Church — The Five Things I Dislike Most

old church
Image courtesy of Richard Croft under this Creative Commons License

In my last post, I covered the five things I like most about church. In this one I will take on some of the things I dislike most. To be honest this is going to be hard to keep to five. A lot of things frustrate me about the church. Before I start my list I want to be clear that I’m talking about “the church” in the sense of what I understand to be the American church. The church I pastor, Wildwind Community Church,  is a unique place. We were built largely around avoiding the pitfalls I’ll be discussing here. No doubt we have others, but hopefully not these! I know not everything I am saying applies to every church, these are just generalizations. Nevertheless, I think they are generally accurate.

1. The tendency to confuse events with processes

I come from the evangelical tradition, and in that tradition an event we call “salvation” is routinely mistaken (or substituted!) for a process by the same name. (The Free Methodist Church calls the ongoing process of salvation “sanctification” but it’s all part of finding God, attaining “salvation.”) We tend to overemphasize the event, pushing for conversions, salvation prayers, dramatic testimonies, etc. But life is much more a process than an event, and salvation is simply a way of describing how we live. Salvation is a term for what happens when an individual life is taken up into the life of God.

In my tradition people sometimes even speak of the “moment of salvation.” Of course what they are really talking about is the moment when a person formally converted. Salvation itself is a process. Speaking of it as an event creates the impression that one’s life before “conversion” was completely without God, that God was not “on the scene” of the person’s life, so to speak. It has created a great deal of silliness and what I call spiritual schizophrenia (fuzzy thinking) in sincere people, and it makes me angry.

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Church — The Five Things I Like Most

old church building

Image public domain

Church people and everyone else aren’t as different as you might think. Both groups tend toward black and white thinking — that things are all good or all bad. In truth, everything is touched both with sacredness and profanity. We are shocked and mystified when we see profane acts and words proceeding from supposedly sacred people and institutions, and we are skeptical when we see sacred things coming from a person or institution we had written off as completely profane.

The church — this institution that is supposedly the living body of Christ on earth — is no different. One needn’t study much history, or even look very far today, to see plenty of examples of profanity issuing forth from the church and those who claim to belong to it. It must have been this reality St. Augustine was thinking about when he famously said, “The church is a whore, but she’s my mother.”  That whore is my mother too. She is, despite her shortcomings, one who raised and nurtured me and taught me right from wrong. I owe a huge debt to her. To this day it seems most of my life is either lived in service to her or in reaction against her. We can never fully escape the influence of our parents. Today I wish to pay tribute to this whore who, for better of for worse, I love so deeply. Here are the things I like most about the church.

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Thoughts on humility, inspired by Green Day

Green Day
Image courtesy of Globovision on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Green Day

Thanks to Green Day for inspiring me to think about humility today. While working on Twitter I was listening to Green Day’s album 21st Century Breakdown. I’m not a huge fan of the band, but I did enjoy their previous album American Idiot, so I figured I’d give it a listen. I liked it quite a bit.

In typical punk style, Green Day rail against a lot of things — society, corporations, (the existence from which they are now, ironically, hugely benefitting), religion, society, religion, society, and religion. And corporations.

[SNIP — I was going to include a small piece of one lyric here, but apparently that may or may not fall under fair use. As I wish to remain 100% unsued, I have chosen not to post.]

Of course this is not unusual for a punk band. I rather identify with it, as society and religion are often targets in my own writings and sermons. 

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Re-post: M is for Marriage

married couple holding handsImage courtesy of Maria Rosaria Sannino on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons

[I am currently blogging, along with my daughter, all the way through the alphabet. Check out how the idea started, and get the rules here].

Things I have learned about marriage over the past 22 1/2 years:

  • Marriage is more about becoming the right person than finding the right person
  • Marriage is the hardest place in the world to be the right person, because you are so invested in it and failures can be so frustrating and embarrassing
  • Because the above is true, marriage is the best place to learn how to receive grace
  • The closeness of marriage sometimes feels like being wrapped up in a warm blanket on a cold night, all comforting and familiar and peaceful.
  • Other times the closeness of marriage feels like trying to ride a bicycle in an elevator, all awkward and frustrating and bumping into each other every time you turn around 

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