Sunday, July 17, 2011

Who needs church? And what's it for, anyway?

Churches often make me uncomfortable.  Much of what churches do and much of what's said in the pulpits is neither helpful nor even particularly biblical, as best I can tell.  Days and dollars spent persuading folks to sit comfortably and listen; sit and do nothing, it seems.  Am I the only one that feels that way? 

BUT then, there ARE people (and their churches) that seem to be really alive somehow ... (these two pictured here; they're both the real thing, by the way.)

Eastern US church  ...  Eastern Africa church
We've traveled and made the rounds of churches; lots of you have done the same.  Every now and then, you run across a bunch of folks who aren't taking the easy path. They're doing their best to walk not with a comfortable organization but with God himself.  It's a difficult path, though; kind of like when you were a kid walking with dad, and his legs are so much longer than yours, and it's a bit of a stretch to move at his pace.

It's so tempting to drift along with life as it is.  School is just what it is.  Church is just what it is.  Friends and family, government and culture are what they are, and time passes.  Get a job, have a family, do a little this and that; and more time passes.  But we do have an option, don't we ...

Ever wonder what the result would be if instead of leaving it to the school system, you were to deliberately choose the values to teach your children when they're really young?

Or what it would be like to really be a brother to a family that had less than you?

A community cleanup project with lots of laughing
in one of Africa's smallest countries.
Or what it might mean to a community if a few folks were committed to loving each other in real practical ways?  Or what difference it would make if this community sort of adopted that community and partnered with them for change?  And what would it be like if miracles happened along the way?  Ever wonder ...?

Can life be shaped by us?  Can family be formed deliberately?  Can we really walk together and with the one who made us?  Of course; that's church.

I suspect you'd rather find out now instead of hearing about it in thirty years.

It takes backbone, life does, if you want it to be more than status quo.  From another blog, here's a dear black South African lady, 
"For me, what I keep on realising, over and over again,  is that it is not good enough to just be gifted, driven and passionate in Africa.  That is because the rules of the game, whatever the game is, are such that the philosophy of meritocracy cannot just be simplistically applied.  Here, in order to survive, you need something more…. It partly involves what the Germans call gravitas, partly draws on what the English would term as staying power, or grit, incredible ingenuity in the context of being extremely thick skinned, is  partly encapsulated in what religion calls trials and tribulations.  I think that what I am trying to say is that here in Africa, you need to be willing to push through and fight, no matter what, grounded in the knowledge that no matter how much of a gift you are to the world, Africa teaches you, perhaps more harshly than other environments, that life owes you nothing.
I met her first in the airport in Zurich, my sister Lucy.
She taught me more in a few hours
than I had learned in church
in a decade.
So, my dear, I have, in the past few months, been developing more grit, more staying power, more humility, deeper trust in God, all in the midst of wonderfully terrifying yet soul satisfying conversion processes."
Word of the Day:   Gravitas (weight, strength, dignity, 'personal force').  Father equip us all with such weight, such strength, such force that we might be your instruments of good and grace.

And change, Father. Especially change.