Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Why (and for whom) are we doing 'church' ?

It seems to me that regardless of who you are the time comes when we need to stop and ask ourselves those vital question: 'Why am I doing it?' and 'Who am I doing it for?'

Recently I have encountered situations where these questions needed to be asked and they needed to be asked of those who 'minister' (with and without dogcollars), regular and irregular attender and even, perhaps especially, those who don't come too!

It seems to me that the answer to the first question, at least in the case of those who profess to be Christian, goes something like this:

1. Because it's Biblical
2. Because it upholds Biblical standards (if it's not to be found explicitly)
3. Because it's the right thing to do (includes 1 and 2)
4. Because it blesses, edifies and builds (and fits with 1to 3)
5. Because it makes us live, look and think like Jesus (fits 1 to 4)
6. Because I want to help others understand and grow and have 1-5
6. Because I want to do it because of points 1 to 6

Where I have struggled is that place where I find myself with people who claim to be Christians who manage to miss some, or even all, of the points above. Of course this simplifies the answer to the 'Who am I doing it for?' question because the answer is obvious - they're doing it for themselves!
Mind you, the reality is that often they don't have the honesty, integrity or courage to give that answer. Stop for a moment and ask yourself who you, if you are Christian*, do things for. The answer might be multipart for often the first answer is different to the reality. The options I've recently encountered (which might mean stated or concealed) have been:

1. I'm doing it for God but Family/work/hobby make me do something else!
(AKA the 'Someone else excuse')
2. I'm doing it for God but don't have the time to give what I would like to
3. I'm doing it for God - is there anything else I can do to help?
4. I'm doing it for God and noticed this needed doing!
5. I'm doing it for God and noticed that there's more you could be doing (combine with 2)
6. I'm doing it for God and know exactly how church should be done
(just don't expect me to be there or do it - I'll merely point stuff out and criticise!)
7. I'm doing it for me - it's all about me, me, myself! (can be accompanied by maniacal laugh)

In case you think I'm wrong (and of course I could be +) here are a few examples from real life (across a variety of church groupings and denominations) so you can make up your own mind:

A. The people who have wanted to preach or lead but were annoyed that God got the applause not them - after all it's all about them being 'leaders' and up front

B. The people who have changed the way services were done because they didn't like the theology or the format or the music or the .... (add your own bit) - because it's about me being happy not about the people who have come for years and the place they're in (innit?).

C. The people who were always ready to complain about the things they didn't like, demanding change, but were never willing to actually offer to do anything themselves - because 'church' has to meet their needs (often they didn't know what they were, but they wanted it to satisfy them).

D. The people who come infrequently and complain that they don't feel at home (no surprise there) and they don't like the changes the new people have brought (because we have to keep it ready to please them whenever they decide to visit) and wish the children would be 'kept under control' and long for the days when 'church was done properly'.

E. The people who come when there's nothing on the box and Dobbie's (a garden centre) aren't doing a cheap tea and scone and discount day on a Sunday - because after all, it's about picking the best entertainment available to them.

F. The person who comes and prays and stays to help and comes back again to help with the Kid's Club and comes again and does it stuff the next day and the next and the next and the next - Yeah that's a '3 & 4' from the second list!!!

G. The people who comes almost every Sunday and ensures that even when holidays arrive the minimum of Sundays are missed because they want to be there - church is an important part of their life and they live in ways that make that obvious.

So there we are - take a look at the person in the mirror and see how the two questions are answered by them and then play the game with others and see where they sit on the scale. I was amazed when I tried this with a bunch of people who thought themselves to be the movers and shakers - the power base of their local church - and yet by the time I finished realised that they were not and this perhaps explained the difficulties the church in question was having.

All of them were out for whatever it was that made church what they wanted - and yet oddly, although some were great at loading guns and pointing them - few had the courage (or application) to get out and do what was needed to make the church fly!

A challenge indeed :-)

(or as one colleague said when discussing this - 'Too provocative - better to just get on and do it yourself - less stress and hassle!')


* 'Christian' is a variable rather than constant for many I meet who claim this label appear to be anything but for a myriad number of reasons!

+ But I have to add that I'm not (wrong that is!!!) ;-)


Anonymous said...

Hi Vic,
Enjoyed the blog, a little cynical but liked the passion.

I not sure a bit of whats in it for me is a bad thing, a little reciprocity makes the world go round.

If their heart is in the right place.

All the best,

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Thanks - always thought a little cynicism adds some flavour :-)