My tongue is in my hand…

Letter to the local church:

Posted on: October 15, 2008

Months ago, a local pastor and an assistant came door to door in the neighborhood doing a survey regarding the local church.  The last thing he asked was “If you could say anything you wanted to the local church, what would it be?” Woah.  Loaded question to ask someone like me.  I said nothing, because I couldn’t even think of how to articulate everything I wanted to say to the local church while standing on my front stoop on a Saturday morning, daughter on my hip.  But as soon as they left, I started typing.

Letter to the Local Church:

Things I would say to the local church:

*Don’t let tradition get in the way of development; don’t let development get rid of tradition.

*Hold one another accountable, particularly those in leadership positions but do it with kindness, respect, discretion, humility.

*Start teaching and using prayer for what it is: time of communion with God and one another, not a wishlist for what you want or as a way to feel you have control over life. When bad things happen it doesn’t mean you could have warded it off with prayer or you can make it disappear with prayer. Prayer is more for your insides than your outsides. This is a shock and disappointment when you don’t know this. Also, living the best way you can is not a guarantee that something horrible will not happen to you: people may say they realize this, but EMPHASIS IT because deep down a lot of “good people” feel shocked and betrayed by God when tragedy strikes. Instead, teach something like this of prayer: when we pray, we should be seeking communion with God. We should be thinking more towards changing the internal aspects of ourselves instead of the external aspects of our lives. If we are honest, authentic, and present in prayer and actively seeking the things we lift up, we are communing with God. If we can calm our spirits, change our perspectives, develop our faith in a way that makes us capable to face the battles and demons of our lives, then we are getting somewhere. If through prayer, we understand our selves, our God, our world more, if through prayer we unlock the powers in our depths, and begin to see the purpose in our existence, then prayer is active, it is relative, it is transformative. If through prayer, we become a person more capable of being the best version our ourselves, then through prayer, we become the changing forces of our lives. We underestimate prayer and we underestimate God when we relegate them to the little boxes we were taught somewhere along the way that they fit it to. How ridiculous, how inane, how wasteful.

*Be open for discussion, for questioning of practices and beliefs. Encourage critical thinking and discussing personal interpretations. It will help you develop real substance and foundations for your beliefs and give you new perspectives.

*Don’t let the same people do the same things over and over, don’t let a family or group monopolize the church. Figure out how to not force people and not just let them off the hook when it comes to being active in the church. Instead, be active in helping people find their “fruits of the spirit”, their ways to be active members of the church and the Body of Christ to utilize their abilities and grow. Be creative, inventive, open to the new things this could bring.

*DO SOMETHING REAL in the community, local and global, something that impacts something, changes something, improves something, attempts something, not just simple “good works” things, but hands-dirty kinds of things.

*Nurture all age groups children through seniors.

*Don’t let the size of your church limit you.

*Don’t make visitors feel ignored, but don’t make too big a deal about them either.

*Call and visit each other.

*Use technology to your advantage; web sites, email, texting, online photo galleries, social networks, etc.

*Be honest about yourself.  Your faith is only valuable if it is authentic; what importance is your light without your darkness? What value is your faith without your fear?  Don’t operate on pretense, it squanders your potential.

*Don’t focus too much on people’s outsides; how they dress, what they do on the weekends, but more what’s going on inside. We all have vices, preferences, interpretations; don’t let that get in the way of learning from one another.

Accept differences of opinion and even differences on implementation of faith, we are more alike than we are different if we can get past our judgments of people and lifestyles.

*Church should be a safe place to be yourself, whoever that is, not a place to conform, but to grow together with acceptance and mutual love and appreciation. God loves us and gifted us this love knowing every aspect of us, shouldn’t we do the same for one another?

*At the same time, we shouldn’t get too comfortable…we should push ourselves and one another to develop and move forward.

*Churches should have fun together.

*Churches should love one another.

*Churches should work together with other churches, co-op events regardless of theology. Aren’t we all about the same thing? Love of Christ and Love for Christ? Isn’t that the bottom line? Don’t let doctrines separate us too much. A house divided against itself can not stand. That house is the Church. Work together. It’s not a competition.

*Give each other room for error, give each other grace.

*Have real knowledge about other religions, don’t be afraid to integrate similar practices ( i.e. meditation and prayer)

*Have real knowledge about your own faith; life-lived knowledge, critically thought, challenged and processed knowledge, not regurgitated facts and ideals, this will give you solid ground to stand on and help others build solid footing.

*Don’t make it seem like faith is easy or a cure all.

*Don’t use too much jargon when talking about faith.  There are ideas, concepts, and terms that just don’t make sense if you didn’t grow up in Sunday School.

*Take a Sunday off, you’re not a “bad person” if you do and you need to step out of your world sometimes to gain perspective.

*Stop feeding the ideas that people who don’t fit into your personal or group ideals are bad or wrong. This only breeds division and walls and often creates a false sense of superiority that people pick up on and turn from.

*Acknowledge various aspects of pop culture and indulge in what you honestly enjoy and find acceptable, but don’t go out of your way to emulate it. People want acceptance, appreciation, and authenticity – not cheesy imitations and false connectivity based something that’s been manufactured.  Instead, allow for differences; then seek, build, and accentuate common ground.

*Experience God in the day to day and work with people in your congregation to do this and not act like the only way to be with God is in church.

*Be real and realistic with the youth. Don’t feed adolescents fairy tales about love and sex; sometimes true love doesn’t wait and sometimes waiting doesn’t get you true love. Love and life are bigger than a slogan. Don’t box these kids in with umbrella statements and movements that end up segregating the kids who fit and the kids who don’t, only creating cliques (that you can lose membership of), not actually empowering or engaging them. It may actually feed destructive guilt and lack of self worth for not living up to these umbrella standards, and does not emulate the relationship with Christ that is loving, merciful,  passionate, and individualized. Teach kids how to connect with God on their own, to develop an internal compass based on this personal relationship, not slogans. You would serve them well if you taught them respect and appreciation for themselves and each other and ways to build true intimacy in the world that they live, not your special “Christian” world where teenagers grow up in supportive homes (don’t be duped because their parents go to your church or are your family friends) and will only hold hands with the oppostie sex and go on group dates with a chaperone, and never drink, party, lie, skip school, gossip, or smoke cigarettes. This may be the case for some, but not for all, so evaluate your audience and give relevant advice and guidance. And ask some questions, what are these kids really looking for and how can you help them get there? Every story is different and the more you are a (loving and accepting) part of the lives of the youth in your church, the more you can help them manuever their way through the landmines of life…

*Give less lists of shoulds and shouldn’ts and work more on helping people develop their own internal compass, that is individual, because faith looks and works differently with different people- acknowledge that.

*Don’t use guilt or scare tactics.Guilt and fear are destructive thought patterns and emotions. A guilty, scared “Christian” doesn’t understand the beauty and forgiveness of the love that you are basing your church on and will not be an effective member of your body.

I grew up in the church.  In my family’s church, rooted by generations, I was raised.  I had a great experience overall. Youth group, camp, choir, leadership groups, teaching positions, trips, missions, dinners, plays, BBQ’s, lock-ins, bible studies, altar calls, baby dedications, weddings, and funerals. I love the church.  I love my church; my denomination, my friends, my family, my ancestry, my experiences that all roll into one under the umbrella of church.  And just as much as someone can feel called into service in the church, I was called out.  And have been, for all practical purposes, not part of the church in recent years.  I say this to explain the lense from which I view church and the changes I think need to happen in the church.

There are discrepancies in the kind of belief you have before you see the world and after you see the world.  Before you see so many perceived bad things happen to perceived good people.  Before you realize that no matter how much someone plays by the rules they can still lose it all or get burned.  Before you see suffering and sickness and death strike with no order, not passing over the faithful.  There are few guarantees.  It comes out all the time in tragedy, but it is true for everyone, all the time: all we have is whatever’s within us and each other.  That’s it.  No matter what you think you have, you aren’t guaranteed to keep it, no matter how many precautions you take or prayers you lift, no matter how prepared you believe yourself to be, no matter how much you have.  That’s why we have to build up storehouses within ourselves and each other of the intangible- things that will nourish us and protect us and push us. That’s what we need to do in church, that’s what people need from church.

And we have to build in one another, invest in one another.  We are it.  We are all there is. We are all we have.  We are all we need.  Us and belief.  The things we carry in us (God, love, faith, hope, belief).  These basic, basic things. That’s it.  People and belief.

That’s church all stripped down, people and belief.  People who need to be invested in one another, people who need storehouses of the intangible, people who need the transformative power of prayer and communion with God, people who need unconditional love and acceptance, people who need connectivity, people who need friendship, people who need safe places, people who need reprieve, people who need substance, people who need hope, peace, and love that transcends understanding and logic, people who need purpose.

I’d love to see some little revolutions in the Christian church, some envelopes pushed, some traditions reinstated, some new ones created. What the local church has been is not near as important as what it can be, and what it can be is not near as important as what it is now, in every moving moment of now. But it takes people, people aware and willing to move in the moving moments.

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1 Response to "Letter to the local church:"

wow. deep. Youve been given a prospective the world needs to see/hear/whatever. keep writing. keep thinking. keep praying.

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