Saturday, June 14, 2008

Church Life, Such as it is

Since I am a Sunday Bible School teacher in an SBC church, I am expected to visit prospects. Recently I visited a woman who said she’d come and didn’t. She had had a bad experience at one of our services, not a horrendous thing, but understandably off-putting. Nevertheless, I don't like people making promises to me they do not keep nor have any intention of keeping. I would just as soon they say they can't make it, want to go elsewhere, church is not a priority, or something final. I'm an upfront person and treat people that way. Of course, expecting other people to treat you as you like to treat others is not a necessary corrollalry to the Golden Rule.

I have a lot of observations about these times I have this experience, but the bottom of it is that people who say they are Christians just don’t think they need the church. That is a lie from the devil. It’s like a diet of junk food without some of the things we know are good for us but we don’t like. My son doesn't like onions and can pick them all out or just refuse to eat them. I can't imagine food without onions and eat it (and everything else!) with zest. Most people in the U.S. are like my son and his onions. What I and other churchgoers see as the parts of church that give it zest, others would like to pick out, or they just decide to forgo the whole meal.

In church we get faced with different types of people, even if everybody is white and middle class. In church we have to deal with imperfect people (people on religious TV shows are perfect as far as we’re concerned.) In church we get reminded we aren’t perfect. In church we can’t get away from responsibilities to others. What is it about church that those who claim to follow Jesus feel this way, that it’s an option, a choice among many, a side dish from the smorgasbord of life but not the main course?

The church refers today to four things--the mystical body of Christ, the universal collection of all true believers, local assemblies of believers, and that big monstrosity of all so-called Christians, tradition, liberal, conservative, apostate, etc. But in that day they didn’t have any debates about the church. It was clear what it was. They were living it, and apparently it was the center of their lives. I think that is what I get mostly from Acts 3-5, a section we can’t study in detail like we should. Despite the possibility of confrontation and rejection from family and the synagogue, the church came first. And this was not because they just liked each other and wanted to hang out together. Neither was it because people could get a leg up in society, network and make contacts.

Relevant questions:
What were the early church’s motivations in meeting so much?
How important is the church to our lives?
What do we expect from church?
What happens when we leave church out as a priority?
Do we let bad experiences in church life color our attitudes too much?
How do nonbelievers see the church?
How do we feel when church is not part of our lives?
Why do people get away from church?
How do nominal believers see the church?
Do we put the individual above the church?
What is the place of meeting mutual needs in the church?
What are barriers to meeting mutual needs?
What is the place of meeting needs of non-members or unbelievers?
How seriously should we take the criticism people might have of our church?
What can we do to draw people to our fellowship?

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Attention, Ego, Spirituality, and Drugs

This title may seem really odd coming from me, but this article has some interesting things to say.