I have to tell you, churchian culture can be quite a shock to the system for those who do not come from the church world. I speak of those who grew up within the church, and those who come from the secular world. I come from the secular world, some 30 years ago, but a part of me is still always observing, always watching those churchian dynamics at play.
There is nothing new under the sun, the early church itself dealt with endless quirks and culture clashes. I like Acts 11:3, “Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them…” ?? Nobody does that, it’s just not done! So many potential culture conflicts going on there, Jews, gentiles, the circumcised, the uncircumcised, Greeks, dietary restrictions, laws, rules, traditions…..
I mean this with all good humor, but there have been a few times in the church I have thought, this may well be one of the most horrifying things I have ever born witness to in my entire life. I kid you not. That may well rankle some, but it is what it is.
There is a method to my madness here. I really believe that those who have spent their lives within the church have something valuable to learn from those of us who haven’t. What is familiar to some can easily become invisible and sometimes taken for granted.
One of my first churchian memories in Alaska was watching these two women prepare communion. In this church they would cut the crusts off slices of bread and cube them into perfectly uniform squares. Apparently the bread had to be frozen when you did this or else the pieces would make crumbs and someone might get a piece that was bigger or smaller than the others. This would cause “issues.” Kind of like the issues these two women were pouring all over the stupid woman who had forgotten to freeze the bread. That’s one of my first introductions to the church, a bit of gossip and mean-spiritedness over communion cubes.
All in good fun here, but if there is such a thing as a one way ticket to hell, fighting over the size of your communion bread is probably it.
Once again, there is nothing new under the sun. Even the disciples got caught up in such things. “And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.”-Luke 22:24
I’ve spent many years listening to churchian people and there are a few very familiar complaints that seem to play out over and over again. The first is worship music. I don’t now what’s wrong with it, but it’s never going to be right. It’s always going to be too loud, too contemporary, too traditional, too repetitive, too unfamiliar. I always want to say, you do realize you’re talking to someone who spent years singing “I’m a believer,” by the Monkees? I’m pretty sure God wrote that song of praise just for me to worship with. God can speak to anyone, anywhere.
Once in California I was sitting with some people who were lamenting the horrors of worship music and this guy sat down and said, “When I was in this motel room with two prostitutes the guy I owed drug money to kicked in the door and shot me and I had to escape out the back door naked and run down the alley.” They had left part of the bullet in him and he wanted us all to feel it. That’s perspective for you. It can be a dark and ugly world out there and sometimes we completely forget that. What were we murmuring about again? Music? Seriously?
The second one is this issue of not being fed. For some reason that always reminds me of The Little Shop of Horrors and, “Feed me Seymour.” Are you a potted plant? Only a carnivorous potted plant expects someone else to feed them. One simply cannot spend an hour in church once a week and passively download faith. Besides, I’m hungry too, why aren’t you feeding me?
I used to really regret having been kept out of the church, having missed out growing up, having struggled so hard as an adult. It’s not easy being a believer in the midst of non belief and you can feel very alone, but I don’t regret it anymore because it gave me an insatiable hunger for God, an appreciation for the church no matter how flawed, and a desire not to take things for granted. It can all be gone in an instant.
Sometimes I still feel a real disconnect from those who have known nothing else, from those who seek perfection and control over the things around them rather than grabbing onto the idea that, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” -2 Corinthians 5:21
We are the righteousness of God in him. The Spirit of God dwells within us. We are the church, it’s not really to be found in what is going on around you, but what is within you.
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”– 1 Corinthians 3:16