Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Organizational Masks

Why am I so against order, rules and the “law” in church?

Because the rules, expectations, customs all create pretension, they always have and they always will. How many times have we squabbled getting ready for "church", argued with your spouse on the way to "church", threatened the kids with eternal grounding if they misbehaved, then walked in the door and when asked, "how are you doing today?", your response was "Fine". And you were not fine. In fact you were miserable, your marriage was in trouble (again), your spiritual state at best was on autopilot, and your hemorrhoids were killing you!

How many times have we pasted a smile on, when what we really wanted to do was fall down and cry? "Church" should be messy, noisy triage centers where the walking wounded can carry the ones who are shell shocked.

Church should be the one place you can be yourself, without pretension, without masks and know without any doubt that your failings, fears and frustrations will be lessened by those who truly love you instead of judging and condemning you for failing again.

But we think every one else is fine, because they all look so happy, and say they are so fine. My unfine just doesn't fit in, so when asked, no matter how badly I might be burdened, I am fine.

I am not sure where I heard this, probably in this forum someplace. A very wise pastor used this invocation, "Lord please let something happen that isn't in the bulletin." That’s my kind of "church"!

I know I sound negative and bitter but honestly it is not at the people or any particular local expression, or even a denomination for that matter. It’s the system as a whole. In some ways I really do feel like Neo in the Matrix, it’s like I have seen the "system" and it ain't pretty. I really regret swallowing that red pill.

Over the last 40 years I have worked in a number of groups in different states, large and small, denominational and nondenominational. Some large, some small. Some liturgical, some wild and woolly. On the surface they were all (well mostly all) warm, open, inviting, loving places to be. But that was precisely the problem, most things were surface only, not deep, not real, pretensions were more important then genuineness. The "system" itself prevented people from being real, because being real, being ourselves is often pretty messy and that just doesn't fit into the bulletin on Sunday morning.

We say we live by Grace but we also often "insist" on compliance to the law in a thousand subtle ways. We separate secular and “Christian". We separate clergy and laity. We separate lost and found. We categorize who is in and who is out. We don't accept brothers and sisters as fit for service until they "join" or agree to some local terms of service agreement (written or unwritten) or attain a certain degree of educational accomplishment.

There is not a church in the country who would "hire" Jesus as a pastor based on His status as a homeless street preacher without even a high school diploma. And if by some miracle they did, can you imagine the outcry if known prostitutes, thieves and drug addicts were hanging out at His house! We bind ourselves to religion and are not even aware of it.
That’s my frustration, that is my "great sadness". To see the Bride of Christ wearing a gown of chains.

Others have inklings of what I am talking about. That is why you are fearful sometimes to suggest a change or to stop doing something or do something a new way. A kind and loving person will oppose you in order to preserve the "system". It is scary to question a long standing "accepted” teaching because we all assume "they" know better then we do. Yet the same Jesus indwells you as the most learned theologian.

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