In praise of the Church, II

Last post, I observed that the church is in something of a catch-22.   On the one hand, every time we mess things up, sin, or make mistakes there are many good reasons to be very public about this.  On the other hand, when we do things right, it can be hard to be as public about this.  There are a variety of reasons for this.  We don’t want to look like we’re just doing it to be noticed, for one.  It’s human nature to notice when things aren’t going right, for another. 

Seriously, have you ever contemplated the number of airplanes that don’t land in a fiery pit of death and destruction every day?  Have you ever read a newspaper article about the cars that reached their destination and failed to cause an 87 cause pile up?  How often do you hear stories about the thousands of politicians, generals, etc. who are playing by the rules and doing what they are supposed to be doing?  The most literal translation of the word “Gospel” is Good News.  Yes, I know that we’re supposed to be sharing Jesus good news, most specifically.  But it’s important here, that at the very root of our faith, is the command to share good news.

A perhaps related issue with the inherent challenges of a church getting good press: For lots of good reasons, we trust an outsider.  If I said “Such-and-such church is …” You’d take me seriously if you thought I was an unbiased observer.  If you felt like I had an agenda, like I had an axe to grind, it would be quite understandable to take what I say with a grain of salt.

However, this creates a dilemna.  The dilemna is this: if somebody loves a church, they are likely to want to get involved with that church.  Unless they are anti-social or a hypocrite (or both) they will want to get on board with it.  In the act of getting on board with a church, we lose some of our credibility in reporting how awesome it is.

More specifically: I say “Fellowship Church is awesome.”

It’d be natural to say “Well, of course you’re going to say that.  You’re involved with the church.  You want everybody to think it’s awesome.”

That’s one explanation.   But what if the causal arrow operated differently?  It’s equally likely that Fellowship Church is awesome quite independently of me, quite before me.  (Actually, it’s much more likely.)   I am attracted to this awesomeness and seek to serve.  I also want to report this awesomeness I see…

At any rate, this is an absurdly long winded introduction for a supporting anecdote that’s pretty straight foreward and simple.  I think this is a pretty good demonstration of why I love my church, though.

The other day we had this little drama.  A borderline crisis, almost.  (Things are pretty much o.k. now, thanks for asking.) 

Nobody was around.  It was the middle of the afternoon.  I called a slew of people and left a message that was some variation on “Hey, it’s me.  I have a  big favor to ask.”

It’s such an amazing blessing to have a list– a healthy sized list– of people I can call in a jam.

But it gets better.

Because these people called back.  Pretty much right away.  The calls came back quicker, I think, than if I’d left out the “I have a big favor to ask part.”

It is so very precious to be part of a community where people are eager to help each other. 

As awesome as it was to simply have a list of people I could try to call, it was twice as awesome that there were so many people who could help us, who would help us.

It was actually a little convicting.  Because there are so many people outside of our immediate circle so desperate for our help, so desperate to see Christ’s love.  Many of my fellow church members do an equally amazing job of taking care of people outside of their social circle.

I haven’t done as good a job with this.  I hope that all the amazing people on that list know that I would do everything I could for them, as they did for me.  But Jesus calls me to do everything I can even for people who can’t or won’t reciprocate.  My hope is that I can take this feeling of blessedness and use it to motivate me to do a better job of reaching out, into the world.

This post was submitted to Watercooler Wednesday, a Blog Carnival on arts and culture.  Click here for some great reads.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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