|Doesn't every church look like this?|
First she writes,
When I ask why people don’t come, the answer almost always is time. They have good intentions, but their lives are so full. So they tend to use their precious free time only for things that they really care about, which tend to be things that offer immediate good feelings. They flock to tutor at the local elementary school, to work for civil rights for LGBT people, to serve free meals for the hungry. And they love to eat with friends—the church’s social calendar is filled with dinners, dances and parties. The congregation is also growing, and quickly.
But the idea of having leisurely conversations about Jesus is just, well, too slow. The only adult formation things that have been in any way successful are sermon podcasts and daily e-mailed bits of wisdom, prayer or scripture.Ummm...excuse me, but didn't, you know, Jesus eat with friends? Didn't his followers generally "do things they really care about"? Does, perhaps, healing people offer "immediate good feelings"? Does she notice who, in the gospels, spent all of their time in "leisurely conversations" about the Scriptures?
And what's this about "good intentions," as if the things these folks are doing do not measure up? Does she really think that working for civil rights for LGBT people offers "immediate good feelings"? Is it really a problem that they use their "precious free time" to tutor rather than attend another church service? Can she not see that if they are tutoring children, working for justice, or feeding the hungry, they are living the gospel? Why is she so concerned that they're not coming to mid-week Bible study when it seems they have clearly absorbed what the Bible teaches and what Jesus calls us to do?
She writes that she is working hard "to give up the picture I have in my head about what a church is supposed to look like: people sitting around on couches in the parish hall, Bibles open." Where does this picture come from? It doesn't match any actual experience of church I've ever had, and I grew up Evangelical with an expectation of Daily Quiet Times.
But then it hit me: This is her dream and the picture in her head because THIS IS WHAT SHE LIKES AND WANTS TO DO! And that, I think, is the core problem many of us in the church have. The people who enjoy these types of programs and midweek services are, you know, pastors. That's why we went to seminary. That's what feeds our souls (and, I dare say, offers us "immediate good feelings"). Most people are not pastors and we keep thinking that if we just offer them THIS, they'll suddenly get how wonderful it is. THEY'RE NOT GOING TO! These programs and services and Bible studies feed the people in our parish who are like us, who are pastors. I believe there's something in that Bible we study about how "not all are called to be pastors." Maybe we should pay attention.