Head First: Bitching is Futile.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Bitching is Futile.

"Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different." —Roger von Oech

So began today's Purpose Driven Life Daily Devotional (Hey, if Chastain can go to Saddleback and enjoy it, I can own up to this). Yes, I signed up for it a long time ago. I keep it because I like the way John Fischer (the usual author) keeps looking for ways to illustrate the Christian life outside the walls of church (I found his series on the Church at St. Arbucks particularly amusing).

I guess most of us have read Ecclesiastes. It's been pretty well established that there is nothing new under the sun. We keep trying to fool ourselves into believing that we're on to something that's going to change the world forever (see Emerging Church), but every new promise of reformation ultimately results in a return (to some degree) to the thing we intend to reject (see Emerging Church). Even Luther's reformation, with it's desire to return to scriptural Christianity, retained the pagan-inspired top-down structure that had corrupted Catholicism in the first place. From all appearances, inasmuch as it has been adopted, that model hasn't work so well for Protestants, either.

Do you ever have a thought that you can't quite put into words? You can't even call it a thought, really...more of a feeling. It just sort of lingers beneath the surface, listless, indistinct, unable to be pinned down. And when someone else articulates it, the lights go on and you say, "That's it!" Well, that's sort of what happened to me while listening to Steve and Josh on the Etcetera podcast last week. At somewhere around the 57-minute mark, Steve said that, after expressing all this angst over the problems with the church, "...maybe the show needs to turn a little bit towards hope."


I hit the |<< button on my iPod and listened to it again.

Maybe it has to do with the ignominious resolution of the situation at my church and the timing of my subsequent desire to get on with things, but as I heard the words again, it clicked. It's easy, and quite necessary to talk about what's wrong. I've been doing that forever. Ask anyone who knows me—it's my gift. But I think it would be pretty useless (and cowardly) to engage in nothing more than a gripe-fest. There must be something to learn here.

Which brings me back to the opening quote...looking at the same thing and thinking something different.

Discovering what Christ intends his people to be may well be accomplished in this way. But it has to be more than looking at what we've done and just saying, "This sucks. I'm out." That's weak.

More later...


Tony Myles said...

Unfortunately, the net gives us the chance to do this on a regular basis. Often if someone hacked you off in real life, you'd just take it and mumble something under your breath. If someone does it on the net, though, (including churches or authors) it's easy to rip them to shreds and boogie back to the microwave pizza.

Yeah... I think I'm stereotyping a bit, but I think our behavior on the net is often a reflection of the whining in our spirits. We need to be on guard against such things, even though we can get away with it.

This is just what I'm learning in my own journey. Thanks for the chance to share.

dorsey said...

um...I meant more like exposing the devil in a system that's seriously screwed up than just someone who offended me, but I sort of see what you mean. Whiners know no limits.

Jot said...

Very well said, my brother. Bitching truly is futile. And I must confess that I am likely more guilty than most of focusing on the negative - I can't help it, it's just what jumps out at me first!
For the past few weeks I've been making a concerted effort to focus on the good things rather than those I'm unsatisfied with. And perhaps that's my problem - I need to learn to be content in whatever situation I find myself. Seems like I've read that somewhere before...

Peace, love and a positive outlook...


"There is not any memory with less satisfaction than the memory of some temptation we resisted."
- James Branch Cabell

ninjanun said...

Eh, I don't know what the difference is between "focusing on the negative" and calling a spade a spade. So often, I see church people put their fingers in their ears and go "la la la" when you point out that something isn't working, or they come down on you, saying, "you're just being negative!" I agree, just bitching about a problem doesn't accomplish anything, but it's frustrating when people won't even admit there is a problem that needs fixing. And we wonder why prophets get stoned or otherwise killed.

Also, what's wrong with the emergent church? I'm just starting to get familiar with the word, so it would be nice to know more about it.

jeff said...


Here's a great resource for info onm the emergent church. Brian McLaren is actually speaking on these podcasts regarding what it means to be emergent.

It's nice to hear his actual views instead of only what his critics say about him.


dorsey said...


I completely agree that we must call 'em like we see 'em. I hope I didn't give the impression that I'm going to start going along to get along. Hell no! I guess the title of my post is a little misleading. My point is that we cannot stop there.

I also didn't intend to imply that there's necessarily anything wrong with the Emerging Church. I actually think it's kind of cool. It's just that, as Steve and Josh have pointed out, they're inevitably falling into an organizational model they appeared to shun at first.

Really, the only perfect church I've seen so far is Burrito Church (see ninjanun's site for details).

Aimee said...

yeah! another voice crying in the wilderness. i added you to my blogroll, so expect to see me regularly! ;-)

Zeke said...

Trust what Yoda say
Easier to gloss over
Than to speak the truth