Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Perfect Church, Part 2

I blogged months ago about finding the "perfect church", and due to actually many conversations with a certain friend of mine, and a few other factors, have a few more thoughts on the subject. Hopefully I will make sense, and not repeat my other post too much.

My friend has issues with the church, the holiness in specific. To put it bluntly, he seems to want people to keep up with him, keep tabs on his spiritual progress, and check up on him fairly often. He would like a different style of Wednesday night service, more of a group studies type setting.

I keep telling him no church is perfect, and no matter what church he goes to, he isn't going to be 100% happy with it, because it is full of imperfect people.

Yet, I can see his point. This is supposed to be the family of God - when one has a heartache we all share the pain, and so forth. Due to some circumstances, and my confiding in some people, there are some people in my church who know my weak areas. I have been back in my home church now for a full year, and not once has anyone asked me how I am doing - and to be honest, like my friend, I find myself wishing someone cared enough, or wasn't too busy. And sure, I would like to change some services around.

At the risk of repeating myself from my other post, why do we go to church? To have people check up on us? To have the services set up just like we like it, so we can study the Bible in ways that we like? To hear a good message by an interesting preacher. And of course, not too long of a message. To hear nice music, sing some hymns?

Our main reason for going to church should be to worship God. All of those other things are just extras. Sure, it may be hard to worship if the preacher is boring and preaches so long that your clothes go out of style during the message, but it is all about worship.

I read a really good book last week, and mentioned it in my blog. Directed Verdict, by Randy Singer. The book was fiction, but there is something in the book that though the specific account was fictional, the events happen in real life. Every day. All across our world. Christians living in countries where being a Christian can get imprisonment, and even death.

To us, it almost seems like a fairy tale, we have it so easy. But all over the world, Christians meet in secret. If they want to gather for church, they have to go about it carefully, in most cases never meeting in the same place two times in a row. Their services are quiet. No loud singing and shouting like we enjoy. And there is always an undercurrent of fear that the police may burst in, stop their meeting, and arrest all who are present. In Muslim countries especially, the end result is often death, unless a chance to recant their faith is given, and anyone does recant.

I said a lot to get to this part. I wonder if we could see a checklist from these people of what they are looking for in a church, what would be on it?

A good youth group?
Short messages?
Padded pews?
A good choir?
Plenty of group studies to pick from?
Opportunities to be used?

Those are what a lot of us have on our check list, even if is just a mental check list. I would say their check list is worlds apart from the ones we have here in the US:

Godly pastor who will preach the truth
Locations out of the way, where people gathering won't be noticed
A place where noise will be muffled and won't attract attention
A place with multiple exits for quick escape
Trustworthy Christians who aren't likely to give up names easily

Can you imagine the church services these people must have? They can't have all of the amenities that we have. I would imagine a musical instrument is rare, as it could attract attention. I am sure they can't meet in very large groups - yet I would about bet money on it that God comes in their services faster and more often than in ours. I would also be that the depth of their Christian experience would put ours to shame. And I would bet that they would consider us oh so shallow for trying to find churches with the things that we want, and for changing churches for the reasons that we change.

The day may come here in America, even under this administration we are in - that Christians will be persecuted. In my lifetime, and yours, the day may come when we will have to meet in secret to have church. If that day comes, our current checklist will seem like a mockery to us, and we will look back and wonder how we could be so shallow and self-centered.

Before I end, I would like to say there is nothing wrong with wanting some things in your church. I love padded pews! I like an orchestra. I hate our black hymn books and would like to burn them. The idea of group Bible studies sounds interesting to me. I would like our evening worship service to start at 6 pm. I wish people would get more involved in each other's lives.

But really, should any of that be my main reason for going to church there? We all need to focus more on worship, and not worry so much about what WE want. If we have amenities like padded pews, and a preacher who stays at or under 30 minutes - then enjoy it and thank God, but focus on what we can do for our church, how we can encourage others, and how we can better worship God. If we do those things, and not focus so much on what we wish were different - I would guess that our attitude will change, and what we thought was so necessary, may end up not being so necessary after all.

Now if I could just get rid of those black hymnals...................


Kim M. said...

You made some great points... especially what you said about the persecuted church. Dietrich Bonhoeffer had some great things to say about that himself in his book "Life Together" (which I still haven't finished but hope to do). He was not only persecuted, but martyred! He talked about how people complain but if they only realized how good they truly had it to have the presence of other Christians, they would start appreciating it. Wow! This was written while he was locked in a lonely cell. It really helped me with my perspective.

Another thing that I think helps those of us who struggle with this (the devil tries to deceive me too with this problem sometimes!!!) is to reach out to other people instead of focusing on ourselves. It really does make a difference.

Kim M. said...

This guy evidently went to Hobe Sound because his post was in my blogger reader right under yours! Interesting! He makes some great points also....

Steve-n-Deb said...

Note 1: I like the black hymnals. It has the old deep thought provoking hymns.

Note 2: I struggle with asking people how they are doing with spiritual struggles because you feel like you are invading their lives. Also, I'm not sure I want them to reciprocate. Scary isn't it.

Note 3: I'd like to start an evening Bible study, but I'm not sure about the details, nor if it is God's timing. Can you be specific about what you would enjoy, or was your comment just academic?

Note 4: I just read Secret Cardinal. It described the persecution of the Catholic church in Mainland China. It was eyeopening, even though we have doctrinal disagreements with them. I recommend it. I'll loan it to you if you want it.

Mark said...

The black hymnal hymns all sound like funeral dirges :-)
I would like some kind of Bible study where you have to participate - verbally, and by doing some kind of lessons