Monday, May 29, 2006

a stranger in court



























verily i say unto you...

if exclusion is anti-love then hell is the most exclusive club in town.

it is the nightclub with all the lights and none of the warmth of human conversation- a place where everyone is waiting for someone else more interesting to arrive.

it is being utterly alone in a cold crowd and unable to leave, yet aware of a really great house party just across the street

to what degree does the house of God feel like this to the stranger seeking the taste of hope and the sound of love?

***

you know what i find interesting?
this began as a leftover on another blog- a short metaphor about hell with one little line of question at the end for the institutional church- and turned into something else in the comment box.
(http://northvus.blogspot.com/2006/05/chill.html)

In the end though, the ball falls in both courts...people need to walk into a church and not have an invisible "bar" which all churches are expected to meet. they also need to know that things don't happen overnight. -cinder

okay, this was about hell first, BUT if we are going to see the last line as the point, then let's deal with this idyllic 'stranger' at face value...

the stranger at the end is seeking the taste of hope and the sound of love... one earnestly seeking these things has already come to the net in the 'both courts' analogy and is standing with a hand outstretched, not realizing that we shake hands at the end of a game.

this person is new and doesn't know the rules. this person has come more to hook up with some new people, learn a new game and develop some new aspects of his or her character than to actually win anything. here he or she stands looking and feeling a bit socially awkward, and wondering why the people with whom he or she has come to play are always standing outside the court, poised and ready for a serve instead of coming to the net to greet.

honestly? the fact that the newcomer has even found our little tennis club is a pretty amazing thing, considering all the opposition that has been leveled against him or her from everyone in the spiritual realm who sees even the investigation of a tennis match as a threat.

okay, enough analogizing... i'm getting bogged down and i think i have something to say.

we are sometimes guilty of expecting everyone to know everything about this weird environment called 'church' before they get there. it is very unnatural for people to go to a place in order to investigate an ideology or a theology or a whateverology... especially in canada where we have this fear and mistrust of institutions in general and authority figures in particular. introduce an institution like church with its sovereign authority figure (and all the noisy little subordinate ones like me) into the ongoing life-dialogue of a canadian and then see how ready that canadian is to go to a meeting. as cinder was stating, different people do come bringing with them different experiences which inform everything that happens next, colour everything they perceive and prompt their every action.

so this is where the current rhetoric of the 'go-to church' versus the 'come-to church' links up with our social reality. the church needs to go to the people, not expect the people to come to it. (i think that societyVs has said this once or twice in his social gospel of justice and active love, yeah?) the people of the church need to recognize that if their meetings are the only thing that they do on planet earth then they might be falling a little short of the great commission- no matter how high quality their meetings are.

our church is learning this- she is taking a long time because there were a couple decades under a number of different leaders where the status quo was to just flip the switch on the holy tractor beam and suck the seekers into her midst, but she is indeed learning. she is mobilizing. she is initiating. she is engaging. there is hope for her.

but any canadian who comes in the door has already gotten up, chosen clothes, rearranged sunday breakfast/brunch habits, in some cases battled family before during and after battling traffic lights and the clock which brings them ever closer to the eleventh hour (or whatever- you pick the time), found parking and made their way up the steps and through that door... in the face of, along with everything else, the canadian ethos.

they've already come a long way to meet in the middle.

so to what degree, after all that, does the church feel like "the nightclub with all the lights and none of the warmth of human conversation- a place where everyone is waiting for someone else more interesting to arrive"?

that's the ache i feel. just as societyVs was saying in his comments, i pray that when someone does get here that they will actually want to become part of this fellowship. i pray that, having overcome all of that (not to mention countless other spiritual and psychological missiles launched in the spiritual realm) in order to get to a building marked for the purpose of glorifying God, that the meal at the end of the journey and the laughter and warmth around the table reflect God's love and welcome for that person in every way.

but with all this thought about how to get people to come to the church, i am constantly trying to dream up meaningful ways to leave it.

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13 Comments:

Blogger Cinder said...

i need to say that it was a really good little metaphor. i don't know why, but there are those days when one word or line just radiate in my brain, despite what else has been written.

"that's the ache i feel. just as societyVs was saying in his comments, i pray that when someone does get here that they will actually want to become part of this fellowship. i pray that, having overcome all of that (not to mention countless other spiritual and psychological missiles launched in the spiritual realm) in order to get to a building marked for the purpose of glorifying God, that the meal at the end of the journey and the laughter and warmth around the table reflect God's love and welcome for that person in every way."

I echo this prayer...getting to that door, whether for the first time or coming to a new door, is the hardest part...speaking personally, being able to truly experience God's love and grace through the welcome of His servants in a situation which is 'new and therefore somewhat overwhelming'is a truly amazing and humbling experience...one i now do not regret being led to take.

5/29/2006  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

I love these kind of blogs, where we know what is and what should never be. Funny thing happened to me the other day, I got sick of having all the answers. Found out, this world is even more stubborn than I thought, they won't listen to me.
Fellowship, also happens in all the wrong places for me. I was out drinking with friends and we all got to arguing church politics, to me the funnest thing in the world to argue. Anyways we ended up meeting someone that used to attend the church I now attend. We invited him over for drinks and it was a great conversation. Maybe the dude might come back to church?
Irrelevant. Irreverent. We met in the middle.
I am also figuring out other ways to meet the world in it's places. I have a fundraiser we are working on with the Action Group, we call it 'can't beat this meat', inspired by this 1 pound burger that is the meal. We are going to have poker and pool, maybe karoake also. It's a chance for the people of the church to meet real people out there, who are supporting a good cause. I am an idiot, funny, but an idiot.
I attend FN Alliance and I am me.

5/29/2006  
Blogger Cinder said...

hey society...i wouldn't say fellowship's happening in the wrong places...it's happening where it's supposed to. when you meet people in the middle, it takes on a variety of surroundings...nothing wrong with that!

Action Group's fundraiser sounds like a great idea and a lot of fun. being able to sit, eat and play cards, pool or whatever, is definitely the best way to just lay back and do life, but like you say, give the church crowd a chance to meet real people.

5/29/2006  
Blogger Pastor Josh said...

It is true that church's are not active enough. The most often that a person will come off the street to a church is when they need something. The church's responsibilty is to reach the community that's around them. To show that they do care for them. I am so blessed to be at a church were the pastor's heart is just that. We really do need more church's to follow. God said to love thy neighbor as thy self. Well if you're not out spreading the gospel to the lost. It would be hard to love the neighbor. Holding life changing information from them. Nice blog

5/29/2006  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

nice zeppelin quote, SVS.

i have to agree with cinder... if fellowship is happening, how can we say it's in the wrong place? i mean, what are the chances of getting some people into a church or a home bible study or even your car with worship tunes on the cd player... nil to less, i think.

i know people like that anyway.

it's not like you are compromising your integrity or your morality and calling it 'ministry.' this is just some guys out having a beer with Christ at the centre of their conversation, right?

i googled 'Jesus glutton drunkard' looking for a classic cslewis quote from 'mere christianity' and also just now to see what else would come up. there was a very interesting article from one of the intervarsity guys at

http://www.studentjourney.org/articles/v/28/

i think that, in meeting people where they live in order to invite them to a walk of liberty and freedom, you are in good company.

shalom

5/31/2006  
Blogger curious servant said...

First... I need to admit that I haven't read the above post. I am dead tired, can't hardly see straight. So I'll have to catch up later. Been a lot going on...

But I wanted to touch base with you on the science thing. I would love to pursue that topic (carefully) with you. But I do not wish to shake anyone's faith and there are some of my readers who I believe would wonder about God's truth if certain concepts were shaken. I believe they are putting too much credence in a side issue, but whatever...

Going to go take a nap now...

5/31/2006  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

Down with debauchery, up with waving of little purple and white flags.

5/31/2006  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

"I believe they are putting too much credence in a side issue..."

yes, CS, i believe you are onto something here.

because we haven't known each other very long, you might not know that i punched out two or three attempts at sorting out the place of some of these 'side issues' in may and june of 2005.

(shameless self-promotion, i know, but it saves me trying to think and organize the same thoughts in what would probably be the same way but not as clearly. isn't that what happens anytime you write something and then the computer crashes? you come up with something that is only close to where you were going when you lost it all. i've stopped trying.)

as for not reading the above post... that's it- you're off my Christmas list!!

anyway, the post cited below is as good a place to start our dialogue as any:

http://e-pistles.blogspot.com/2005/06/finding-neo.html

6/01/2006  
Blogger EternaLee said...

My four years at the U of R had me thinking the Church needed ten times the effort there that it had. While Muslims, Homosexuals, Socialists, and other groups were using every lever possible to put forward their agenda, we were not.

I became IVCF president in my second year, but decided it wasn't the wineskin to do what I had in mind. I formed my own campus club, but fell far short of my goals. I didn't have the time, resources, or perhaps the courage to do what I envisioned. We ran two alpha courses, had some speaker events, and that was it.

A few observations for reformers in the church (not towards jollybeggar in particular):

1) We have to watch our hearts. The Church is Christ's bride. Don't degrade her with how you describe her.

2) Reformers and revolutionaries will need the Church to fulfill any vision of extending its outreach. Don't bite the hand that feeds you.

3) If you get bitter and cynical you will poison those around you and ultimately do worse than the Sunday Christians you're trying not to be.

4) The Church is YOU, not some entity you stand aloof from.

I believe the Church will turn from caterpillar to butterfly. Let's be part of the transformation!

6/05/2006  
Blogger Pastor Josh said...

you've been tagged. Go to my blog to find what to do.

6/06/2006  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

thanks lee- yes the bride of Christ is one dear to his heart. the great hope that i often cling to (the transformational one to which you refer with the caterpillar/butterfly analogy) for myself and my friends is that she is still in preparation for the wedding... she is not yet ready.

as we read in some of the stuff attributed to solomon, and the book of esther, (not to mention,of course, 'the princess bride' by william goldman!) the girl, no matter how beautiful, is only potentially the bride of the king. she isn't hamburger helper or some instant meal from a can, she is a banquet that takes great time to prepare.

i agree that it is of no value to stand aloof, nor is it of any positive consequence to be hyper-critical of the church when she is the apple of God's eye... one to whom he has pledged his love even to the extent of dying for her.

i think i blogged something like that once upon a time... who can say?

shalom

6/06/2006  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

Yeah but Lee you're talking about church as something that is reforming the society around it, is it anymore? I may be talking 'trash' about the church but I understand the poetic idealogy Beggar just mentioned, I want to see a return to the roots. Just what are those roots and is the church (I generalize) really doing that?

6/07/2006  
Blogger SocietyVs said...

From a caterpillar to a butterfly, even in that analogy something dies off, sheds away. Reformation can't happen without a '99 problems and a b*tch ain't one' thesis being nailed to the church door. What church door to be exact, who knows there are tonnes of denominations who heed no one. We won't be seing another Luther but this revolution will be televised.

6/07/2006  

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