Donald Miller certainly got Christian cyberspace going recently by writing an article about why he doesn’t find much edification in traditional worship services. This post isn’t meant to directly address his thoughts, but I have to admit that all of the conversations on this topic have certainly influenced my thinking.
What I wrote last Friday was on my mind long before Miller wrote his “confession.” I’ve thought a lot about how much hurt comes from our experiences with other church members. I’ve also considered how different things would be were I in charge. (I’ve even written a couple of posts about how I would do things)
It’s easy to say that I’d like to start a new church that will “do things right.” Or choose to withdraw from the gathered body all together, focusing on my relationship with God outside the confines of organized religion.
So here are some tempering thoughts, presented in no particular order:
- Most people can tell stories of hurt from their own families. There are cases of abuse, as there are in churches. Such things leave scars on anyone and everyone involved. And there are the normal stresses and strains of human relationships. How much hurt you carry away from those things often says more about your personality than the events themselves.
- Every human organization will produce stories of pain. School, sports, work, military service, dating… each one of those endeavors have their detractors, people whose memories are more focused on the hurt than the gain. Some of those are justified; others not so much.
- In general, the strongest and healthiest people in society are those that have learned to reclaim the good things from past relationships and overcome the bad.
- Where church is involved, we need a larger perspective. That is, we need to trust more in the church’s wisdom than our own. Here I mean “church” on a grand scale, the body of Christ through the ages and around the world. I have things to offer, things that will hopefully improve the church where I am. But when I start thinking that everyone but me has it wrong, I’m headed down a bad path.
- If I’m a mature Christian, church members will need me more than I need them. It’s hard to phrase that well. What I mean is, I should expect to do more giving than receiving. Think about a family. Parents expect to have more responsibility, to do more work, to put up with more unpleasantness. It comes with the job. Parenting gives lots of rewards, but in a different way. Especially when children are small, parents do more giving than receiving. That’s how the church works. When someone has been a Christian for a while complains about “not getting fed,” I’ll confess to having little patience for that. If an adult can’t feed themselves, something is wrong. If a mature Christian comes to church merely for what they can get out of the service, something is wrong as well.
It’s a bit like group health insurance plans. Younger, healthier people receive less care for their money than the older, feebler ones do. But any plan that only involves one group or the other won’t function very well.
Those are a few thoughts. I’d like to hear your thoughts as well as reactions to what I’ve said.