Recently I got email from Mary in Chicago about a conversation she had with a friend of hers. I loved the illustrations she provided. I know this can appear a bit condescending if it seems to exalt personal experience over community, but that’s not the context she’s writing in at all. She’s talking about a specific congregation they frequent that is missing a deeper reality of God breathing his life in us. Here’s what she wrote:
I (recently) had a discussion with a friend of mine about his frustration with our church home. I tried to encourage him not to get frustrated because he is desiring a “calculus” experience (that he is actually having during the week with God) and our church is singing the “2 + 2 = 4 song”. He got a chuckle out of that. I also told him to not be disappointed because he isn’t getting fed.
God has planted a new seed in his heart and the church we go to, which is a really nice place, is only used to “feeding and growing corn”…they have corn fertilizer, corn harvesting tools, and they know all about corn…but the seed that God planted in him is a unique hybrid that doesn’t have any resemblance to corn…so they don’t know how to cultivate, feed or tend it. And it is so strange a “plant”, that they are a little afraid of it, because it is so “different”.
I’ve often thought that many congregations treat people like they are in spiritual kindergarten. They tell you when to stand up, what emotions you ‘should’ be having at any moment, and what to ‘say to your neighbor’ during a moments of greeting. Hey, if you need kindergarten, that’s great. You can’t get to calculus if you don’t know 2+2=4. But if you’re still singing that song even 5 years later, it will grow extremely boring and ritualistic.
Now, certainly not all congregations are like this, but I’ve often compared sitting in a service on Sunday to watching golf on TV. It is far more exciting to go out and actually play golf. Yes, you can learn some things from watching it, but this is LIFE in Jesus we’re talking about. It is meant to be no less real Tuesday afternoon than it is on Sunday morning. Sometimes, as our friend is finding out above it can be more real. This is about following him, every moment of every day and growing to participate in his work in the world.
I’d rather live it than sit around and talk about it any day.