“So, I take it you’re a Christian?”
“Yep. Any particular reason you’re asking?”
“Oh, well you said you liked the name of my business, usually that means that person is a believer.”
I had remarked in a positive tone about her business name which has a Christian “tone” to it.
“So… where do you go to church?”
And so it begins… The question seems innocent enough, but I can smell this a mile off… the quest is to find out where I “fit”, what type of belief system I hold to; am I like-minded or am I a heretic? Does it really matter that much? I mean, I understand the value of having conviction to certain things; having a solid foundation on which to stand (a possible upcoming post BTW). But smaller things…like where or why or how I “do” church… do they matter that much? O.K., let’s have some fun with this.
“Well, I believe in The Church, the Body of Christ and I am a part of that.”
“Yeah, well O.K., of course, but where do you go?”
“Well, I guess you could say I am “in-between” churches. I don’t have a “home-church”.”
“Oh, O.K., so what type of church are you looking for?”
She says this, hoping to bring someone else into the doors of the church she attends. For the most part, there really is no other motive… A lot of Christian’s these days are awful proud of the doors they go into every Sunday and Wednesday, many of them inferring that people who don’t attend where they go are missing out on some “powerful move of God”, as if He wasn’t omnipresent…
“Well, I’m not really looking for a new “home-church” to be a part of, honestly. I don’t feel the need to, either. I meet with other believers, pray, encourage, you know, just live as a Christian.”
“That’s nice, so why aren’t you looking?”
I can see that my answer isn’t quite satisfying her. The “that’s nice” was a polite disregard, a refusal to validate what I am doing is right, biblical or other… and I know that the answers I give will just lead to more questions.
“Well, I really don’t see the need to be a part of a larger church building type of congregation. There is a lot of stuff I don’t agree with, so…”
“Well, what do you believe?”
Ah… let’s try to peg me into what I believe now. Of course, I kinda opened this door.
“What do you mean? I believe in Jesus and what was accomplished for me in His Death, Burial, Resurrection and Ascension.”
“Well, yes, but what else do you believe? How do you feel, say, about tithing?”
Really? You just happened to pick that one out of the air, huh? O.K. …
“Well, since you asked, I believe that it is “biblical” in the sense of where it belongs: in the Old Testament, under the Old Covenant. It is irrelevant to Christians because they aren’t subject to the Law. To follow the Law is to fall from Grace. We should be generous according to who we are in Christ. We don’t need to follow a minimal requisite and we should give where ever and to whoever we feel led to give to, or want to give to.”
“Oh, yes. I know what you mean. So, you agree with what X, Y, Z, A, B, C, ministers say then?”
Really? Why do I have to agree with all her favorite ministers? What is it about what I have said that makes her so uncomfortable?
“I’ve heard of a few of those guys, and I have listened to a few sermons by one of them, from what I heard, he does a good job of preaching about Grace, but, I don’t follow them or keep up with them.”
“I see. You know, I really love how my pastor talks about these topics. He is very, very, grace-filled. You should come visit sometime.”
Hoping to build some sort of mutual interest in me coming to “her” church, she now talks about how “her” pastor covers these topics and more…
“I might, but honestly, I’m not really interested in any of that. I’m fairly familiar with your Pastor, in fact, I’ve visited your church before years ago. Him and his wife are friends of the pastors of a church I used to go to before it closed down, years ago.”
This brings a look of disbelief: You visited my church and heard my pastor speak but didn’t want to stay? This is what I am reading on her face.
“Oh, O.K., well what do you believe about salvation?”
Damn, seriously? What part of me talking about Jesus dying, being buried, coming back and then ascending didn’t she understand? She really wants to peg me somewhere. Maybe if she digs deep enough, she can justify why I am or am not good material for her church family.
“Umm, like I said, I believe in Jesus and what he has accomplished on my behalf. So what I mean by that, then, is He is entirely my Salvation. I am saved by Grace through faith, and all of it is a gift from Him. I have neither the means nor the power to save myself and nothing I can do can add to it.”
“Gotcha. So you don’t believe that works will get you into heaven, then?”
“Of course not, if that were the case, what good was the Cross? Good “works” should be a natural by-product of the life that God has recreated in you as a new creation.”
“I totally agree.”
This conversation actually happened. It went on for much, much longer, a Spanish Inquisition of sorts to see where exactly I “fit” in her mind. It all seems rather infantile, at best. Like trying to prove whose football team is better. Never once did the possibility occur to her that, in the grand scheme of things, where I go to church, among other things, might not matter much.
This is a symptom of the sickness of religion. I’ve done it. Be honest, most people who are emotionally invested (and financially invested through tithes and other stuff) in their church do it. They are so proud of “their church”. I see it all the time on Facebook. “I love MY Church!” It’s the equivalent of what Paul talked about when people were out there spouting: “Oh, I’m of Apollos!” “Oh yeah? I’m of Paul!” And Paul was out there correcting them saying: “No, you are of Christ, that is all that matters.” Yes, to be fair, that is a very loose translation/interpretation of what he said, but it’s close enough to the matter at hand without being out of context or heretical.
Here’s the truth: “your church” IS. NOT. YOUR. CHURCH.
First, depending on how it is structured and if it isn’t Christ centered, it probably belongs to the Pastors and the board members. Then it belongs to the ones who have “paid” for their pews by faithfully tithing and giving since “your church” began.
Second, if it is Christ centered, it STILL isn’t your church. Loosely: YOU are a part of a BODY of believers which collectively (that means all over the world…not just in your four walls)make up the Church. And if you think about it, based on all the imagery and scripture that talks about us (all christians) making up the Body of Christ, saying “I love my Church” on facebook or on a damn bumpersticker is the equivalent to saying “I love my index finger!” or “I love my big toe!” because the truth is YOU’RE CHURCH IS ONLY A SMALL PART OF THE WHOLE.
Sigh…I can feel the rants building…deep breath…
I can understand having good discussions on different theological stances, hell, Lewis & Tolkien used to have heated conversations about their writings and theology with a few other friends over a couple of pints at a local pub! I know a few good men who meet over coffee and beer and have great discussions, many of them I miss unfortunately, but nonetheless… I know what it is like to have great conversations, ask great questions and hear viewpoints that I might not necessarily agree with, but I still walk away from the discussion loving and respecting them even more. Why is there, or at least, why have I noticed a common emphasis on trying to “peg” someone into something when they don’t quite “fit” your mold?
This shit happens all the damn time. (Aannnd right there I just disqualified myself, again, twice, as a “good” christian role model, according to the system… whatever. I could go into a rant on that alone, there is history there but I’ll save you…for now.)
Instead of listening to what the person is trying to communicate and asking open-ended questions or clarifying questions (without sounding like the southbound end of a northbound mule) when unsure of what the other party involved is trying to say… people just automatically assume they know what the other person is saying, they are already pegging them down… totally forgetting that God could be in the mix.
And people wonder why I don’t go to a church anymore…(more on that one another time…)
Is there a bottom line to this? Yes, I suppose so. Basically, STOP.
Stop the church pissing contests.
Stop trying to recruit other believers to “your” church.
Stop thinking your church is the only church in the damn universe.
We’ve got other things to be concerned with, like, I don’t know, the poor, hungry and destitute in our own communities. Or, say, I don’t know, our government murdering innocent civilians by drone strikes at a wedding just because they believe a terrorist was there.
I don’t know…stuff like that, maybe?
I know…I know… I think too much! 😉
**update 12/21/2013 7hrs later… I kid you not, this JUST happened to me! My wife, kiddos and I are navigating our way through Costco. My wife is ducking in and out of aisles, I am laying down cover-fire to help clear her path and we walk by some people from the church we used to go to. To be honest, my wife pointed them out, I just kept walking. I really didn’t want to see anyone from our old church, I didn’t have anything against this couple, I just prefer not to go there… A few quick “hellos” and then the question came:
“So where do guys go for worship, now?”
I’m not making this up!
“Well, we just meet and “fellowship” with other believers at their homes, you know, just be the church instead of going to a building.” This was my answer verbatim. The guy TOTALLY disregards what I said and then goes on a bragging spree about all the “great things” that God is doing in their church! Seriously, it was a list of stuff. So, I’m already not in the mood and then ask him in a cheerful tone:
“So it sounds like you guys are growing and there is more attendance.”
“Well, people come and go.” He says…which means they aren’t growing. Just Christians coming and going with very few people actually coming in to the body of Christ. His wife chimes in: “There is a lot of spiritual growth going on.”
“Oh, well that’s good.” Said I, or something to that effect, and shortly ended the conversation.
You can’t make this stuff up kids!