I let Church Culture do something to my wonder. To parts of me that then lay dormant for a long time. I don’t say ‘Church’ did this, but ‘Church Culture’; the kind of culture that prides itself in member involvement and keeping people active.
“Well, what’s the matter with involvement?” You might say, “Isn’t that what’s wrong with church today?”
I might have agreed with that a year and a half ago; I still do, but in a different way, one less easy to organize into practical method. But I’m disillusioned on the idea that ‘we keep people involved so that they will stay,’ and the truth that it works.
You probably have no concrete idea what I’m talking about yet.
I mentioned something in my previous post and I know, you’re all anxiously awaiting a follow-up for Ephesians, but be patient because I think this is going to tie in a little bit. I mentioned that I had doubted my status, whether or not I was really living the kind of life that someone in Christ would live. Those kind of doubts surrounded and followed my slow pull away from church (for the second time). But I’ll start from the beginning.
When I moved two years ago and began going to a new church I was optimistic. The previous summer had been one of exciting discovery and revelation and I was burning with anticipation for the impact I carried–excited by the love and grace and wonder of King Jesus. And I had a place full of people that, if not sharing my enthusiasm, had an enthusiasm of their own that I came to feel a part of. I was excited by the possibility of eventually being involved with the worship team, being part of an alive people and helping to create and quicken that aliveness. And I became as involved as I had hoped.
But I knew something wasn’t right–wasn’t permanent.
I didn’t know what it was at the time – honestly, there is still a fair bit of confusion in my mind as to what actually took place. Early on after moving I felt an incredible drawing to my family and I took it mostly as only a part of leaving the familiar. But it was also a desire for the kind of connection I’d only just begun to experience with my family, and that had only just been distanced. Beyond that it was a desire to experience a family connection with my new church as I’ve always longed for. I think I may have lumped it all into one and let the whole thing dull down.
But being involved in church regularly again had another affect on me. I slowly lost my wonder. I was dulled down again to the machinery of weekly services and being involved. I don’t say that those things are bad, but it was such an abrupt shift from where I had been previously. Regular service attendance alone which is strongly encouraged, or even weekly games nights or monthly meals were nothing like the sort of community I had been looking for – they always carried a trace but I knew that was because these people had worked and lived together for who-knows-how-long; they were family beyond Church Culture.
Between a taxing work situation and mental frustration, I became distant and eventually stopped going. And it didn’t take long after that for my inclusion in other extra-church-curricular activities (road hockey and x-box parties namely) to be forgotten. You don’t stay if you aren’t involved.
To those of you who think church involvement is what keeps people: you’re right. But it doesn’t keep people the way church should – not involvement alone. When you are involved but not attached into the body properly, you’re just a disjointed cog in the machinery. And where there is no training, no bringing up, no growing closer to every member, there is no body being built up but only machinery and routine no matter how fresh and spiritual it looks.
I don’t hold anything against anyone for what happened to me; I do not think that you can easily blame habits and tendencies built up over centuries. Honestly I hate these back-and-forth articles popping up on Christian websites like FaithIt with alternating titles like “7 Reasons Why People Leave the Church” or “The 3 Common Traits of Young People Who Stayed”; we’re wasting our time on the dispute to justify either the church or the people who leave them. I said we’re wasting our time trying to justify either churches or the people who leave them! Something about the way we ‘do’ church has got to change! Something about the way we see church has got to change! I don’t have any interest any more in a church that can be viewed as a place or a practice but as a living organism; a people less concerned about regularity and more about building up the Body of Christ and being part of his glorious Kingdom on the earth.
The truth is, I started to lose sight of that. And long before that I’d forgotten of the peace and joy I’d only so recently found in Jesus. Sometimes I’d get a little glint of it on occasion when I made an appearance in church again and was ignited a little bit by the excitement around me, but honestly, I think I got a little overwhelmed in my part of the machinery, and slowly machinery became as satisfactory to me as it seemed to be to everyone else around me. Cold, immovable, and serving a different purpose than the one for which I had become so alive. And so while I don’t detest having a regular Thing, and I don’t disregard the whole concept of Kingdom Government, I think I let myself be bought in to another narrow view instead of allowing my piece to fit into the grand mural.
So my only question is, are we in this together? Are you with me as the Church, Jesus’ very Body and Bride? Whether you’re a solid church goer and haven’t missed a service in years or you’re worn out on what you regard now as the mundane, whether you’re out on the fringes or neck-deep in the machinery. None of that matters because none of that is what the Body is but only parts of what the Body does. So are we in this together?