Sunday, September 25, 2005

Why Question?

I will probably continue posting some more of Earl's questions to the pastors because they resonate with some of the questions that I have. But before going on, I just wanted to explain that I now have more of an appreciation for the various expressions of church than I have ever had.

My church experience began with a conservative protestant background and has included a broad spectrum of the charismatic movement. It wasn't until leaving our last church that I realized how much elitism had crept into my beliefs. It was eye-opening to repent of that and to begin to appreciate God's work in many different churches.

I grew up learning to play piano from a hymnbook. Given a few chords, the words to many hymns suddenly flood back to my memory. There are many hymns that I still consider meaningful worship, like "How Great Thou Art?" and "It is Well with My Soul."

I am sure I learned some of the earliest praise choruses from the 70's and 80's. Remember "They'll Know We are Christians by Our Love" and "It Only Takes a Spark"? I had one of the first Living translations of the New Testament with a cover that said "The Greatest of These is Love."

During my charismatic days, I have sung "Shout to the Lord" for over half an hour, and I've been in services where the crowd worshipped in a frenzy to "Days of Elijah." I've been in warfare worship for hours until we "broke through" and also laid on the floor for hours "soaking" to Vineyard tunes.

When I visit my childhood protestant church, I see the kids I went to Sunday School with now as middle-aged parents. They are now the elders and the deacons, acting all responsible (which is weird when you remember what goof-offs they were). I appreciate the traditional feel of a church that has been attended by a family for many generations, families dedicated to raising their children to know the Lord.

When we attend our local community church, I appreciate that they have been able to reach many of the unchurched in our town. As we listen to the message, I appreciate the solid teaching and truth that is presented every week. Truth is truth, and I am fed when the word of God is taught. Whatever spiritual maturity level they are at, the people at this church can apply the truths being taught to their lives.

The majority of people in any church you attend are people who sincerely love God and are living their lives in the way that they understand best expresses that.

So why all the questions?
I don't have answers. I don't know a better way.

In fact, I suspect that some of the things we might try in reaction to our questions will be as ineffective as the thing we are questioning. I don't think simply changing structures and forms is necessarily the answer.

For me, much of the questioning is simply about identifying what I value. My idealism has worn thin, and I'm not sure that I will ever be a part of something that embodies the things I value. In the meantime, I am content to be part of what God is doing in our local community, appreciating His presence and those who desire to serve Him.

This is my place for questioning. As I express all those questions publicly, I guess I just wanted to clarify that I am not opposed to the things that I question.


[rhymes with kerouac] said...

"The majority of people in any church you attend are people who sincerely love God and are living their lives in the way that they understand best expresses that."

And, ultimately, the question is, do we love them as well? I've found that it is so very, very difficult to see what God is doing in the heart, mind or life of another until I am able to truly accept and care for them as they are, where they're at. I have found myself in situations at work where God has made me to see beyond my own self-absorbed little agenda and have been stunned to encounter Christ in the most unlikely of places, people and situations.

We all do the best we can with what we have. Sometimes I'm just not yet able to absorb the questions, never mind the answers.

grace said...

I guess that is what I was getting at. I do love God's people in so many different places, and I don't want my questioning to diminish them.

I'll probably continue to question, but to what end, I don't know.

Pam Hogeweide said...

hey Grace,

i can relate to your confession of elitism.

I've been a Spirit-filled, tongue speaking, prophesying, demon stomping woman of God for some time now. A few years back my family moved to a new city and eventually found a church home in a lovely conservative, evangelical church that did not believe the gifts were for today. I was a closet charismatic in that church, flying low under the radar while praying in the Spirit with my hand over my mouth so as not to upset anyone
Eventually spiritual pride took root in my heart and I began to feel quite special, superior - "I speak in tongues and you don't" - but because God is so kind to me He gently let me know that this was messed up, that His bride is His bride, His blood bought bride whether she speaks in tongues or not, whether she sings worship loudly or softly, whether she embraces the prophetic or runs from it, He desparately loves His bride and proved that through the marriage proposal on the cross. It offends Him if I hold contempt for her in any way.

Like you, I have now come to appreciate the many parts of the body of the Christ, the variety of manifestations of faith and love. We need each other.

I visited a neighborhood church a few weeks ago. Before I went in I breathed a prayer, Oh God, help me not be critical. It's a bent in me, to find fault. As I sat through the service of this "emergent type church" I wondered at the beauty of it all. The worship style was different, of course, but I wasn't there to be entertained, I was there to worship Jesus with the bride. And that perspective, the church is His Bride, is helping preserve my heart from scorning her. Whether she speaks in tongues or not.

[rhymes with kerouac] said...

I feel the same way. I really enjoyed this post, and loved your last line about not being opposed to the things you question.

Lorna said...

Oh thanks for this.

interesting I'm about to blog over the same thoughts. I won't read yours uptil I do mine though, as I think the whole exercise will be very useful for me

I just read generous orthodoxy and it's been very challenging. Have you read it? Your own experiences - and variety of worshipping communities - is part of that story and so good to read.

be blessed :)

grace said...

Pam, I hope people read these comments because you always have such great things to add. I've not really thrown out the things I've learned along the way, but rather than look at them as spiritual stripes on my sleeve, I look at them more as just a part of who I am. I will always be spirit-filled and prophetic, just like I'll always worship, pray, etc.

Hi Lorna, I haven't read it yet. So many books, so little time. :(

Lorna said...

PS one friend once told me - Lorna your gift is asking questions. Since then I've been free to embrace it

fr'nklin said...

Thanks. I've been reading but I've lost my words in the last few weeks. I feel what you're saying. I just want so badly to feel what I once felt...but not at the expense of giving up my questions...does that make sense?

I sometimes wish I could go back. I wish I liked going to church like I once did...but alas, I don't. I haven't left. I wish they'd kick me out...but they won't.

So, here I am...

Reading your blog is therapy. I can't write what's in my heart right now...I'm "stuck in a moment" I'm reading...and just being still...waiting for I don't know what.


grace said...

Lorna, your last comment made a lot of sense to me. Thank you.

Franklin, makes sense to me. I'm afraid we're at kind of an awkward stage, ruined for going back but not released into what's next.

I understand the tension you describe in that, and remind myself to learn what I need to learn in the midst of this awkward stage.