“‘Doing Church’ like everyone else…”

Cory‘s post over at Jesus Manifesto is something that I sympathize so deeply with. He writes of a woman who visited during the Sunday service looked through the bulletin and left before the end of the first song. Her reasoning was that there was not enough of a children’s ministry for her young child. With a church of 70 or so folks this is a hard jab that gets felt pretty strongly. The dilemma is whether we can resist the temptation to sacrifice the subversive and non-centralized call of Jesus and simply give people what they want. Cory writes, “Yet if we would simply capitulate to the consumerist tendencies of the people in our community, we might have more opportunities to introduce them to the world-transforming love of Jesus.”

As I wrestle with accepting having 6 to 10 people at our weekly gathering, people “shopping” gets to be pretty brutal. We had a few when we first got things going that came for a few weeks and then decided we weren’t for them. To have one new face is a rush of encouragement… but to find out later that they want a sweet and hip worship service is rough. It’s like losing 15% of your church. Hah! the joys of being small.

While I don’t want to come across as saying that every other church out there is consumeristic and that there are not many, many exceptions to this ‘doing church.’ There are always exceptions… but I think that is what they are. They are so often isolated units apart from the main system. It is pretty tough to deny that there is a “system” of “church” that doesn’t simply cater to what people want. After all, it is so exciting to see very few empty seats and to have tons of money coming in through the offering plates (or baskets… or funky velvet bags…)

As we face the challenge of facilitating and fertilizing the emerging church of Bend, Oregon, it is so difficult to not buy into the traditional “marks” of success: bodies at a weekly gathering and good “services” to offer. This idea of success is one of the hardest things to get beyond. But to let go of this and consider our success as being connected in more and more transforming relationships in the Bend community is so freeing. Finally, we are released to celebrate, laugh, worship, eat, and converse with whoever finds meaning in everything we are doing in any place we are meeting. We meet people where they are at… give them the freedom and opportunity to go as deep as they want. But, gosh… its difficult… and takes so much time…

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God, we’re Depressed…

Last night, I visited one of the Oasis home groups after the invitation from Kevin and some descriptive directions from Dave (“look for the house with the dog,” he said… no dog anywhere…). We spent most of the time talking about areas of unhealth in our lives. There wasn’t any advice giving, just listening and relating to each other. After listening and sharing, though, I felt like there was a distinct theme.

So many of us (and I think this is a greater issue among people, Christian or not…) get into this negative self-talk. Some of us are very synical and wish that we didn’t think so hard about things. Why can’t we just be positive like some people? (To quote the writer of Ecclesiates, “With more wisdom comes more sorrow; the more knowledge the more [depression]”… the more we know, the more we realize we don’t know, or we don’t like what we know) Some of us feel unbalanced. We feel guilty about enjoying the things we enjoy. We wish we could do more of this or more of that. And the solution often comes down to… “I need to get this area under control. I need to get a handle on this. I can control this. I can force this to happen.”

I am speaking from my own experience here. I wanted to offer some sort of insight but felt the need to avoid advice giving. I still want to avoid that now and so I would say it like this. I want to believe that finding more balance, being more disciplined,  stopping the negative self talk is not just about me making up my mind to do it. There is some of that involved, yes… but I have tried it. It doesn’t work. I simply cannot say, “Nate, stop being depressed.” And I wouldn’t dream of saying that to someone else. I want to believe that if I really pay attention to God’s presence in all things, in the questions, in the reassurances, in the loneliness, in the birds or the sunshine, that it is the Spirit that will give life to my life. I really want to believe that God in his love will play a great part in my organizing my life and becoming a whole person. I get this sense from the Bible that this is within his character. I get this sense that instead of trying to control and force my own will on things that if I pay attention and fall back into where he is taking me, that things will begin to move in line.