Friday, November 30, 2007

It Takes Time

Getting together in large gatherings to celebrate something special is a wonderful human experience. Developing strong friendships that are open and strengthen each other is life giving. Of these two time commitments, which one needs the most time?

Christmas is a wonderful time of family celebrations. The joy and expectation of getting together with extended family and friends has great meaning for many people. The routines of life are set aside in order to focus on this special time. However if Christmas was celebrated every week something would be lost.

I was talking to a friend of mine who is a pastor. He was saying that Sunday services, which he believes are celebrations, are becoming hum drum. His answer is that more time, money and creativity need to be put into these celebrations to make them more vibrant. Maybe the answer is very simple. It’s just a matter of too much of a good thing. We should put more time, energy and creativity into corporate celebrations but why not just less of them. Has anyone considered that maybe God gets bored with our weekly celebrations?

Friendships, on the other hand take a lot of personal investment. They take a lot of time. No third party planning makes friendships work. A pastor can't do this for you. Both have to be willing to give time, energy and heart to make them valuable. A different friend was telling me that it was normal for good friends to grow apart because of commitments to different Sunday services.

Somehow something got skewed along the way in our priorities for time. It takes a lot of time and personal investment to build great friendships, whereas if we give too much time to celebrations they become hum drum and boring. Somehow the general pattern of church life has reversed these time commitments.

It is a rare thing to see someone giving up their time for a celebration service to see a friend who is going through a time of depression or helping someone in need. The parable of the Good Samaritan comes to mind as I write these things.

On a personal note, as I have been questioning the value of Sunday services and church practices, it's been a roller coaster ride filled with dark times of depression mixed with exhilarating times of joy in the One who never fit inside the box of religion. As I rail out at times, only a few who said they were my friends have stuck with me on this journey. Those who think I am in a "backslidden state" because of not attending a church service have never once given up a service to be with me. The general rule is that we can only be loved when we are loveable or have something to offer. As I point my finger I am well aware of my own hypocrisy for doing the same things.

What is Christianity about if it is not about loving God by loving our friends? 1John 4:20 (NIV) If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

A common greeting in a church service after you’ve been away for awhile is, “we missed you.” Sadly, the person saying this line doesn’t realize how damning that expression is. I know many committed Christians whose only means of building friendships comes through the banter that we fit in before and after a service.

What if we became committed to building friendships and once in awhile had a time of corporate celebration? Is it possible that the friendships would go from being just casual greetings to mutual building up of one another? Is it possible that we would regain the wonder of celebration and corporate worship instead of just another weekly meeting?

What’s in the way of changing our time commitments regarding spiritual development?

1. MONEY. It would be difficult for pastors to justify their salaries and building programs without a weekly gathering.
(50% of church budgets are dedicated to celebratory gatherings. Another 40% goes to programs that exist because of the Sunday services.)

2. We like it the way it is.

3. God said we need a weekly corporate gathering.

I could be just speaking to the wind in all of this. After all, Jesus did say that the world would know that we are His disciples by going to church once a week.

1 comment:

Jamie A. Grant said...

Ooh, nice post. It had some honest and reflective things in there about yourself. The part that stood out for me was the people that think you're backslidden that will not give up a Sunday service to have coffee with you.

I also like the bit about how a third party (like a church) can never make a friendship work. It always comes down to the two people themselves.