Church Thoughts 2: Enlightened or Prejudiced?

Every week I sit and watch my neighbours stream past to church. I wonder why some of them keep it up. At least one of them falls asleep every week as soon as the pastor stands up, and as a former song-leader I know it’s hard to squeeze a sing-along out of any of them (never mind call it worship)! Some days it’s enough to make you want to give up and leave. Which I kinda did...

What do they go for? Do they go because it’s expected of them? A friend of mine is scared not to go, even though she leaves church frustrated every week. She’s scared she’ll be fired, because the church employs her.

Do they go because they’ll be judged if they don’t? One person received an anonymous note under their door stating “today was the worst Sabbath of my life – some people haven’t been to church for two years, and you were watering your lawn instead of attending”. Nice… not!

Do they go because they’ve never thought not to? It’s just something you do, week after week, never questioning.

Do they go because they’re involved in the activities? There are so few people willing to help out these days, that once they’ve got you involved you never get a break ever again. But you don’t dare resign from your responsibility – there’s no-one else to take your place. It’s a fast-track route to spiritual, emotional and physical burn-out.

Do they go because their friends are there? Bunking church as I do, I see hordes of teens walking the outside-church-doors grounds during the service, throwing stones at the shrubbery, hanging out – anything but being inside! Add a stifling hot or freezing cold day, and who wants to sit on a hard pew through that?

Do they go because they don’t know any other way? Do they go because they think that if they don’t they might end up “unsaved”? Perhaps.

Do they go because they enjoy it? Yes, a few do. They wouldn’t have it any other way. They love the reverent silence, the half-empty pews in a huge, cavernous space that gives them a time to be still and worship quietly. (It drives others of us nuts, but that’s not the point of this particular post)

And this is where the Enlightened vs. Prejudiced thing comes in. Which am I?

It’s something I’m struggling with, seeing things from another angle as I do. Sometimes I think I’ve got the answer to the routine, and if only everyone could see it my way, things would be a lot better. A horribly prideful way to think, this I-know-more-than-you attitude! Which leads me to wonder if I’m simply prejudiced – reacting to the mundane weekly routine and looking down my nose at those who still find it fruitful.

I like to think I’ve seen the light – but I know that “light” for me could be “dark” for someone else. I’ve learnt enough to know that I don’t know it all, and the more I know the less I feel I do – make sense? I’ve learnt that the Journey is different for each of us, and we really don’t have the right to judge someone else’s. All we gotta do is keep following the path our feet have been set on. And hope we don’t crash into other journey-mates, leaving a whole pile of bruises or much deeper injuries.

The thing is, I don’t see church as a building or an event anymore. I see it as wherever God is, there church is – and that’s EVERYWHERE! I’m still struggling with whether church is just life lived in the same direction as God, or whether it requires a gathering together with others on the road – and where the heck I can find those others without having to enter church building doors! I want to see the God-print in everyone around me, see what God is doing in their lives and find a way to join in. I’m still learning how though. I’m still detoxing from a lifetime of “this is how you should do thing”, still learning to listen for God’s voice to me.

In the meantime, I sit and watch my neighbours go to church. I hear the singing from all three groups within 1km of each other (and never the three shall meet!), I hear the fire-and-brimstone shout-preaching from the nearest group, I see the cars full of dressed-up folk arrive and leave. I never see a stranger, I never see someone homeless join them, and something in me rebels at the evangelistic efforts (see a previous post on why I didn’t feel comfortable posting pictures of the latest effort!).

But, sit I do – watching, wondering...

So am I enlightened, or prejudiced? Perhaps a little bit of both.