We don’t all fit neatly into the “church people” box. Some of us are quite prone to question and push and pull a bit to see exactly what this box is… David’s post today continues our exploration into what we’ve deemed “the church rebel,” and addresses an outworking of the quasi-PTSD many of us carry– distrust of churches.
Distrust of churches
A year ago, I went out for coffee with one of my pastors. As we were leaving he invited me to the weekly men’s Bible study. I had more interest in swallowing a handful of carpet staples than going to a men’s ministry event, but I couldn’t just say that, so I asked him what they did during their studies. He described it, and I said something like, “I don’t know, it just sounds so churchy.” He told me to stop being such a nonconformist, we laughed, and then I still didn’t go to the men’s Bible study. Ever.
This type of experience repeats itself on a regular basis. I read a church bulletin or sit through a service and make a mental checklist of all the stuff that makes me cringe or bristle. If this happens to you, you already know exactly what I’m talking about.
Thoughts for rebels:
I’m having trouble thinking of any church rebels, from authors down to us normal folk, who came to faith as an adult. Almost all of us who would describe ourselves this way grew up in churches. We’ve seen the silliness, the politics, the illogical rules, the poorly supported apologetics, the manipulation and guilt, the warring factions. We’ve been burned. And no number of positive experiences can keep us from being wary of anything that looks like it might be getting ready to pull a tract out of the pocket of its pleated khakis.
Look, I’m with you on this. I feel the same way. I visit a new church service waiting for the first thing that will annoy me, the first catchphrase that implies more than the sum of its syllables, the doctrinal given that I find to be anything but given. But holding church at arm’s length because of bad experiences in the past is like giving up on eating after you’ve had food poisoning – what you’re protecting yourself from is not nearly as bad as what you’re doing to yourself in the process. By all means be careful. Take your time before committing to a church. Goodness knows that’s what Lyndie and I are doing. But don’t let caution turn into callousness. Churches are imperfect collections of broken people; they will have problems. Show grace and love, and allow other people to be themselves.
Thoughts for churches:
Listen to people’s stories. Find out why they’re at your church, and why they left the last one and the one before that; find out how they grew up, how they came to faith, the positive and negative expressions of church they’ve experienced. The resistance they offer to various ministries or practices in your church may be because they’ve been hurt in similar situations in the past. Don’t rush them or guilt them into participating if they don’t want to. Give them time. Show them you value relationships more than programs and people more than principles. Reassure them they can be who they are in your church with their eccentricities, fears and differing convictions intact.