Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Okay, a Rant (part 2)

Read the previous entry first, if you're just wandering by. The short introduction is I'm ranting for a few days about the video that you can see by clicking here.

Okay, so we're up to this excuse:

3. "All they care about is your money."
Geoff, CFO, replies: "They care about me, not my money."
tag: People are priceless.

You know what? The church cares about your money. Flat out, any congregation is really interested in what you put in the offering plate. In many cases (at least in my denomination), the welcome package comes with a box of envelopes for said offering.

To a certain extent, that's fine. Stewardship is important. Supporting your congregation is important. You want a place to meet, in climate controlled comfort, with a staff to make sure everything gets taken care of, we all have to chip in. Furthermore, speaking again for my denomination, a portion of the money goes to places beyond the congregation. There are local to national to international programs that are supported by our offerings. This is very meet, right, and salutary. The church should not be only looking at the local, at the needs and wants within one congregation's campus, but should, indeed be participating in alleviating the effects of hunger, disease, and disaster everywhere. And so, the offering plate is, in fact, coming to you for your ease of chipping in.

Hopefully, the congregation will care about you, too. Hopefully, the congregation will care about you more than your money. Sometimes, that gets out of balance, though, and at the very least, it sometimes can feel like the church cares more about your money than about you. The church needs to keep aware of this.

I may be splitting hairs here and looking at the subtlties more than any video could address---but that's part of what I'm writing against. This soundbite evangelism too easily creates false expectations.

4. "Is there some kind of dress code?"
Ingrid, a mom, answers: "Yes. The code is: wear some clothes."
tag: Come as you are.

I hope this is mostly true. It's truer than it used to be. The last two congregations I've belonged to saw Sunday morning worshipers in everything from suits to shorts, heels to flip-flops. Some people want to honor the house of God by wearing their very best. Some find the house of God to be the one place where they can relax and dress casually. I think both are legitimate pieties, so long as no one is forcing anything on anyone. I mean, it's just clothes. Wear some and don't worry about what everyone else is wearing.

All of which to say, while individual congregations may vary, I have the feeling that this is most realistic of the video's answers.

5. "Church just makes me nervous."
Mary, a consultant, tells us: "I was nervous at first and then I felt right at home."
tag: Right where God wants you.

I don't have a huge quibble with this, except for the, again, false expectation---or promise---that you're going to fit in and just relax into this new place. Why someone feels nervous by church is more important than any kind of platitude about being "right where God wants you." Cultural, familial, and institutional history for any individual will make this much more complex than the video suggests. And as I suggested in the last post, I've been a church member my entire life and I don't always feel at ease with it. Why would I expect someone to settle in if only they would just give it a go?

6. "I'm not sure I believe everything that you believe."
Donovan, sales manager, says: "But you can still belong."
tag: Doubts welcome.

Wow. I think there exists places where doubts are truly welcome. Maybe. But seriously, who feels safe saying out loud all their doubts in a chruch setting? I've known agnostics who served on church councils, but I'm pretty sure they never expressed it to the whole council.

Doubts welcome? Maybe some places. But, personally, I wouldn't go into a new congregation wearing them on your sleeve.


I'll stop here for tonight. That's enough for a single blog post. These were the less annoying sections of the video, so I may not be sounding like a ranting lunatic as I may feel. Just remember: I'm Lutheran. We have a more subtle ranting style.

And the next section is the one that set me off the most, and if you know me, you can probably already guess why.

But that's for tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. I'm in general agreement with you so far, but I'd just like to say there are congregations that really do fit this model. More so today than I have ever seen. Of course, I'm looking across the spectrum, from Lutheran to non-denom house churches to mega-churches (although I, personally, can't see myself ever joining a mega-church, but that's a post of its own).

    I especially want to run a brief, semi-tangent on that last one, on believing and joining. Unity is about relationship, not doctrinal agreement. There are, of course, some points we must agree on if we're going to call each other brothers, but we can disagree beyond that. And we've actually found several congregations here that get that. And a community of believers that crosses a multitude of congregations that lives it out to a depth I'm not sure I've ever seen.