Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Mattress-Springs Church

Just the other day in our kitchen, actually this last Sunday, I had a deep conversation with a young adult who is heading off to college for his freshman year.  This young man, I need to tell you, has made some incredible personal improvements over the past two years.   I have a lot of respect for him and appreciate the good influence he is on our sons.  Our conversation quickly turned to the new independence he will soon experience, living on his own, being out from under mom & dad's daily supervision, and the likes.

My burning question was revolving around his spiritual growth, and what he would do about finding a church home.  That's when the conversation got interesting.  He told me he wasn't sure he was interested in finding a church right away...  No, he hasn't lost his faith.  Not, he's not even agnostic.  He's... well he, he is a kid who grew up going to church every Sunday, but.  But, what he said was revealing.

He said he wasn't sure about finding a new Church right away because of a familiar phenomena you are probably aware of.  Parents yelling, "It's time to wake up for Church, get up now for Church!"

Being threatened with being grounded or yelled at, to this young man, feels like a turn-off to going to church when the decision is now his.  By the way, I think he's going to stay in the grove and find a good church family.  My response was, "I hope you don't end up in the "Mattress Springs Church.""  (That's a joke, it means staying in bed on Sunday morning, i.e., bed-mattress...)

 My other response to the young man, was that if it was opening night for a new movie, our children are on the move, self-motivated, but Sunday mornings, what can we do?  Parents feel like church is so important, and out of frustration with limited resources, we lose our patience, and raise our voices.  I know I have.

So, what do we learn from this?  Myself, I'm guilty of having yelled at our kids, to get up on Sunday.  Ouch.    There's probably no good excuse, on either side, for us as parents to yell, or for kid to drag their feet.

What do we learn?  Church should be more appealing to young people.  Not diluted or dumbed-down, I never said that, but appealing.  What can we all do to adapt the way we gather, in such a way that the congregation can out-live us...?  Pressing question; needs answers.

As parents, our best intention is to get our kids off to church, but our efforts can be counter-productive if we aren't careful.  Myself, I'm going to more aware of how I try to get my younger kids up and out the door Sunday mornings.

One more idea: Seek out college age kids you know, help nurture their faith and be an encourager.  They are in a huge time of transition, these are the days where they firmly establish their independence and, establish life-long habits that carry into eternity.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Responding to the Arrested development, spiritually speaking:

How do you respond to your co-workers, family members, or friends on Facebook who throw around Scriptures & ask for prayers, but don't have church family?  Let me narrow the question even further: How do you feel about people who don't go to church, do not seem to live a "very Christian life" but act like they have a great relationship with God?

We've all had friends "name-drop" with God before.  Oh, simple phrases like, "Pray for me, I'm going through _______, but I know the Big Man upstairs will take care of me."  Or, they toss out a passage from the Bible that doesn't really fit the situation everyone is talking about, but they want to seem like they are Biblically literate.

Yet, these people haven't darkened the doorway of any church in quite a while, if ever.  They live with someone they aren't married to, wear crosses around their neck over their Metallica tee-shirts, quote Scriptures and hit the local watering-hole on a weekly basis.   Does this frustrate you?  Seem hypocritical?  Do you look down on them?

Here's what I think, and I've thought quite a bit about people who are suffering from a spirituality Arrested-developmental faith:
     First of all, we need to make sure we aren't being judgmental.  Who are we to question another person's relationship with God?  Some people don't attend Sunday services at a "church" because they've been burned by toxic leadership or quaky church members.  There are people who don't feel they fit in at a typical church, and it's painful to them, yet they still want to express their faith.  And you may say, we know a tree by the fruit it bears... Jesus also said in the same chapter, get the log out of your own eye.

I'd add here too, check your motivations for your righteous-indignation.  Are you a little jealous of the freewheeling, carefree lifestyle of the people you are scrutinizing????  So, for starters let's give people the benefit of the doubt that they long to know God too, before we hit them over the head with our Bible, or assign them a seat in Hell.

     Secondly, we shouldn't pass up opportunities to encourage these distant-people in our lives, to reengage with the people of God.  To find a church home.  To worship with others. Why?  It's impossible to practice the Christian faith solo.  One major example: Communion, the Lord's Supper or the Eucharist, whichever name you label it with, it is a ritual you can't practice alone.  IT takes a community of faithful believers to experience the breaking of bread.

It's also impossible to grow spiritually on your own.  It can't happen; increasing Biblical knowledge or the activation of the practical daily walk can't happen on our own.  We need people to sharpen us, to challenge us, to nurture us, to encourage us.  We are a body, that's the metaphor Scripture designated.  An amputated limb won't survive.  Period.

     Third and finally (Nice three points, huh?) How about instead of letting these seemingly less mature, quasi-believers frustrate us, how about we lift them in prayer?  Yes, lift these spiritually-disenfranchised people in prayer.  We have more of these people in need of our prayers than in need of our disapproval.  Jesus embraced the marginal, He ate with them, He loved them, it cost Him His life too.   

And, by the way, in case you didn't know, I grew up in an arrested developmental home, spiritually speaking.  We didn't attend church services, not even at Christmas or Easter.  I heard plenty of Scriptures quoted, some in context, many out of context.  I'm glad we were accepted, when as adults Tammy and I finally got our butts out of bed on Sunday mornings & took our kids to Church.  I wonder where we'd be today if... well never mind.  Be patient with others; you never know what God has in store for them.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Life is short, fragile & unpredictable...

Today we poured two concrete driveways at the home of a family, my family used to worship with.  It has been a while since we've had any interaction with this particular family, and I simply wasn't sure what type of reception to expect.  Any anxiety I felt was quickly dispelled.  My reception was more than pleasant, it was refreshing.

The family has an adult daughter who has been battling a tough form of cancer for four years.  Due to the care she needs, she lives in her parents' house. When I first arrived at their house early this morning, the mom asked me if I would like to come in the house and visit with her daughter.  I quickly said yes, and our brief visit was touching to me.  I had officiated for her wedding several years ago, we had been there shortly after the birth of her twins.  We've observed some of their major experiences and some huge milestones in their life.

At the end of the day, the mom was taking the daughter out for a doctor's visit.  I was able to help her move her daughter into the car.  It was a weird, sort of surreal experience.  I had ministered to her daughter through the years, like I said doing her wedding and such, and now here I found myself filthy from a day's work of concrete; sweaty and dirty and probably a little odoriferous..., helping lift her in a wheelchair off of the front porch and helping situate her in the vehicle.  It felt like real ministry, but different than "church-work" ministry, if you know what I mean.

I felt ministered to as well, because of the family's warm reception and the hugs we shared.  On more than one occasion today I found my eyes were welling up as I thought about this young lady's situation.  I felt a little choked up more than once thinking how more than likely, her husband & children won't always have her in their lives.  There were several emotions flowing through me.

Today, I also was sharply reminded of how life is too short to be... whatever.  I don't know.  It's tough to articulate.  Seeing this young mom and wife and daughter struggling to even communicate, completely immobilized by her condition, it just seems to me there are bigger fish to fry...

If you are healthy and have any future at all, thank the Lord, and then go hug someone you love.  After you hug someone you love, go apologize to someone you've offended.  After you apologize, go forgive someone who's offended you.  You never know when life will throw you a curve-ball.