Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Dichotomy


I hate my church.

I hate the mindlessness of our routine. I hate some of the silly man-made norms that we follow. I hate that we don't have any real goals. I hate how we've developed the "Keeping up with the Joneses" mind set. I hate how we hate on people who don't fit into our inner circles. I hate the shallowness of our fellowship. I hate when the my pastor constantly solicits people to say "Amen" to every little thing. I hate hearing wordy and scripted prayers. I hate seeing kids exploited in "Children's Church". I hate the classist mentality that exists in our congregation. I hate not being able to understand the sermons. I hate when my ex-sort of-girlfriend keeps text messaging me during service. I hate how we've erected a multi-million dollar life center, while we're located in one of the poorest parts of one of the poorest cities. I hate how our foreign mission contributions dwarf the efforts of our our church expansion. I hate that I've been forcibly appointed to the deacon's ministry. I hate how our service is dictated by our radio broadcast. I hate the suspicion and mistrust that's the product of our refusal to be open and honest.

So Andre, if you hate this all so much, why don't you just leave?

Because...

I love the 70+ year old lady who embraces me every week and tells me that she's "praying for me". I love the support that I get from my pastor. I love the knowledge that is imparted to me by many of the older people in my congregation. I love the lady who tells me how handsome and intelligent I am. I love when my pastor's wife calls me "her son". I love my best friend (and spiritual partner) who hasn't given up on me just yet. I think it's safe to say that I'd go crazy without her. I love the other young minds who are caught in the middle of the same issues that I have, but refuse to give up on the church. I love the group of kids who crowd around me, but are a little 'too cool' to come out and say "We love you." I love how our choirs, even on 'off days', can lift their hearts in worship. I love the feeling of accomplishment that I get when I play the drums well. I love the commitment that many hard working members have to the various ministries in our church. I love the support that our church provides (funerals, financial assistance, clothes, food, etc.) for people who haven't stepped foot in the church for years. I love the elders of our church who may be trapped in their 'old ways' of thinking, but who have suffered and endured for a long time. I love my "Sandy"; who has been a true mentor to me and who has nothing to gain by giving herself to me. I love the organization of our church. I've been to churches where they make up the order of service as they go. I love the deacon who, despite his lack of education, can talk to God as well as any theologian. I love being 'put in check' by people if I'm missing for too long of a time; a sure sign that people care about me. I love the people who selflessly give extra offerings to support the church in whatever way possible. I love the people who take time to call or leave encouraging messages on my voicemail. I love that, even when people don't always agree with, they love me anyway.

Essentially...

...I love my church.

- ACL

9 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

rhynoman said...

While I'm not the type to bad mouth, I do love your attitude toward your church. It sounds like the congregation is great but maybe the leadership is a little off. Have you thought about speaking to your pastor and if you have spoke with him taking another fellow brother about your concerns (obviously with prayer and Grace)? Paul talks about how to take an issue with a brother and it seems to be a big help. I'm sure your pastor would listen to your concerns if not having a fellow brother that you and him respect may help (with prayer). Just a thought. I will be praying for you and your church and the leadership. Church must focus on missions, young people and the salvation message with discipleship. May your pastor and your congregation follow Christ's lead. I have been involved with 2 splits and I know that is worse than what you are going through so I can relate to your situation. God bless you and your church. :)

Diane said...

Andre,
What you are describing is a church with growing pains. Not necessarily physical growth, but Spiritual growth.
I was in a situation in another church 15 years ago where most of the leadership had a satisfied mindset. They didn't WANT to grow, didn't want anything to change, didn't want to spend the money God allowed us to put in the treasury for His work, they just wanted to hoard it and keep it in savings for a Rainy Day. The last straw was when those who wanted to RUN the church, (the head deacon and a few senior members) had a private meeting and then asked our pastor to resign. The pastor did so to keep peace, but it didn't keep peace. Some members just didn't want to get involved in any controversy, so didn't speak at all. Others just left and didn't come back. I and my Mom, Dad and sister stood up and resigned our positions and walked out. No name calling or fighting. Just walked out and didn't go back. I felt that God wasn't in that church right then, Satan had control of it, and I had no place there.

About a month after that, after visiting another church for several services, I felt that God was leading me to serve there, and I have been happy there ever since. The other church has dwindled to just a handful of members, and is barely keeping the doors open. But I suppose they are happy, because everything is basically the same there.
There is no perfect church. Churches are made up of people, and people are going to get out of God's will. Growing churches have growing pains. Unless God leads you to another church, your place is where God's planted you.
There is a way to change things---God's way. Prayer. Asking God for insight in how to approach someone so that they are open to suggestions of change. More prayer. And asking God if it is YOU who needs to change, then accepting His answer.If God is convicting you of something in your church that needs changing, are you willing to be the one to start the ball rolling? Even more prayer.
Even with its problem areas, are you still happier in your church than you can see yourself being at another church?
Rhynoman made some good points, too.

I know this was long, sorry about that. I just hope this helps.
God Bless. :)

joel said...

Andre,

At first I was a little hesitant to comment on this one, largely because I feel like I'm pretty close to this situation myself. But I felt compelled (maybe by the Spirit) to respond.

I am moved as I read these 2 distinct paragraphs; the hate paragraph & the love paragraph. (specifically because I've dealt with similar feelings in my own church.) I realized that the top paragraph is really none of my business. Of course, we all have a responsibility to be, well, responsible. But ultimately, we do not answer for that. The leadership does.

But to me, the Christian life IS about that 2nd paragraph. Why do you think those ladies hug you and tell you how HOT you are? Believe it or not, its not because they want to molest you between the responsive reading and the offering. It's because they (as oldtimers) understand that church is all about people loving people, not about system and bureacracy.

Why do you think those kids like you? Because they see something in you (intelligence, talent, spirituality...) that they really need, but are too cool to ask for.

You say you hate your church but you love the people. Then it is apparent to me that your definitions are misplaced, since the church IS the people.

Yeah, its easy for me to judge your situation, not being directly involved with it myself. Yeah, my church is different... I'm okay with the Pastor and I only struggle with a few of the people...

But the bottom line is, what are you called to do? (whether in or out of the church) My advice is, settle that question and do it. (Ecc. 12:13-14)

You're up to bat, my friend...

Andre said...

@ rhynoman: I really appreciate your suggestion. I think you're right that I need to be more proactive in addressing my issues/concerns with my pastor...in a spirit of love.

I take a little exception to the "I have been involved with 2 splits and I know that is worse than what you are going through..." line, though. I'm sure that it was said in good spirit, but it's hard to compare your experiences with mine. Nonetheless, thanks for your comments.

Andre said...

@ Joel & Diane: Thanks to both of your for your comments. I think that you're correct in a large sense: whatever changes I'd like to see, I should be proactive in seeing them through...while also being mindful of God's will. As with many other things, my prayer hasn't been for God to change the situation at all, but rather to give me the wisdom and strength to respond to it in the way He wants me to. Do I move toward change or do I do I stand still?

I suppose that the answer can only come from wisdom provided by God Himself.

Anonymous said...

A lot of the statements in your second paragraph focused on one thing: you. Church is not about you, and it's not about your congregation. It's about God. Lose your focus on the people and try to focus on why you should be there, and you may find yourself with a whole new set of feelings.

Andre said...

@ anoymous: Thanks for blessing me with your comments.

I think that you missed the point of this post. Maybe it has something to do with the way I delivered it. But, I'll try to make up for it here.

(1) This is...well...my blog. So, naturally, these posts are going to be about me or, at the very least, MY take on things. So, I guess I don't understand your point.

(2) I intentionally focused on the parts of my church that I 'hated', immediately followed by a juxtaposition of the things I 'loved' about my church; showing that -- despite what I perceive to be its faults -- it's still a part of me. I try to make it a point to recognize the bad with the good...without losing sight of the importance of leaving the 'good' on the other side of the "but". For instance, how many times have you heard someone say "I love this, but..." or "You're a great person, but..." Why don't you hear more people say "I hate this, but..." or "This annoys me, but..." That's what I was trying to do here.

@ everyone: Please don't look too deeply for meaning here. The hate/love thing was just a literary tool I wanted to use so that I could illustrate the paradoxical nature of our Christian walk. Lately, I've noticed that I sometimes struggle with the contradictions that humanity present. This is how I chose to express that.

lorna said...

Andre

I can't speak for anyone else, but I’ve been blessed reading these comments. I’m sure you know your heart but based on what I read it seems that anger is what you feel, not hatred. That is an expected emotion where love is concerned and results from being hurt. Hatred defines the act of destruction that follows the decision to reject love just as love defines the act of edification that result from the decision to follow Jesus. I don’t see anything destructive in your attitude; to the contrary I see great love. I will pray for you and all of us who love and hurt. Thank you for your honesty and openness.

Andre said...

@ lorna: I must've missed your comments. Please accept my apologies.

At any rate, thank you for touching my heart with your kind words. You're totally right in saying that anger is not always a bad thing; especially if the roots of a person's anger are actually nurtured by their love. People are disappointed at when I do wrong not because they hate me, but because they love me.

I feel the same way about my church.

You've REALLY blessed me. Thank you!