Head First: A Head-Clearing Exercise...and Some Food for Thought.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Head-Clearing Exercise...and Some Food for Thought.

You've likely seen the t-shirt: "A bad day fishing is better than a good day working."

I'll add this: A GOOD day fishing is better than almost anything. Actually, it doesn't even have to be fishing. Just being on the water is enough for me. If it's salt water, then consider me completely at home.

A couple friends (from church) invited me out on the Delaware Bay last weekend for a little amateur angling. It was a great day. The weather was perfect, the waters relatively calm. We caught the tide just right, and in four hours, caught over a hundred fish between the three of us (we didn't keep that many, but if it enters the boat, it counts). I caught two fish at once (I was using two hooks), and then caught one fish on both hooks! Hilarious. We shared a lot of laughs and some good conversation. We talked about fishing, we talked about movies, and we talked about Jesus. My ever-cluttered mind was washed clean, for a while, at least.

I know a lot of people who left church have found themselves ostracized and ignored by their old "friends." I've lost contact with the vast majority of the people from my church, too, but since I became, um, congregationally disaffiliated, there have been a number of people from the congregation who have been a little relentless (far more than I have, I admit) in their efforts to keep our friendships alive. Unexpectedly, most of them aren't maneuvering to try to steer me back into the fold. Much like Steve's friends, they're just looking to hang out, enjoy some company, be amigos. A guy (again, from church) called today to see if I'm available to go to a motorcycle rally next Sunday. I'm definitely in.

Scott, over at ironicobservances put up this post, suggesting some possible reasons that people go to church. I considered some of the reasons usually given for congregating on Sunday: worship God, learn God's word, pray, give, encourage and support each other, etc. Pretty much all of these things can (and should) be lived out each and every day by someone who follows Christ (ok, by me, at least. I won't judge you, godless sodomites.). But there's little that compares to the dynamic of doing those things together, with people I love. I have to admit, I miss that.

Now, I'm not ready to go back and drink the Koolaid, but I'm seeing the critical value of those relationships, and I submit that, while a lot of relationships in the church are contrived and meaningless, some of them are real. And church, at least, gave us a convenient opportunity to get together. But instead of using the institution as the starting point to engineer "fellowship," we must begin to see our relationships as the basis of what the Church (capital C) is meant to be.

I don't know what form it should take, but I want to be more intentional about living out community with people I care about.

13 comments:

SocietyVs said...

I agree!

The Archer of the Forest said...

I'll trade you some figs for that fish...lol!

Mrs Zeke said...

Your post really hit me.
One of the most painful things I can fathom are "tea and sympathy" type relationships. At church, work, home , online, whatever. I can't do them I won't do them. But it is extremely painful to honestly care about someone else and they just don't get that, or are afraid of it or try to manipulate it for there own gain or desire. I really do not know something else even death that breaks my heart more.

But I guess and I might be stretching that is what honest caring cost. The cost is draining, but its opposite is so amazing. I just hate anything lukewarm but I admit sometimes the cost seems much to high and at least for me I tend to hide away out of contact with everyone.

Do not know what else to do for self protection.

Your loved Dorsey by me and God and He does it perfect.

BruceD said...

We share the love of boating and fishing. And I value my friendships enormously. But, I don't think I could drag myself back to a mind-numbing religious performance to save my life. If some friendships depended on it, I'd probably have to meet them outside afterwards.

For me, the day on the boat fishing IS the church!

Hey, where's your brother?

Recovering said...

I agree and appreciate the post. I believe if we were willing to read the Gospels with our neighbors and seek to surround ourselves with a few believing friends of various gifts, we'd be more than fulfilled by those relationships.

I wish we could discuss this over a brew sometime...

sandytrif said...

I was set to ponder why I go to church from your post. As a new christian-I was like a sponge and wanted to soak it all in. Thus going to church was a place where I went to get watered. As life happened and we had children, church became a social place where we met up with friends who all had children the same age. As the years continued to roll by, either I changed or church changed. Instead of becomming a place where I went to get fed, it became just a social place. The church had a great program for our children and we were involved in outside home Bible studies. So I was still being watered, just no so much at church. Then when we started feeling the need for more Church, we had various meetings and then things improved for a time. A really GREAT guy did music and youth. Two of our main concerns were covered. But still church was more social. Well after our kids graduated from junior church and super junior church and had to sit with us in church~things began to change. One major one was that GREAT guy stopped doing youth and music (for whatever reasons-I don't need to know). So not only was I not getting anything out of church, but now the kids were grumbling. So we moved on. And I have ot say that I have not felt ostracized by any one I have run into from church. Infact the oposite is true.
Now that we are in a new Church, a feel like that new christian again. I go to church for fellowship and teaching. Learning how to direct others to know who Jesus is-learning how to point others to Christ which is very important to me. Getting involved with other believers who love the Lord is so thrilling that I can't think of not going to Church. Now not only am I a sponge soaking it all in, I am getting full and ready to let some of Christ leak out onto others.
So where you go Dorse, I don't know. I know that you don't want to go back and drink the koolaid of where you were/are, but there are loads of Churches out there to get into.
Again just my thoughts.
Sandy

BruceD said...

Where's your brother?

JimmyBob said...

Miss you Dorse.

After reading Sandy's comment, I miss you more.

dorsey said...

bruced, according to Jeff, he thought he had set up his domain name registration to renew automatically, but not so. For some reason, he can't just pay the renewal and be done with it. So he has to call them up and talk to someone.

It's either that, or our parents found his blog, and he's grounded.

dorsey said...

Sandytrif,

When I left our church, I did consider where else I could go, but I soon began to realize some things.

I likely would never have chosen that church to begin with. When we came here, we didn't really give it a lot of thought, but out of respect for the family connection, it seemed like the easiest thing to do.

But after a dozen years of being there, I can tell you that I cannot remember a single sermon, nor a particular worship time, nor anything related to "being fed." The enduring aspect of my time there was the relationships that developed. All my memories of the last 15 years involve just being together. I put up with all the problems that I saw because being together with your family and Jimmybob's and Gary & Sandy and Ron & Carol and Steve & Lorrie and Neal & Joyce and Dan & Ruth and Chuck and Eileen and Curtis & Ruth, etc., was my real spiritual lifeline.

When you say that church became "just a social place," I would suggest that the only legitimate function of the institutional church is that it's infrastructure provides a starting point for relationships to develop. Ideally, out of these relationships, the Church (capital C) should happen. I wouldn't have nearly so much problem with the institution of church if it didn't set itself up as the centerpiece of all spirituality. All the qualities of the Church (cap. C), such as love, compassion, generosity, prayer, meditation, worship, obedience, etc., have been co-opted and programmed by the church (sm. c), turned into "a form of Godliness" that has no power outside the walls of the building. I'm overgeneralizing, but that's the gist.

Too many in the church have become convinced that "getting fed" is the reason they should be there. Scripture does not support this. I liken it to eating real food. If I only eat real food on Sunday (and then eat again on Wednesday, "to get me through the rest of the week"), I will become weak and malnourished very quickly. I must feed myself every day. My health (both physical and spiritual) is my responsibility.

Instead, scripture indicates that the reason we should come together is to encourage, build up, help and care for each other. In other words, be a family. These relationships are meant to sustain us (read Eccl. 4) in the context of our faith.

So it's not just THAT church that's keeping me away. I take those relationships seriously, and I'm reluctant to go and develop new ones in an institution that doesn't recognize their critical importance. I think there has to be a better way.

Give my love to Carm.

sandytrif said...

hey but they have great covered dishes and pizza parties!!! Jessie and Mary's cooking!!!
Sorry could not resist!
But I can agree with you. I remember remembering sermons that we heard while visiting other churches for weeks on end. Yet like you, not too many of what I heard week to week.
Sandy

jeff said...

Hey BruceD,

Remember when I posted about my new guitar? Well, no one gave to my Paypal link, so I apparently cannot afford the 8.95 to renew my domain.

When I actually get an opportunity to devote some time to it, I'll get it figured out.

BruceD said...

Jeff -- OK, so it's OUR fault! You and that dang git-tar!

Glad to see you haven't flown the coop though!

Dorsey, that last comment was awesome! You pretty much hit the nail on the head as to what happened to me, except you're much nicer about than I am.