Thursday, January 20, 2011
Well, it's been awhile, Misfits. Feels good to be back! Hope you are all well and happy and life is treating you with fluffy bunny paws.
I just returned from reading Jason Boyett's blog over at www.jasonboyett.com (click on Blog) where he introduced his readers to
"My long-time friend, Mentanna, is a former career missionary trying to make the transition back to life in the United States. She and her family have been visiting churches in the "Bible Belt" and trying to find a place to get involved."
He then gave links to her own blog where she expresses some very important observations that all pastors and church people need to read, and asked for comments. When I tried to leave my own response to her insightful post, the comment gizmo told me it was too long. That was when I knew it was time for me to get back to my Misfits, because that's really what her blog was about.
Us. The Misfits. The ones who don't fit into church very well. The ones who really want to find a church home, but are just too socially awkward or too hurt or too confused to make it through more than one visit at any one place. So please go to Jason's site and read that blog, and then come back here and read my comments, if you would be so kind. And then, I'd like to hear yours.
Thanks. Here's what I wanted to post on Mentanna's site andJ
Great post. May I add a few comments?
Dear church pastor -- when I was a kid the pastor stood at the door when the congregation left and shook hands with everyone and spoke a few words to each who stopped. What ever happened to that kindness? At the churches we have visited (with the exception of the one that my daughter attends) we are lucky if the pastor will talk to us even if we WALK UP TO HIM. I can't tell you how many times I have gone up to a pastor and waited while he spoke to other people, obviously people he knew, while I stood waiting to say hello, introduce myself or ask a question. More times than not I ended up turning around and walking away and feeling stupid.
And if I do get an "audience" with you, dear pastor, you usually make me understand very quickly that you are not a "people" person. You are a good speaker, eloquent and sincere. But you don't seem to be able to connect with me as a person, or even seem to want to. It reminds me of what is said about surgeons. They are great doctors, but have terrible bedside manners. But here's one thing you should know -- When you look right past me as you mutter a few words of welcome that I feel I forced you to say because I was standing in front of you, I know that your church is not the church for me.
I do want the church body to participate as elders and stewards and such, but it is still important to me to have a relationship with the Pastor, that one guy who represents the church, and trust me, whether you like it or not, you are representing your church--and Jesus--in all that you do, just like the rest of us.
Being friendly takes just a minute of your time. Even standing at the door after the service. I promise, most people will just go around you because they are ready for lunch. But the visitors, people like me, are looking for that one minute of time when they can look into your eyes and talk to you and see if you are the kind of pastor they can follow.
And by the way, at the end of the sermon, is there any chance that the pastor or someone might invite people to come down and pray or come to him or one of the other staff members for prayer, and give more than two minutes to see if anyone comes? That would be nice.
Concerning worship -- I love modern worship, choruses, bands, the whole deal. But here's the problem. In every church I've visited that has a worship band, it seems to be a closed club. How does one join? It has the feeling of being very exclusive, almost like a country club. One must be invited it seems, to become one of the chosen. There is no advertised method of joining. Most of the time it seems a person would have to actually go up to the music leader (usually also NOT a people person) and say, "Hey, I feel called to sing for the Lord, can I be in your band?"
The problem is, most misfits could never ever do that. It sounds too egotistical, too presumptuous, too arrogant. I know because my situation is even worse. I feel called to write Christian music and sing it. But where? How? And I don't have the gift of leading worship in a church service, that's a totally different thing altogether. I believe it is possible to worship through a song someone else is singing. Why else do we listen to Christian CDs? But how does that gift fit into the church today? It is, quite frankly, a quandry of mine.
I used to go to the Baptist church before I became a nondenominational person. The advantage of being a Baptist (or for that matter any other "regular" denomination) is that there is always somewhere you can fit in. There is a choir. There is a women's bible study. There is a group that helps with community needs. There is Sunday School. Unfortunately, there is also the other side of that coin--a formality, a traditionalism. Yes, I want my cake and eat it too.
The problem with nondenominational churches now is that besides home groups, it is difficult for a visitor to walk in and immediately find a place within the church structure where he/she can feel a part of things and have a way to get to know people. I personally feel very shy about going to someone's house for home group when I don't know anyone in the church or group very well. But if I know that the Feed the Hungry group meets on Wednesday night at 6 at the church, then that's something I can handle. Can't we have both organization and informality?
In my opinion, the actual Sunday morning meeting of most churches, especially nondenominational churches, needs to evolve, needs to become a place where there is ORGANIZED FRIENDLINESS, which can be expressed in a number ways, which I've mentioned above.
The cold hard fact is this: People seeking a new church have usually been hurt by the old one. We are looking for kindness and a way to fit in, and we want to believe the possibility that there is a place for us in YOUR church, until you prove us wrong.
The truth is, some of us are rather desperate to find that place. Show us a little kindness and a little organization of HOW we can fit in, and chances are, we will be back.