Saturday, March 28, 2009

Reflecting (on) What’s Wrong

(Part Five of an ongoing series. Starts with prior posts below)

4. Personal Issues

As anybody who has decided to be free from the idea of institutional church and start meeting in a home knows, the journey continues with twists and turns. The winding road continues.

We initially shrunk church down into living room version of big church. That was horrible. Eventually, some of the house churches stayed together long enough to transform into true communities. They became family. And when that happened, they experienced the richness of what it really means to be church.

Yet that journey is not a simple A to B transition. It is messy. Much like marriage, and raising children, real church life is difficult and full of ups and downs. It does not look or feel glorious on most days, but is made up of the mundane and the ordinary.


About the same time I began to embrace a simpler form of church that understood ecclesiology better, I also began to struggle with issues related to my own life stage. I was in my 30’s, and couldn’t believe it. One day I was in my early twenties; the next I was in my early 30s. How did that happen, I wondered?

I also began being confronted with my own brokenness. I believed in my head that I needed to be a more loving, giving person in every area of my life: my marriage, my parenting, my friendships, etc. Yet I found I couldn’t become that just by decided I needed to do it. I was confronted with my own basic selfishness. I was becoming aware that even the good things I did in life flowed from some selfish desire. I really was not on a journey of giving my life away for others. I was far too fearful to risk doing that on a daily basis.

Being Loved > Loving

I shared some of these thoughts and feelings with a trusted mentor. His advice surprised me. He told me I didn’t have a problem with loving, but I had a problem with being loved. I didn’t really love because I wasn’t really allowing God to love me. At first, I was pretty sure he was wrong. But I began to understand that my understanding of God was skewed on some level, and that even the part of me that did understand God’s love had never let it travel down the neck. In other words, it registered in my head, but not in my heart. I was really, in many ways, a legalistic Christian. I didn’t really get the good news aspects of God’s message.

For example, I had always read the book of Galatians under the understanding that I am a Gentile, and that others were Jews. Now, although that is technically true, it kept me from understanding that book. I always thought that Galatians was full of sections that meant nothing to me. It was written to Jews to help them understand that we no longer live under law. I, being a Gentile, never lived under Jewish law, so what a waste of verses.

But I began to understand that I am more like a Jew than a Gentile when it comes to Galatians purposes. I mean, I am basically a religious legalist (not as much as some, of course). I basically have always approached my faith from the point of view of law – kind of a New Testament law, if you will. Once I started reading Galatians as if I was the Jew that the book addressed, and the pagans around me were the Gentiles, then the book changed my whole perspective of my interaction with God.

Reflecting the Problem (The Problem is Me)

The road had twisted again and brought me face to face with another very unexpected discovery in my quest to figure out what was wrong with the church. The road took another hairpin blind turn, and when I got around the turn, I was confronted with a giant mirror. In that mirror, I saw my own reflection. That’s right, the problem with the church, I was finding, was not just generational, cultural and theological. Beyond all of that, it was personal. I ran into my own reflection on my quest to find out what was wrong with the church. The problem with the church was, in large part, me.

The Problem is . . . Us

Before I unpack that further, I hope you won’t be too hard on me. Because I’m speaking for us all. The problem with the church is not just me, it’s us. We, her members. We are broken. Our hearts aren’t healthy. We aren’t allowing ourselves to be loved fully. Or, maybe I should say, there is something about God’s love we just don’t get yet. That’s why we’re still so broken.

And because we aren’t able to accept or fully appreciate His love for us, we don’t allow it to flow through us properly. We don’t love each other the way we should. And to some degree, we can’t. At least not yet. Further, we don’t show the world out there what love is really like because we don’t love each other in a full way. And we don’t love them in a full way either. At least not yet.

Like a Dam

It’s like God’s love is a raging river. And we are a dam. We don’t allow His love to come through.

It’s like we’re standing in a waterfall, and our job is to just drip the stuff that’s pouring on us. But we’re so unaware of the availability of the waterfall, that we can’t even drip.

We’re broken deeply. I am broken deeply. The problem with the church is me.

A Full-Circle Journey

The issue isn’t the church afterall. At least not its most primary level. Healthy disciples make healthy churches. No wonder Jesus commissioned His disciples to make disciples, not to plant churches. The church is the natural result of healthy disciples. Yet without one, we have not the other. I am sure I will spend many more years on this one. There is no easy solution. I’m getting a bit healthier. We are getting a bit healthier. And though I have some responsibility in all of this, as do we all, it is really God’s power and God’s love that makes this change. I can’t will it to happen. Believe me I’ve tried. And I think getting out near the end of the rope of our efforts is part of what makes us let go enough for the change to start happening.

Stopping to Let This Sink In

I have much more to post on all of this, but the next section moves from the theoretical to the practical. Nothing I say, though, will be more important than this post. I hope many will join me in acknowleding that the problem with the church is me. I hope many will join me in an effort to quit relfecting on the problems and begin acknowledging that we, instead, reflect the problem. Only then will the rest of these posts mean anything at all.


Anonymous Bev said...

Why were churches, say in the "wagon train days," different? Back then, the people who made up the church, met to pray, sing hymns, and hear a sermon. They probably were told of the needs of the community and set out to meet those needs. Today, people go to church to be ---- entertained!!!! Thanks again for the most part to the boomers. You are correct in that the people are the problem, but the leaders in the church have allowed what has happened to happen. Many pastors are weak,don't preach repentance along with salvation and don't instruct their flocks to stand strong against ungodly leaders in the very government patterned after Biblical teachings. The church is no longer the strength of the community. We have allowed the media and politicians to take over. Many people go to church on Sunday to worship God whom they don't really know and don't bother to look to and obey the rest of the week!
"I thought you would call me 'Father' and not turn away from following me."

6:27 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

It's also worth going back to way before the wagon train days -- to the very early church -- to see what was up then. Not sure they even would have understood the idea of church leaders back then -- at least not in the sense of the paid clergy professional. But even going back to then, the outcome (at least for me) leads to a mirror and a questioning of my own need to let His love get from my head to my heart. Quite a journey . . . and still ongoing.

10:36 AM  

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