Some of my friends were complaining about church this week. Normally, I try to listen and smile and nod and give the appearance of taking it all in stride (I don't think I am too successful), but on the inside I take this type of criticism quite personally and am secretly offended by their horrific ungodliness and lack of commitment. Yes, I take it all too personally because, well, my husband and I are two of the so-called leaders in our humble church group and how can I not? Even though we are one of the most embracing, interactive, flexible, contemporary church groups around, people still find something they don't like. But this time, after the first few dents and dings to my ego, I decided that being offended was not that useful of a reaction. In fact, I could identify with some of the things they were saying, in a general kind of way. I am not satisfied with the way we do things either. Though I never think it a waste of time to show up for a church meeting, I often leave disappointed at the lack of results or enthusiasm or really, any significant sign of positive change.
Many days I don't want to be a church leader. I don't want to love everyone that walks in the door, especially the uncool people with bad hair and no sense of humour. I don't want to pray for the whiners who talk about themselves too much and seem to make the same bad decisions over and over, no matter what you tell them. I don't want to be the one in charge all the time, the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. I get tired of being the one that everyone expectantly looks to like I have some secret formula to make it all better, or at least a plan that won't suck. I want to enjoy it more and not feel like sometimes I am the only one who really wants to do this.
Now keep in mind this is a bruised ego and a sometimes emotionally volatile female talking, so take these words with a heaping helping of salt and grace. And please don't assume I am talking about you. We all know you are one of the cool ones and not a whiner and though you might occasionally have a bad hair day, most of the time you could be a spokesperson for Pantene.
Let me get to the point, which is that for some time now, I have been feeling a desire and need and in fact, some gentle but persistent inner urging (which I have come to think is the spirit of God pointing me in this direction) to pursue reformation in how we think of and do and be the church. The unrest is a clue that it is time. People, including me, want more. And wanting more can be a powerful catalyst for drastic change, if we let it.
This is what I wrote in our weekly church email on Tuesday:
I have been thinking about how we do church for a few months now, and I realise that it is inadequate in so many ways. It is difficult to get past a certain mentality that is prevalent in our current culture that a meeting once a week on a Sunday is somehow “it.” That this Sunday meeting defines the lover, the bride of Jesus, more than anything else that we do. Inadequate hardly begins to describe how I feel about that itty-bitty, missing-out-on-so-much, in-the-box way of thinking. Love cannot be contained in a meeting, or even two or three if you count home groups. What do lovers do? What does a family do? What does a living organism do? Is “do” even the right verb? I have been asking God about this and I sense a paradigm shift on the horizon. If you have any thoughts, insights or wisdom on this subject, please send me a note.
The responses were immediate and affirmative and confessional and even encouraging. Yes, people want something to change. I want something to change. I don't have a 5-point plan of action and think it might be disastrous to outline a structure for how to do church in a new way before we get the heart of it right. I know we should be more invitational. I know we should not focus on meetings as much as meeting or connecting. I know we must be more inclusive and available and intentional about our pursuit of God - loving who he is and what he does and who he brings our way. I know that the Sunday meeting is a sacred cow and it must die in order to make way for genuine, life-encompassing worship. I know our desires and wants and dreams are much too small and limited because we only know what we have seen. I know that we can never go home after church because we are the church. I know God is inviting us to come closer, to stop building protective fences between him and us, and to fling ourselves into the abyss of surrender and finally believe what he says.
I think perhaps I should be more afraid than I am.
This is the unsettled sky that accompanied a torrential rainstorm we drive through on Saturday.