What About Those "Church People"?
[NOTE: after Friday morning, the 21st of July, I will not be able to moderate comments here until the 31st. I am going away with my wife and we will be away from phones, email, and news. ALSO -- we are doing another cruise for missions in 2007. Next February we will take an eight night cruise on a wonderful ship and make stops in Panama, Costa Rica, and Belize. Worship at sea, daily devos, etc. and part of the cost goes to help two great mission works. Contact your sister in Christ, Sue Yanaros, at email@example.com for more information. We want to meet our blogging friends!]
A good question was raised by Tina -- why does it seem that the church can be the first to reject the depressed, the unlovely, the uncool, the square pegs? This is not a new problem. I get questions from businessmen asking me why they can do business with outsiders much easier than they can members of their own churches. Moms and dads will tell me their kid is dating a nonChristian because they were so badly treated by a couple of Christians in the past. What is going on here?
First things first: it isn't God's fault and it isn't even the fault of the church (in the worldwide sense). Many local churches are dysfunctional for a very easy to understand reason: they are full of dysfunctional people. Why does this or that church make it so hard for depressed or broken people to play a part in its ministry or family life? Because it, too, is full of depressed and broken people. Some of them know they're broken. Others don't. But the fact is that churches cannot be perfect because we let people like us in!!! The church isn't a group of holy, perfect, and wise people -- though I have found plenty of those people resident there. It is a group of people who need Jesus and that means it has more than its share of messed up, freaked out folks.
Another reason we often are disappointed in the church is that we think it has a job that, in fact, it does not. We have encouraged this error whenever we create special ministries for every little group. There is a ministry for the seniors, high schoolers, middle schoolers, single mothers, divorced men, bored housewives, timid husbands.... etc. ad nauseum. Soon, we think that the church is there to make us feel better, give us a group of like minded people to hang with, and take care of our needs.
Nope. Hey, it can happen... but when it does that's just gravy, folks. Jesus did not go to Calvary so I don't have to go to the movies by myself.
If your gifts work better outside, in the marketplace, the neighborhood, or academia then take your gifts and use them there! Jesus didn't stay in the temple precincts and, although he attended synagogue and participated there, he didn't spend his teaching and serving time there. His community traveled with him as he moved around and -- more often than enough --he left them behind and went off on his own. On his own he confronted demons, comforted women, stared down angry men, cured sick children... all of those he came to save and serve. And then he said... are you listening? Are you ready for this? ... "Follow me."
We do not need to turn churches into social clubs for the religiously inclined. We do not need to look at it as a hospital, either (Oooohhh.... listen to the knees jerk! They sound like crickets!). Hospitals exist to make us feel better, be healed, and ready to re-engage our previous lives. Emergency Room waiting areas don't look like heaven to me (more like... you know...).
Church is where we go to worship the God who didn't leave us in the ditch, who created us in His image, who gifted us and placed us as He desired, and who then gave us other people on the same road with whom to pray and whom we can serve. When no one serves us, we follow Jesus... and serve anyway, in and out of the body.
I love my brethren, even those who write me hate mail (Cut it out, Mom!). It's just another reminder that God has saved all kinds of sickos and freaks in the past and will continue to reach out to those who need Him most. And who needs Him more than us, the ones who bear the scars of our past and who reel in shame at our inabilities and paltry attempts at spiritual growth? And who are we to complain when we find ourselves in the middle of a lot of other people just like us who God, in His mercy, gave the same grace He offered us?