Sunday, October 14, 2007

Disappointment with Church

I went to church tonight expecting to be disappointed. I was... and I wasn't, but not for the reasons I, expected. My kids were rabid whiners, we got there too early (shocking), there weren't enough crayons in the art bags (yes, there are ART bags for kids at church... back in my day, we had to listen to the service!), and the music was mediocre. The sermon, however, was succinct, relevant, and convicting. Two of the three things you want in a sermon.

The pastor talked about taking big steps for God before you're ready, and what a shocking disaster it can be, kind of like a six year old driving a car. He also discussed the problem of refusing to take big steps for God because you don't trust him.

What I find both refreshing and maddening is that this still doesn't answer the questions, what does it look like? What are "big steps" for God? Different things to different people? Did Billy Graham know when he stepped in front of a congregation for the first time that it was a small step in a big operation? When Mother Theresa stopped and noticed the beggar at her feet? When you are doing "big things" for God, do you notice that they are big or are you so intent on what you are doing that they just seem like the right direction? Is it a momentary escape from the flogging dragon of self-awareness that demands constant attention?

This particular church aspires to do big things for God without getting to know him. There are food drives and writing campaigns and free trade coffee. There are missions trips to rebuild the houses of Katrina victims, rice and bean bagging parties, and collaborative projects with the catholic church next door, but I can't find a single Bible study, at least one that looks at the Bible without a political agenda. As Jan Johnson says, if Jesus threw a party he would tell stories and hand out cookies. You can't have one without the other.

This is one of the first sermons I've heard at this church that advocates their new mantra "rooted in Christ." Why do people go to church if they don't want to be rooted in Christ? What's the point? Isn't just a community center with a cross on top?

I was disappointed because while this is the most socially aware, humanitarian church I have ever attended, I can't navigate my way into the heart of their community. After two years, I have not been to anyone's house, my kids have not connected, and I still feel like a visitor. When I asked if there were any women's Bible studies (other than the hour long one on Wednesdays at noon that is taught by a man... sorry, women's Bible studies should be led by women... you wouldn't see a men's study taught by a woman!), I was told I should start my own. With whom? The women I'd met casually, none of whom seemed interested?

We can't be rooted in Christ without a steady diet of his word. We can't, as Dr. Phil says, "give away what we don't have." If we don't have Christ, we are simply doing good works; works that need to be done, maybe Christ has even called us and given us the motivation, but without getting to know him, we'll never know why.