Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Idealism or Cynicism

Maybe they are just two sides of the same coin.

I have come to see the error in my beliefs after sitting for many years under the teaching that God was about to do something great among us and through us.

Under that teaching I committed my time, my money, and my heart with those who were to be my comrades through thick and thin. I also lost sight of the ordinary.

When we sat out of church for six months, the detox was extremely necessary. I was able to see how I had formed my identity around my involvement with the church and with the people there.

I've written before of the benefit and vulnerability of being stripped naked of the things that defined me, becoming dependent on finding my identity in Christ.

I have walked through the season of being reactionary and critical and found myself on the other side where I can recognize God's involvement in different forms of church.

I also learned that my place in the body of Christ doesn't necessitate weekly attendance at a particular building. I understand that I am free to fellowship with other believers however the Lord leads.

In this freedom, we have chosen to attend a local community church. I have compared our attendance there to casual dating with no intention of further commitment. Becoming back-row attenders was working well for us, allowing the time and space for God to deprogram us.

Not knowing what our future plans were, it seemed wise to avoid entanglement. Like any relationship, this casual relationship has now reached the awkward stage of defining the relationship. What are our intentions? Where is this headed?

Can we see ourselves involved here in a deeper way? It is not exaggerating to say that this is the only church in town that isn't a stagnant pool. They are adding to their numbers with previously unchurched people.

I understand that my opportunities for serving in the kingdom are more than just where we attend on Sunday morning.

If not here, then what are we saving ourselves for? The next great thing coming down the pike? All there is is here and now, join in or stand back.

Does the idea of deeper involvement at this church make my heart sing? No, but maybe in time my heart will learn to sing again. Maybe I needed to learn that earth-changing vision is an illusion keeping us from the reality of ordinary service.

In the death of dreams, all is not lost. Selfish motivations have fallen to the wayside along with naivety. Out of the ashes comes the simplicity of the normal Christian life walked in obedience to God, led by His Spirit. No more, no less.

Idealism or cynicism, which is it?
I don't know.


Jim said...

Maybe I needed to learn that earth-changing vision is an illusion keeping us from the reality of ordinary service.

I'm learning more and more that Christ never called us to an earth-changing vision. He simply called us to preach the Gospel to all nations. He Himself during His earthly ministry only ever ministered to single individuals or very small groups (though he did preach on a somewhat larger scale). Earth-changing ministry is great, but very few are ever called to such big things. Most of us are expected to work on a much smaller, more personal, one-on-one scale. And I've really come to believe that this is the biggest way to grow the Kingdom.

(BTW - even church programs can be very effective, but if you take a closer look, you often find that it is through the individual, personal relationship of each of the program's members with other people that has made the difference.)

Jim said...

How often you have two Jim's respond, one after the other, I don't know, but reading you is like looking into a mirror. Been there. Done that. Here I sit. Nuff said. You say it much better.....

Inheritor of Heaven said...

In "Life Together" Dietrich Bonhoeffer says that the church cannot be a "wish dream" it is what God made it to be. I think your comment about the simplicity of the normal Christian life walked in obedience to God, led by His Spirit is what he is talking about. I think that occurs in community (the church). I also think the church has not been functioning exactly as intended for a while now. The people expect the Pastor to do and lead everything and the Pastor usually allows it. The Pastors usually don't let the people do the work of the ministry much less train them to do it. We are starting to see a change in our church in that respect though on the part of the laity I am not so sure they want the responsibility of doing the ministry because it is out of their comfort zone. And we all know that as Americans anyway we kind of like our comfort. (That last sentence was for me to hear too.) I think your "selfish motivations have fallen to the wayside along with naivety" speaks to that issue.

Bruce said...

Idealism or cynicism? Maybe realism? I absolutley love the way you write. I may not comment everytime, but I read often. I wonder when service and Christianity got all tied up in our involvement to a particular church? I pray that God speaks to you in that back pew and lets you know where He wants you to be, what He wants you to do. Your line, "the simplicity of the normal Christian life walked in obedience to God" pretty much sums it up, does it not?

Journey on.

Cori said...

I've just finished working through Henry Blackaby's workbook, Experiencing God while at the same time immersing myself in Emergent thinking. On the one hand, I'm challenged by what Blackaby says about expecting God to do God-size stuff. On the other, I can completely see where you're coming from and have also experienced churches so focussed on doing these 'big' things (how many 'new revivals' don't start and fail?) that they lose sight of 'ordinary' service. I'm struggling to put these two ideas together.

But thanks for this post. It is thought provoking and challenging.

[rhymes with kerouac] said...

Personally, I think idealism and cynicism are opposite sides of the same coin. What differentiates the two is the presence or absence of hope.

And you're not alone in experiencing them both simultaneously.

I'm okay, you're okay. Let's order the nachos...

grace said...

Jim (#1),
I've always enjoyed our opportunities to minister to individuals. However, we lost that in the church setting when we left our former church. I don't know if that is something we will pursue in this church.

I believe that I am supposed to be learning to recognize opportunities to minister and serve outside of a church setting. It has been challenging, and I often feel inadequate.

Jim (#2),
It's nice to meet you. How are you doing in all of this?

I believe in changing the clergy/laity model that we are so familiar with. However, I agree with you that the laity are as resistant to change as the clergy are. Honestly, this is something I see as being very difficult to change in our consumer church culture.

Thank you for your encouragement. It means a lot to me. I hope God speaks to me too. What you said about service is so true. As I said earlier to Jim, I'm trying to unlearn service as only connected to a particular church.

I enjoyed "Experiencing God". I often remember his teaching to find where God is at work and make yourself a part of what He is doing. Maybe that ties it all together - we do our small part, and God does His God-size stuff.

So I'm either an idealistic cynic or a cynical idealist?
Nachos sound great! It's nice to see you.

[rhymes with kerouac] said...

Um both, actually...

Oh no! Dualism! No! Make it stop!!!

It's always nice to be here, Grace. I don't climb out of the lurking pool all that often, but I always enjoying hanging out...

grace said...

I understand lurking. I do plenty of that myself. :)