My wife brought up the question once again, earlier this week. The question, of course, was about looking once again for a church. She had suggested that perhaps we could check out an Anglican church. This launched us into an interesting conversation not because she mentioned Anglican, we had already been to an Anglican church already as part of our ‘grand religious tour’, but around the idea of us ever attending a church again.
My desire to find a church comes out of a desire to get out and meet people – hopefully like-minded individuals (don’t we all) and perhaps – if things go well – we could develop some friendships with couples. So, succinctly stated, we are looking for friends. Perhaps, even more succinctly is that I am looking for a male friend. Once you take bars and night clubs out of the picture and on the other end of the social scale you take church out of the picture then what are you left with? I hate shopping so I have even eliminated the idea of meeting people in shopping centers and the idea of crowds conjures up so much anxiety that I am reminded at how comfortable I am with my isolation.
My other desire to find a church is to have a place to worship with other believers. To stand (or sit, depending on your preference) with other – again – like-minded individuals, singing praise and worship songs to God. I do this all the time – alone – but there is something beautiful about being able to do that together. But in the midst of this conversation our list of wants becomes over shadowed by our list of needs, such as;
Not to be shouted at from the pulpit
Not to have the preacher’s hermeneutic be self-serving, like it isn’t obvious the pastor is working his ‘sermon’ to build on his job-protection.
Not to have the pulpit used to sell merchandise or to lift up oneself in any way
Not to have the messages become political, or socially charged
Not to have God’s word cloaked in a violent language, calling on the people to act godly in a violent way
Not to have the worship look more like a concert then the invitation it ought to be to have all participants drawn to sing together – regardless of how badly our ability to sing is
Not to be a part of yet another building project
Not to have community prayer be the most justified form of social Christian gossiping there is
Not to be made to feel like shit because we inadvertently took ‘someone’s seat’
Not to be greeted by a pack of hungry wolves, seeing our potential as a donor, or an usher, or an elder, or serving in the Sunday School program, or the youth program, or building operations or any other ‘function’, or simply another warm body to fill the pew seats left by others who decided that they wanted to be treated as a person and not an opportunity
Let’s be clear about the fact that I am not looking for a perfect church – how horrible and frightening a thought that is – this side of eternity. I am, however, looking for a church and a church environment where I can get through the service and not find myself being offending multiple times. Yes, I know – this is obviously proof that I get offended easily and that this whole issue is my problem but really? Is it really my problem? Like, if I suddenly figured out how to stop being offended by the self-serving individuals drunk on positional power and not afraid to abuse it, or those just craving the spotlight, pushing Christ out the door in order to take the stage – that I would be okay with all of that? Um, no.
Regardless of whether my shit-o-meter is too sensitive or not does not diminish the fact that most of these churches are full of it nonetheless. And the church’s response seems to be that those offended by the stench – well it is their problem isn’t it. And that is what we are left with it would seem. A bunch of smiling folk sitting upright in their seats with a clothespin plugging their nostrils. My offence is obviously proof that I am not part of the kingdom, that I have no relationship with Christ, and that I am only left with the option to dine Cajun style. But, even if that was the case – where is the effort to reach out to me with the love of Christ? Right, I forgot, the reach is limited to only my potential and if I don’t conform behaviorally within a prescribed amount of time then the eternal damnation of my soul has been determined.
I’ll keep looking, if nothing else it continues to give me writing material.