Thursday, June 10, 2010

Discouraged? Us too!

We went to the theatre last night and we shared our table with a couple we’d never met. We introduced ourselves and shared polite chitchat.

The more we talked, the more we realized we had a lot in common with each other. We’d graduated from high school around the same time; our parents had attended the same school, and even graduated the same year. Each couple had three kids. Our children were just about the same ages as theirs. We discovered we even worked in the same fields and had similar interests.

It wasn’t long before someone brought up church. The conversation went something like this:

Us: Have you ever been to this theatre before?

Them: No. This is our first time. You?

Us: We’ve been coming to see shows here for years. You’ll love it.

Them: The theatre seems pretty full tonight. Is the turnout this good every night?

Us: The Sunday matinees are hard to get tickets for as they’re always full. The after-church crowd comes straight from the service, gets here for the all-you-can-eat buffet, enjoys the show, and gets home in time to be in bed by 5:30. It’s the perfect Sunday.

Them: Sundays are exhausting for us. We’ve got to go straight home after church and take a nap.

Okay, we aren’t the most stimulating of conversationalists, I admit. But that’s how we discovered we were all churchgoers. Turns out we’ve even gone to the same church, but at different times.

It didn’t take long for the topic of Christian discord to come up. I don’t ask for it or encourage this topic—I promise. People open up to me. The fact is people are disgusted with the constant barrage of conflict and backbiting among believers.

The couple told the all too familiar tale. The older their kids got, the more involved with church activities they became. Since they were there all the time anyway, they began volunteering for this ministry, that opportunity, and before they knew they were overcommitted. They taught Sunday school and worked with the kids’ choir. That’s what you do when you’re a member of a church, right?

Church members like the couple we met burn their candles at both ends, then we (the church) see to it that they get burned out. We treat volunteers badly. They are often under trained and overextended. We set them up for failure and then spit them out when they fail.

That’s what happened to the man and his wife. They are content now to sit in a different church then the one they had poured so much of their heart and hard work into. These are two talented people whose gifts could benefit the kingdom of God, but instead their talents have been shelved.

We suck sometimes. We are wounding our own and shooting the wounded. It’s just not okay.

Churches would be perfect if there were no people in them. I’m not talking about the normal struggles and frustrations that come with working side by side with other human beings. I’m talking about the mean, vindictive, ugly, self-absorbed behavior that breaks the spirit.

A pastor friend of mine always says, “People are no damn good.”

I meet more and more believers who have opted out of the church machine. They’ve formed home churches, online communities, and small groups. They’re not isolating themselves, but rather they are separating themselves from the gossip, lies, arrogance, and self-promoting pompous pretentiousness that gets in the way of seeing—really seeing God.

Show one another love, appreciation, kindness, benevolence, sympathy, and gratitude. God’s family (like most families) is dysfunctional and far from perfect, and that’s okay! Selfless love can heal the bad stuff. Get off the pew and show God’s love for your brothers and sisters. Get off the pew!

1 comment:

  1. This is your third post in as many weeks that has struck a chord within me. The penultimate paragraph neatly summarises where I am personally at this time after nine or more months of church-hopping, worry, frustration and no small amount of reading, scripture and prayer. I have been thinking of posting on this myself for some time and take this as a kick up the backside to do so.