Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Are we just making it cool? Is that it?

I'm all for cultural relevancy. But at what expense?

A couple of things have struck me in recent months that have stretched my tiny brain a smidge. Allow me to explain.

Our local Christian University invites churches over to a "Church Fair" to hand out brochures, etc regarding our particular church, service times, etc. Not a bad idea at all. But this year, I was asked a couple of questions that I've been unable to forget, along with one question that I was never asked (I guess it was assumed). Oh, and both of the questions, from two different well-meaning individuals, were really the same question. Ready? Here goes...

"Do you have a dress code at your church?"

OK, so know this about me. I'm at the front of the line for the "God Doesn't Look At Outward Appearances...He Looks At The Heart" conference. I'm a card-carrying member. I have no problem with any sort of setting where it "doesn't matter" what type of clothes you're wearing (although, modesty and respect of others isn't a bad thing and is okay to expect...though debatable).

But what bothers me about this question is that it really isn't the real question. I'm not just picking on the two well-meaning 19-year-olds who asked the question. I'm really attacking a much bigger segment of their generation. Here's what I think the real, honest question that is out there in some minds (admittedly, not all, just some):

"What's the smallest amount of effort that I can put into this thing? What's the lowest common denominator? Is your worship celebration going to be convenient for me, or will there be some sort of expectation I have to meet? Will the bar be high, or can I just put little or no effort into the deal? Are you guys cool, and have you created a cool place where I can hang with others who are cool and have also put little effort or thought into the deal?"

Wow, I'm harsh I guess. Yes, we need to create envioronments where people will want to come and meet God. And yes, things like "unwritten dress codes" and other hidden parts of our church cultures can be a detriment to those who are looking into the God thing. And yes, is more interested in our hearts. And yes, if someone who doesn't have anything "nice" to wear comes and everyone is dressed "nice," they might feel marginalized (hey, I was in Youth Ministry...I've had many conversations about all this before and heard lots of takes).

I guess my expectation was a little different for this next generation of Kingdom leaders. Haven't we learned that the "It's all about me" culture we've created in the Church today has hamstringed the church long enough? We've got pews FULL of folks that think its all about them. Truth is, in most churches, you see a little bit of everything. Most of us don't think too much about it. I've never really asked a non-church person, but does anybody really believe that the reason people aren't coming has to do with the fact that some people put on their nicer duds? Come on; I'm not buying that.

Regardless, I smiled and told both individuals that they'll see a little bit of everything at our church, and I doubted they would feel out of place, and that the music was blended with a little of the old and a little of the new, and that we were just trying to follow God best we knew how, and sometimes we chased rabbit trails, sometimes we miss the main path altogether, and sometimes we get to be in on the radical transformation of a person.

Oh, the question(s) I was never asked? A sampling....

"Is God there?"
"Do the people at your church strive to serve Him? To get to know Him more deeply?"
"Is there a genuine desire from at least some at your church to reach people who don't know Him?"
"Are you attempting to make God famous, or is it all about you?"
"Are their Godly people there with valuable life experience that I can learn from?"

(OK...A little more ranting. I'm fine with the "stand around and drink coffee and wear whatever" church environments. But after having had a few kids move on from here and invest their college years in those environments, what happens when they move back to Topeka or wherever, and the "experience" they've grown to know and love at the aforementioned-type church from their college years doesn't exist? What then? Unfortunately, some have thrown the baby out with the bath water. Bottom line: If you're in love with Jesus, does it matter much how he's packaged?? But if you're really in love with the Jesus only as he's packaged in an experience (i.e., the aformentioned type of church environment), when that goes away or you can't find it in another location, does Jesus become an afterthought, too? Just a question...but one that's based on experience)

Open for your thoughts.

1 comment:

  1. *WHEW*

    I'd thought you'd quit "blogging" (I hate that word). Nice entry.

    I don't even know where to start with everything I've thought about since coming to Bethany almost two years ago. And you've given me another - thanks - I think.

    I'm still trying to find my niche' and how to give back with the limited time I've got now.

    Wednesday night Bethany U is out for me since I work a night job and always seem to close on Wednesdays. But I digress ...

    The thing thats been rolling around in my head is the drama piece and sermon on hypocrites. Working in food service part time right now, and with my wife being a manager at a Taco Bell I've been on the receiving end of everything that was protrayed in the aforementioned skit.

    My wife has been told by "Sabbat-ouers" that she shouldn't be working on "God's Day." But here they are, standing in line, and ordering food from the establishment which, by their presence being there, REQUIRES MY WIFE TO WORK ON SUNDAYS!!!

    *insert picture of man squeezing neck of another person and screaming "NO! NO! NO! STUPID! STUPID! STUPID!"*

    Bethany is getting people into the baptismal just fine, but what's been happening after that?

    ("WEEEE! I'M SAVED! ... um ... now what?")

    It's tough for someone from the outside to find a place. I've thrown myself in full force and still feel VERY awkward at times.

    One of the biggest problems I still face, and do my best to try and ignore, is the presence of various cliques. There - I've wrote it and I don't know if I feel better for saying it, though, but its something I needed to get off my chest.

    I've met some wonderful people, but it only takes a few insensitive jerks to ruin a whole experience. For me and my wife to try finding a Purpose Driven Life group was short of hellish. No one seemed to want to bring anyone they didn't know into the fold.

    Eventually, with the group we did end up in some personal growth did occur, and the experience was good. The sad thing is, the openness wasn't there, most of it was posturing to appear pious.

    I'm sorry I didn't come up in a "churched" environment. I'm sorry I didn't rededicate my life to Christ until I was almost 30. I'm sorry some of the things I shared in my honesty may have shocked some people, but I'm not going to pretend I didn't live the way I did before July 19th.

    On to my wife. I have to fight her to get her to go to church now. I've stopped asking and figure she'll go back when she's ready and my persistence will only turn her away right now.

    She's a smoker, (*GASP* She's a goin' ta' hell!) Whose been struggling with quitting off and on since she married me, and going as long as six months without it. I've lived with it and her for 3 years ... I'd at least expect someone to show some tolerance for 30 minutes. She'd go outside in a BLIZZARD at times, so she wouldn't have to smoke in their presence, and people would still crack about how she "smelled."

    When someone in a group comments to her about her smoking: "I couldn't put something that filthy in my body" I can see why she wouldn't want to associate.

    We made every effort we could to befriend some of the people we met- invited people over for dinner - cooked - came to pitch-ins. I went to a group for a while and actively tried to participate and eventually lost interest. When everyone heads out over to someone's house to hang out afterwards, or gets together to watch football on Sundays, play video games, etc.. and you're left holding your Bible at the end of the night?

    For lack of a better term ... IT SUCKS. I've brought a couple of people with me over the years to Bethany, and its tough to introduce them to people when so few even acknowledge the guy whose been around for almost two years now, trying to 'get in,' whose trying to introduce another strange person.

    Maybe it won't happen this Sunday when a guy I met while watching Monday Night Football at *gasp* A SPORTS BAR, Who is going through a *gasp* divorce, and is new to Anderson drops in. I had a great conversation with this guy while enjoying a *gasp* BEER!

    (Punch my ticket to the netherworld - I'm in a bar, watching football, and drinking a beer while talking to a guy about God. Blasphemy!)

    Hopefully he shows up ... Hey, he can have a seat next to me where my wife used to be.

    Bethany is great, but you need the support of fellow Christians, too - otherwise you're going through the motions.

    People need to expand beyond their comfort zone - a point I made in our PDL group resulting in "Well, all of our friends are Christians, so we don't see where we can evangelize!" Nice way to skip a whole unit in the group, eh?

    I'll pat myself on the back now! I'm surrounded by only good people! I only talk to Christian people, listen to Christian music, go to a Christian church, and stay as Christian as possible as a GREAT example to those around me, who should be looking up to me!

    I'm finally, fiding a place, though. The Drama Team is a good group, running the College-age basketball is a good chance to meet and work it as a mission outreach, so I really can't complain too much.

    I have a question for you, Larry:

    "Where can I serve, what can I do, and how can I act to break this mentality? I don't want to be one who complains about it, nor someone who completely assimilates for acceptance - I want to do something about it."

    Sure, finding a way to work towards this may result in some disdain - but I didn't come into this for the popularity

    ... unless you have a book or record contract somwhere I don't know about.

    - "Da Pups!"


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