order to tell me they appreciated it. But in all fairness I do have a particular way of writing that sometimes comes across as less than loving.  That post can be found here.

Recently I came across another post that was much better written and I think hit the nail on the head.  That post can be found here, and I encourage you, even implore you, to please read it.

The church my family was a part of is full of very loving people who also love Jesus with all their hearts.  I'm not just saying that.  I spent over ten years with them and I know it is true.  However, like many modern churches, they have become quite focused on being hip and approachable by the unsaved and unchurched.   They have also become very focused on what these days is called "outreach".  There is nothing inherently wrong with the desire to reach people for Christ.  But what I discovered is that if approached the wrong way these good desires can easily lead to a lack of "inreach".  That is, people who are already following Christ and especially those who have been for a long time, are assumed to be o.k. and left to fend for themselves.  It wasn't until my wife and I went through some really hard and dark times that we discovered that we were pretty much on my own.  I am certain that for a few people they thought they were reaching out to us. But because of how we've been taught to "do church", the efforts were much to little to late (I apologize in advance to my dear friends, but I am speaking from my perspective and my heart).

There also appears to be, in many of these churches, confusion as to what Sunday worship is intended for. Sunday worship is really for the true worshiper of God.  Biblically and historically Sunday was never intended to be evangelistic in the literal sense of that word. But because of our misguided understanding of outreach we turn Sunday into a crusade of sorts and forget the hurting masses right in our own pews.  This is the result of a church model based upon modern evangelism paradigms that themselves are often based on modern business and entertainment practices and not truly biblical or historical.

The above post by Kimberli is a perfect case in point.  It is a very sad and thus difficult article to read but needed in today's consumerism oriented churches.  It is too easy to have a form of godliness but completely lacking any real power;  the power to see, help and heal those in our own midsts.  If we manage to get people through our doors and onto our membership rosters only for them do discover that the people in the church are just as lonely, hurting and depressed as those outside it can we be surprised when they leave or, in our case, simply fade away? 

Friday, March 10, 2017

How's it going?

"They were drilling my teeth and I kept thinking....this should NOT be the best part of my day"

This was said to me by a friend I work with. She had been to the dentist the day before and that day was a particularly rough day for her.  When your day is so terrible that the dentist drilling your teeth becomes the highlight of the day, you know things are bad. I certainly can identify with that.  I suppose we all can.

I wish I could say I'm honest with people whenever they ask, "How's it going?".  I'm not.  I lie.  All the time.  I usually answer, "Good, and you?".  There's another lie.  I really don't want to know most of the time.  I only have a handful of people in my life I ever want an honest answer to that question from and I have an even smaller circle of people I will give an honest answer to.  My wife is one that falls into both groups.  We share almost everything (even marriage has some personal boundaries). And then there's a really, really small circle of friends I will share things with or want them to share with me.  The aforementioned workmate is one. I have perhaps two more I can name off the top of my head.  One I only see maybe once a year.

But that isn't my point. My point is I wonder how I should be responding to people.   I don't really want to be honest.  And unless they fall into that really tiny circle I spoke of I am certain they really don't want to hear an honest answer to their pseudo inquiry anyway.  And I really don't want an honest answer to my forced response.  If we are going to be honest the question and response are merely social expectations and that is the end of it. 

I am thinking that the next time I am asked the question and the inquisitor is not in my very exclusive network I will respond, "Why do you care?"  or, "What's it to you?".   I know that isn't really polite and I am a jerk, but it is honest. I could just say, "Good" or "Terrible".  That may be honest and less offensive if not binary (which works for me as a programmer).  But instead of a follow up question I could just say, "I don't care about how you feel, so let's just end this".  But again, that sounds awful even if it is honest. So maybe I will just stare at them.  Creepy, but effective.  Or maybe I should just walk away.  I'll have to think that one over. 

My priest, when he asks that question and thinks you are being less than honest, will call you a liar. So there's another possibility if you really truly want an honest answer. That's if you really want to give an honest answer.  Maybe you don't.  Maybe I don't.  That is fine.  But maybe we are afraid you don't want to hear our answer and need a bit more encouragement to share.  I once was asked by a pastor how I was doing and when I started to tell him he saw someone else he needed to talk to and walked off with me in mid-sentence.  So you'll forgive me if sometimes I need a good show of faith concerning your sincerity. 

In the end I really don't have a good answer to how to answer.  Honesty is good policy most of the time, but not all of the time (regardless what you were taught in kindergarten with mythical stories of our first president).  But with those people you call "friend" there will be an understanding.  A special understanding that allows you to be honest while at the same time acknowledging your dishonesty with a knowing wink.  Not the "friends" on social media but real friends. I have found they are very difficult to come by mostly because such friendships take a lot of time and effort and pain and growing.  But when they do come along they are well worth it.