Thursday, September 16, 2010

To Save a life...... to save a church

I am in a blogging frenzy today....this being my 4th blog post today. :-) I recently posted a review of the movie "To Save A Life", and had some more thoughts about the movie. For non-movie watchers, it is also available in book form.

And before I start, a quick note: This post may contain some slight spoilers, so if you haven't watched it and intend to, proceed with caution.

To Save A Life starts out with a high school senior taking his own life at school because he feels no one cares, and he feels all alone. This starts his former best friend on a journey of change that leads to him becoming a Christian and seeking to befriend those who might be in the same place as the kid who killed himself.

I highly recommend the movie, although there is some cursing in it. That brought a comment from a blogging friend of mine who disagrees with me completely on cursing in Christian books that she couldn't believe I was recommending a movie with cursing. :-) And yes, "A", if you're reading this, I consider you a blogging friend despite our differene in opinion on that........ But anyway, I still think the cursing unneccesary in any case, but it is a great movie. Moving on......

One of my first thoughts was "that could have been me". I was picked on a lot in school, bullied even by some of my cousins. That still affects me today. Suicide never entered my mind in those days, but what if it had? I felt no one liked me. It was so bad that when I was even in a store, I felt people looked at me and disliked me on sight. For real. I was well into my twenties before I realized that wasn't true. A side note here - never let your kid be a bully, or be bullied. The scars can last a life time.

My next thought, and this could get me into trouble, but bring it on, baby...... is that I am still that kid, but instead of school, the setting is church. I moved back to this area after being away for two years. I have now been back for two years, and feel my church has changed. Part of it is the new youth focus - it seems no one else in the church matters. Only the youth.

Since I moved back, I have been suffering from severe depression, and even more severe discouragement. I have had so many doubts, been teetering on the verge of giving up, and no one notices. I used to be outspoken in church, had a great sense of humor. I am no longer that person. I used to testify in church fairly often. I haven't done so once since moving back. Does no one wonder? Does no one care?

My Sunday School teacher has been talking to me some, so I am not dissing what he has done, but what about the rest of the church? The church has become like the school in the movie. We have our cliques. We gravitate toward the popular, the talented. We have the same small circle of people to our house, we talk to the same small circle of people before and after church. We email the same small circle of friends, comment on their facebook page, etc, and the rest of the church doesn't even enter our minds. They don't matter. Because they aren't as beautiful, as desirable, as fun.

I wonder how many people in my church, in your church, pray for others they go to church with. My church averages 200-250 people, not an enormous amount. It wouldn't take that long to take the church directory and pray for everyone in the church at least once a week. How many do? Other than the pastor, maybe none.

We sing the Gaither song, The Family of God at church a lot. It is a great song, but I don't feel like I am part of the Family of God. I don't even feel like I am part of my church. I feel like an outsider. Like if I quit or died, that not many people would even notice. How many others in the church - in your church - feel the same way?

In the movie, To Save A Life, the star of the movie starts seeking out the friendless, hanging around with kids no one else hangs out with. His old friends quit hanging with him, they think he is weird and extreme. What if we did that at church? Asked someone over to our house that we never have before? Asked someone how they are REALLY doing and care about how they are doing? Talk to someone at church we don't usually talk to. Find out where they work, what their interests are?

Its true that we can't be nursemaids, and it is also true that one shouldn't crticize unless they are innocent themself..... so if you truly want to know why I am not setting about to make a change, email me and ask me, but beware..... I will be honest with you, and if you go to my church, you might not be able to handle my honesty.

I talked about masks in a post a while back. Wearing them, wishing I could take my own off. Incidentally, my Sunday School teacher used that post when he spoke recently in church - how cool is that?! Anyway.... is anyone else like me, that wishes they could be real at church? I do wish I could, but I don't think I ever could. There would be consequences I am not sure I could handle. Judging. People who would avoid me. I just wish when people asked me how I am doing, that I could throw aside the "fine", or similar repsonse, and tell them how I am REALLY doing. But people don't really want to know. That question has become just a greeting. They want you to say "fine", not "Life doesn't seem worth living. I feel God is a million miles away. I'm on the verge of giving up" - or anything like that. They don't want to hear that.

Too many in church want to sit in their padded pews, and leave feeling happy and pious. They don't want to deal with people who have messy lives, ugliness inside.

In the movie, the main character gets upset with  the youth group for their insincerity, lack of caring, and how apathetic they are. He has an outburts where he throws in a few curse words - which I am not voicing approval of. Then later, it is discovered that his girlfriend is pregnant - the sex was before he became a Christian. The pastor of the church met with the youth pastor and suggested that they stop the kid from coming to church, as he wasn't the kind of person they wanted there. Meanwhile, the pastor's own son was smoking marijuana. The youth pastor replied that Jake should be the one preaching, that he was living what they should all be living.

I said that to say this: I am afraid most of the people in our church have the same attitude. How would they act if a drunk started coming to church? A drug addict? A homosexual? What if my own personal struggle were made known? Sometimes, I have the attitude "I don't give a rip about what people at church think of me." And do I? Maybe I do, since I wish they did care about me..... yet on the other hand, I want people in my life to love and like me in spite of this ugliness inside, this "curse" from God Himself, as I sometimes feel about it. After all, if we judge people's worth by what they are, by their scars.... are we truly Christian and God-like? If we only care about a few certain people in church, are we Christ-like?

I once made the statement that if this is the family of God, I want new siblings. That is true. I want a church where people truly care about others in the church - not just about me, but about everyone. I honestly don't feel like my church is doing that. And can a church be what God wants them to be if they are failing in that area?

My church believes differently than many churches. We believe in true modesty in dress, and a definite difference in appearance between men and women - not saying that to preach or put down anyone, but to preface my next statement: I have wondered if I need to get several tattoos, some piercings, and show up in a muscle shirt and boxer shorts for people to look at me and figure I need help. Why is that? Are we so blind to others in the church that the only way we know something is wrong is if they do something extreme against our beliefs?

I titled this post "To save a life..... to save a church". I hope my meaning has come through on the latter part. In a way, my church needs saved. Yours might too. We need to be more than a place where people go, sing some nice songs, hear a nice sermon, then go home and live our life without thinking about our Christian brothers and sisters at church. We need to be more than a place for the spiritually healthy. We need to be a "hospital" for the sick, the sinner, the struggling Christian. We need to truly care.

In closing, some have suggested I change churches. I don't feel that is the answer. For one, I don't make friends easily - I truly am backward about that. For another, until I can change and try to do something myself, what difference would a different church make? Not enough.

Again, some may comment and ask why I don't do like Jake in the movie.... set out to make some changes myself. I have some reasons, and I make the offer again: Don't just comment and tell me I need to do something myself - email me and ask me, and I promise I will tell you.

And to my fellow church goers at Salem Wesleyan Methodist Church...... let us all get out of our comfort zone - make new friends at church, and start really caring about everyone, not just a few select ones.


Andi said...

I attend a rather large church here in Nampa, ID attendance in 500+ on a Sunday morning. Do I think my church is doing a good job so so. I am apart of the single's group and we are AWESOME! We are transparent with each other, we hold each other accountable, are truly there for each other. I haven't been apart of a group like this since my youth group in FL. We have a great pastor whose been where we have, as we're all divorced, and dealing with the pain of that. I really think it comes down to the leadership being on the same level.