Sunday, August 06, 2006

Spiritual intersections

Not too long ago, Aldo (one of my blog mates) wrote an interesting post about reaching a crossroad in his life. Though our issues aren't the same, I think that I've also reached an important crossroad in my life; a spiritual crossroad. You see, I'm slowly watching my church fade into oblivion; and I feel powerless to stop it.

Sometimes I can't tell whether our church is being led by the Divine or by divide.

We have a pastor who is so insecure that he spends more time validating himself by building structures than he does for building souls. We have deacons who have been bullied to the point they've essentially become mindless and useless. Our financial irresponsibilites appear to be catching up to us. We have choirs who are conflicting with one another. We have an organist who never comes to rehearsal, plays like crap on Sunday and still gets paid for it. We have one of the hardest working church staff on the planet; yet they are constantly overworked and underappreciated. Our once strong congregation (both in membership and -- I hate to say it -- income) has been reduced to a handful of devoted followers. For every new person who joins the fold, at least two stronger Christians leave (though sometimes I wonder how "strong" they really were to leave on such bad terms). Things are starting to look bad.

What happened to my church?

What happened to my home?

My best friend and I made a pact (in fact, I hope that she's reading this; just in case she needs to be reminded). We have made praying for our church a HIGH priority. In some sense, I've placed the concerns of my church in a higher regard than my own concerns. But, as I've mentioned before, prayer is most effective (I think) when it has an element of application involved with it as well. In other words, unless I plan on getting involved with the problem, my prayer is just a prayer.

But what happens when the problem gets so bad that I find it unbearable? My initial response was to turn it over to God. But, I don't believe that God actually changes a situation. Instead, He changes our hearts and our response to the situation. But that only happens when we want it to. Frankly, I just don't see that happening. Too many people -- my pastor included -- have become so complacent with how things are, that change is highly unlikely. It's getting pretty bad in the trenches.

Do I leave or do I stay? Do I challenge the system or do I assimilate into it? So many questions, so few answers. Worse yet, I can't seem to hear God speaking to me about this one.

I guess that all I can do at this point is to continue to pray. I'm asking you to do the same.

Thanks.

- ACL

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

Anonymous said...

Deep.

I'll have you in my prayers.

green eyed girl on planet earth said...

Andre~My GEM
Wow , your heart is heavy and your mind muddy by this situation, I shall indeed keep you in my prayers and wish you peace of mind . I always thought that church would be a place of comfort and a sancuary,and being a church the congragation would try to work together in harmony. Sad that even in this situation there are battles and wrong doing! and you say the organist gets paid , OMG for service in church ! I can see a wedding or something like that but OMG money for playing music in your church ,WOW,is that a regular occurance ? or am I just a naive girl?I would think one would be only to happy to play music In Gods house !I wonder if any of this group reflects for a moment to ask " what would God Think"?Hope you can work it out :}
Greeneyes

"big sis" said...

Andre,
as someone that grew up in the same church that you are referring to, it makes me very sad to know that all of this is going on. I will keep you in my prayers.

I moved away a very long time ago, but even before I left I could see problems arising.

I love that church very much. There are members there that helped me and my family so many times. I've seen the church do wonderful things, i.e., outreach to the community, visiting the sick, scholarship for students. Back when I was there the youth department was ( I think) the best in the city. They really took an interest in young people.

But there are a few things that in my opinion have caused this demise of the church.

One: the live Sunday morning broadcast of service. This caused everything to be on such a strict schedule, and it interrupts the flow of the spirit during service. "Oh! it's 10:45, time to pray, oh! it's 11 o'clock, time to sing, 11:30-11:45, time for the word, 11:45-noon time to get into preacher mode (queue deacons to stand) so on and so on. All for the sake of broadcasting live on Sunday. Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to the radio broadcast, but it never allows for the natural progression of the spirit to flow. Why not tape the Sunday morning worship, edit it then broadcast it?

Two: and probably the most harm comes from the posting of tithes and offerings in the Sunday bulletin. For all of you that don't understand what I'm talking about, every Sunday when you open up your bulletin you will see a list of all of the tithes and offerings and how much each individual person (by name!) gave the previous Sunday.
This has caused the most division in church by creating a class system of the haves and have nots. This is pointless! For anyone new that comes to the church or even for those who have been there forever, it makes them feel like if your not a big giver to the church or if you don't make a good living that your opinion and input are not as important as someone that does. It always seem like the important position went to those with privilege.

Andre, I would urge you to not leave the church, but to express your concerns directly to the pastor or anyone that would listen. Remember the reason that your there is for Him, not for anyone else. Continue to stay in prayer.

Sorry for the long post.

JD said...

Dre,

Thanks for reminding me about the prayer!!!

Dre, I feel the exact same way on this one. Did you know that one of the members was moved to tears yesterday? She was upset at what our communion has turned into.

There are two ways that I can look at this:

1. Every "dynasty" goes through a drought. I mean, fa real: we are one of the "Big Ten" in the city. Has U of M been THE BEST team EVERY SEASON since it's exsistence? Remember when you could buy a Pistons ticket at your local gas station?

2. As "Big Sis" mentioned, we have several problems. I think that the fall that we're seeing is because of the recent "extreme" purchases that we've made, combined with the fall of GM and Delphi (I mean, our entire city needs a job!.

The biggest reason, in my opionion? The constant name calling and bashing. I feel like we're in an abusive relationship with him. I've never felt this sad about MY church.

1. This is the same church that invested in ME

2. I have so many wonderful youth memories

3. I learned about myself and what I can do (oratorical)

And MY church is going down?

Prayer, man. That's all I can think of

Sorry about the scatter-brained and long message. I'm very hurt.

Andre said...

@ anonymous: What's 'deep' is the deep-seeded frustration and disappointment I'm starting to build for the place where I should be worshipping. But, I understand where you're coming from. Thanks for your prayers.

@ Greeny: Though the church is headed by Jesus Himself, the members -- sadly -- are still human. That means that the day-to-day operations are subject to human failure. It's not the failure and the screw ups that bother me; I mean, we all fall short. It's the fact that there just doesn't seem to be any hint of improvement on the horizon. To me, that's unnerving and scary.

As it relates to the musicians: I'm not sure if this is a trait unique to Black Baptists church (But, I'm almost positive that it's not), but musicians are typically on the church's payroll, largely because of all of the duties and responsibilities associated with it. Being a musician is REALLY hard work. Learning songs, teaching parts, playing (all day at that), etc. can take its toll on a person. I think it's interesting though; that of all the musicians at our church, the drummers (myself and the pastor's grandson) aren't paid. And we don't suck...

But, receiving compensation for doing something I love and that helps edify the service isn't my issue. Frankly, I don't care. But, having this unskilled, undedicated organist on the payroll represents one of the 'financial irresponsibilites' I mentioned. That to me is the bigger issue.

Thanks for your prayers and for your concern. We need it...

@ My sis: I couldn't agree with you more. But, unfortunately, the observations that you pointed out are just the tip of the iceberg. What's worse is that this is the image that we're promoting to visitors and people outside of the Body of Christ. Is this how we want to market this whole 'accepting and worshipping Jesus' thing? If so, I wonder how displeased God is...

Thank you sis.

NOT A REPUBLICAN said...

Long Time, no hear from!

I've been working hard in school, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been around. Your posts serve as a refreshing break from studying.

Okay, here goes:

Do you really think that you should be blasting your Church's info on the Internet? Shouldn't some things remain within the Church walls? Hey, my Church isn't perfect, either. When my family has problems, we keep it within the household walls. Sholdnt the Church business be kept the same way? I guess now that it's out there, I would suggest that you talk to your Pastor. Although things may not change initially, something that you say may trigger something in his spirit, which will convict him later on. Either way, you would've done your part.

I'm going back into seclusion now!!!

Not a republican said...

By the way, I will be praying for your Church family

monique said...

I'm sorry about this situation that you are in. In troubles my hear that with all of the madness going on in the world, you can't even feel comforted in you place of worship. I USED to go to a church similar to yours. I was struggle for a while with the decision of staying or leaving. After a year or so, I received a job offer from another city (about an hour away from my home). I didn't know if it was a sign from God or if it was coincidental. I took that opprotunity to change churches. The only thing I miss from my old church is some of the people.
I can imagine what you are going through, Andre, so I will be sure to pray for you and your church family. It's bad when you see the church coming apart.

By the way, how do the other musician feel about this bad organist getting paid? The seems ridiculous to me.

Andre said...

@ Not a Republican: Hey! Welcome back. How goes in...uh...Idaho? :)

At any rate, I actually don't see a problem with 'blasting' my church so openly; especially when I don't consider it blasting.

(1) I'm calling it for what it is. The fact is, my church IS messed up. Frankly, I think that -- since the church is called to extend itself beyond its four walls (or, in our case, I think it's like 10 walls. But you get the point), it opens itself up publicly. That idea applies to all the good things it does AND the bad...

(2) My blog has historically been about things that...well...I deal with. And I've never been candid with anything on my heart. When things effect me; for good or for ill; it's almost a "gimme" that I'm going to learn a greater thing from it. My blog attempts to be a reflection of the learning that I've tried to gain from my experiences. That said, it's not like I'm sitting around just trying to find something about my church to gossip about. These are genuine concerns that I have and that I don't show reservation in talking about...

(3) Perhaps the most meaningful part of my blog is the interaction I get to have with other like-minded people (though I occasionally get the anti-Andre guy once in a while). I rely on other people's insight and perspectives on things that matter to me. So, to trust that they can provide meaningful insight, I give them as much information as possible. Frankly, I'm not trying to hear some blanketed, general statements like "Everything will be alright" or "Just pray about it". I want SPECIFIC ANSWERS TO SPECIFIC CONCERNS. The best way to ensure this is to go into some detail about what's on my mind. If you notice: though I called out specific things about my church, I never called it out by name.

Good luck with your studies, by the way. I hope you're having more success that I'm having right now...

@ Monique. Hi 'Nique. Thanks for the listening ear (or should I say the reading eye...). It's always comforting to know that other people have had similar experiences and have made it through them. It gives me more encouragement than you realize.

The truth is, I don't know what God has planned for me or for my church. It's just my prayer than none of us get so lost in our own objectives that we fail to hear God speaking to us.

By the way, not to diss the bad musician, but the rest of our group thinks that the whole thing with this guy is hilarious. In a way, we all laugh to keep from crying.

Thanks for your insight!

green eyed girl on planet earth said...

Andre MY GEM,
A little oFF topic but I couldnt resist .
THE sign on this post , the NUMBERS on the 'mans way',,,/ 666 0 ,,,,,,could it be a sign !!!!!!!!! ,SORRY COULDNT RESIST, hope it made you smile:}
Greeneyes

Andre said...

@ Greeny: Interesting observation. To tell you the truth, I never noticed it. I just found a picture from Google images that I thought would be pretty appropriate.

Man's way marked by three sixes. Hmmm....

"There is a way that seemeth right unto man, but the end thereof is death..."

- Proverbs 14:12

green eyed girl on planet earth said...

AMEN :}

thehc said...

Hey Andre,
You seem to me to be a man in conflict lately. I wonder if what your conflicted about is your church, or just religion in general? As you know, I'm not religious myself, but I do feel that I'm grounded in religious beliefs, like marriage or our obligation to put our family first. I hope that if you should decide to abandon your church, you will at least keep the belief system. There are two paths in life (as both you and Arlo beautifully point out). One is based in self-gratification, the other in larger purpose. Which side you choose says a lot about who you are, and how you view yourself. Great post.

saved_sinner said...

Andre,

In all my years, I've learned that if there is a problem in your life, you must do everything you can to change it. The change may not turn out in the way you expected it or wanted it. But, if you continue to work at it, some changes will occur; even if they are from within.

I'll be praying for you and your church.

Andre said...

@ Greeny: Amen, indeed! :)

How have you been?

@ HC: What can I say? "Conflict" is my middle name. Well, actually it's Contrell, but close enough...

I don't feel like I'm spiritually disconnected from God. Like Paul said, I don't think that anything can 'separate' me from God's love (Romans 8:38); including the silly antics of the folks at my church. Still, it hurts to see things get to this point.

I don't think I'll be one of the people jumping ship, but I don't think I can sit by idly as we head toward an iceberg either.

@ saved_sinner: Thanks for the insight, Rob. You're correct that there HAS to be some changes; even if the only change I see is in me. We used to sing a song like that in our 'better days' at my church:

"Ask the Lord to take your something, and by His power, change it.

The change may not come today. The change may not be in your way. But a change will come, someday.

Even if the change is in you."

That applies now more than ever...

Thanks, to all, for your comments

ajbendaƱa said...

Those are some of the reasons why I dont go to church. I have always felt that if you need to pray at a temple or church why not do it anywhere you feel the desire to. Our bodies are temples are they not. I hope your church pulls out a 180 degree turn.

on a side note...
I just saw your 13 comment resposne to one of my posts. Funny guy, but i think you misunderstood what i meant by it not being one of my most popular posts.

Andre said...

@ ajbendaƱa: The institutionalization of church aside, I still think that attendance at church is important to serving and worshipping God. To me, spirituality and religion co-exist. One can't live without the other. As I've always maintained, spirituality is the metaphysical, supernatural connection we have to God; while religion is the physical, ritualistic and day-to-day activities that SHOULD reflect our spirituality. The gripe that I have with most religious practices and most churches is that they don't seem to be walking in the Spirit. So, to that end, I get where you're coming from about not liking churches but I tend to think that assembling with others in the Body of Christ is important for believers.

@ your other point, I was only foolin' with the multiple posts. Perhaps I did mistaken your comment about popularity. If I did, I'm sorry...

Anonymous said...

I've got a question: If you're so "spiritually connected" to God, why do you need to be around others to validate that?

I also wanted to tell you that I enjoy your blog.

Andre said...

@ anonymous: Try to look at it this way: whenever you subscribe to a group, you typically want to be around individuals who are like minded. If you're against drunk drivers, you tend to want to associate with others who are also against drunk driving. If you're vegan, you try to establish networks with other vegans. If you're a battered wife, you tend to join battered wives groups. The Body of Christ is the same way.

"Church" is the gathering of the saints for the purpose of fellowship with one another, building each other up, and worship. It's hard to say that you follow God without fellowshipping with His people.

Hope that makes sense.

Thanks for your comments.

green eyed girl on planet earth said...

Hi Andre~ My Sweet GEM
Been busy but not to busy to stop and read you ! Thanks for asking !


Hmmmmmm I wonder if these last post comments ever get read on anyones blog????,,,,hmmmmmm LOL
Greeneyes

Andre said...

@ Greeny: LOL! I was thinking the same thing about the "last comment". If it were anybody else, I'd ignore the last comment. *Just kidding folks*

Please don't apologize for anything. I'm not expecting for you to spend your whole day checking my blog or trying to respond to everything I say. I completely understand how busy you are. I mean, who isn't!

Besides that, it must be hard work being such a happy and cheery person!

Talk to you later, my love...

Andre said...

I hope I don't wind up being the last commenter. Don't want to be ignored by...well...me