My tongue is in my hand…

The Christian Church: Practicing Faith On The Short Bus?

Posted on: May 6, 2010

Growing up in a Christian church, there was always a lot of talk about putting God first, making God a priority, and about denying ourselves our “selfish desires”. I think these two things contradict themselves for someone who has accepted the love of God into their lives. If now, God lives in me as love, and God created me, then wouldn’t one of the best ways to get in touch with God be to get in touch with myself? To explore my desires, to indulge the things that pull at my heart and spirit? If God lives in us, then wouldn’t listening to our selves be listening to God? To do this, wouldn’t it take tuning out everything else at times, or most of the time? Shouldn’t we, with God in us, be the priority in our lives, with all other things coming after? If I can not hear myself, can not mend myself, can not refresh myself, can not address my needs, can not engage in the things that press on my God- designed, God-entwined heart, can not touch base with God within myself then how can anything else I do be in tune with God, how can I touch base with God anywhere outside of myself? But the church taught me for so long to deny myself, that it’s taken me years to understand that this was incomplete information, it was the beginning of a lesson that no one bothered to follow up on. I’m realizing that the things I do that perhaps no one else in the whole entire world (or my whole entire world) seems to agree with, but rests well on my heart, always serves me better than following anyone else’s guidelines for “the right thing”. Because my relationship with God is about me. Not anyone else (not even the church). Everyone else has to settle what they have to settle between God and themselves. I have to trust that God is handling everything else, whatever I forsake to indulge in the movement. Moving against the standards  set up by those around me is moving in faith. Even if it’s moving against the standards of the (imperfect, human run, though- most- likely- well intentioned) church. I have to trust that whatever time I spend with God, forsaking all else, will make me a better person for all else. And I have to spend time evaluating everything, sans the world- what’s working, what’s not, what have I learned, what do I need, etc. More time, just God and I. While, in the church, quiet time or devotions are encouraged, I’ve found that they are encouraged within the realm of the world – that you don’t dare disrupt any of the worlds in which you reside.  Christianity seems to expect you to tread so lightly in every realm of your life that you are constantly tangled up in the world and it’s expectations. Yes, by acting in and with love, we can honor God in anything we do…but when we’re suffocated by the standards and expectations of everyone around us, we are ineffective. Why isn’t this a constant conversation in the church?

Sometimes, I feel like the Christian church perpetually teaches the remedial version of faith, never moving forward, always waiting for everyone in their midst to grasp the basics of the religion, before they really get into the abstract parts. While anyone can gain from reviewing the basics, what do you do when it’s time to start applying the basics? Where’s the person talking about how sometimes, to put God first, you literally have to forsake all others: you have to stop working, ignore your boss, your job, your church, your parents, your spouse, your children, your debts, your home, your pets, your friends, your government, your responsibilities, everything: every standard, every rule, every expectation , all of it being worldly, and subject to seperating you from God, even with the best intentions.  And you have trust that God will take care of everything while you sit alone with God, with yourself, for however long is necessary, while you move where ever you are moved.

Who’s going to talk about how this may not necessarily be one big event or moment in your life, but that it may be a daily thing, a weekly thing, a seasonal thing? Why am I wondering if I’m the only person in the world who is in this place, who’s been here? Sure, someone’s read me a verse that says, you must forsake all others and follow Christ. Sure, someone will say that if the world hates you, it’s okay, because Christ has overcome the world. Great. Two sentences. Why aren’t we talking about what this looks like, how this feels, in real life?   Where’s the incessant discussion regarding this (instead of, perhaps, homosexuality- or something equally less important to our spiritual growth)? Why aren’t we evolving as spiritual beings? Why do we only expect people to be able to spout out Sunday School answers?   Where’s the discussion on the individuality of faith, of spiritual growth? Why do we all expect it to look the same on everyone? Why is the church afraid of getting messy with faith? Why does the church rely on black and white so much, why is it so fearful of all the gray that is the individual application of faith? Why do the standards of Christians get more specific than love God, love one another? Are Christians that dense that we need someone to give us rules beyond love to live by? The church is so wrapped up in setting and applying it’s own standards for faith in the world, that it has become part of the world that one must ignore to really hear God. Are the structures of the church impeding the growth of the church in regards to allowing and encouraging members to evolve spiritually?

Oh, people are good at saying they know faith is individual, but the actions of the Christian church do not support this. It supports conformity far more than it supports growth outside of conformity. It seems to have so low an expectation for it’s community of believers that it simplifies everything to boxes and lists and categories to keep from confusing anyone. It is a social and political organization, as well as a religious one, and it’s rare to find a church were you can escape these undertones and overtones.  Not to say I dismiss the potential and positive impact of being part of a church community, because I do believe people can benefit from being part of a group of people who care about you and care about others as well. I think church is, overall, a good thing to be part of. I just wonder, is there too much teaching in churches and too little discussion and application when it comes to the intangibles? It’s great that someone has studied the Bible and public speaking and can “teach me” about the Bible, and I gather good info and insight through sermons most of the time, and if nothing else, it gives me a chance to sit in one place, quiet, for an hour with others who are doing the same…it serves me well, no doubt. But when do we come together to discuss it? Bible study and Sunday School are another hour of the basics being taught with little opportunity for discussion beyond more basic answers….it’s like we’ve got everyone on the short bus of faith, perpetually. Shouldn’t we expect more from ourselves, from each other? Shouldn’t we be going deeper on a regular basis? Shouldn’t we be experimenting with love and faith and hope and joy and forgiveness  and then evaluating the results as some kind of community? Shouldn’t we be sharing more? Shouldn’t we be getting messier with our faith amongst one another (and in the world as a whole)?

I want to talk  in church, with my church families. I want discussions. Group discussions. Where we push ourselves and each other, where we get uncomfortable, where we question, where we discuss personal applications of faith, where we get confused and frustrated and show one another grace and mercy, where we seek answers, where we share insight, where we agree to disagree, where we intersect among our spiritual journeys, share stories, gather resources and reserves, where we let go of the standards of the world, of our worlds, where we evolve and move…where we practice among each other what we hope to practice outside of the church…unconditional love…

I’m so tired of feeling like I’m trapped in remedial classes every time I’m in church. As much as I love the people in the church, sometimes it’s like I’m suffocating;  we can’t keep breathing the same air over and over without it eventually becoming toxic. We’ve got to open up the doors, the windows, the emergecy exit- something. Come on guys. We’re capable of more, we should expect more, we should grow more.

We’ve got to do something, it’s getting crowded on the short bus and everybody’s laughing at us.

Disclaimer: I have not and do not laugh at those who ride short buses, nor do I condone such behavior. I just found it to be a fitting methaphor.

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1 Response to "The Christian Church: Practicing Faith On The Short Bus?"

This. 100x. You and I and I’ll bet just about 75% of the church are frustrated to bonkers because there is NO FOOD being served to Christians hungry for it.

We’re getting reprocessed, unconsidered leftovers. And it’s not at all filling. It’s tasting without eating. And it’s frustrating as all hell.

You need to switch churches. You need to hop and hop and hop until you find teachers and community where people are eating genuine spiritual food. Questioning and expanding and constantly growing. These places exist.

This early on, beat the basics to death, same thing over and over scenario’s? They have their purpose. Consider yourself a graduate of that bex. Get out of junior high, go find a college.

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