Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"sheer activity"

My history textbook had this to say about the collapse of the church in America during the late nineteenth century:

"Some churchgoers tended to solve their intellectual confusion through sheer activity."

Activity seems like a logical thing to do when you don't really know what you're doing, but want to seem like you do. It is a good way to add a qualitative element, something that can be counted and presented, to thing like how many people you're reaching, how much change you're affecting, etc. For the past year, however, I've had this growing interest in understanding Church roots, especially as it related to me as a Protestant. I have been embracing the individualistic attitude of protestantism by reading a little of this and a little of that, trying to construct a tapestry of what I believe. I'm trying to solve my intellectual confusion, I suppose. It's harder to be individualistic in this respect, however. For many people, it is easier to set up "laws" in their lives, like "go to church every Sunday and Wednesday," "read the Bible half an hour a day," or "go to a Christian college" (;-) ), and feel as if they are "in line" with God. I think this is, at least in part, our humanly effort to make the will of God come about the way that we want it to. God has been getting messier for me. You can't standardize His will, the Holy Spirit, or discernment. That leaves people in a tricky place. How do we have any sort of organization as a group, either to simply encourage each other or mobilize as a movement to enact change, if our lives don't all have the same plan? Today I read a quote by FB Meyer, a pastor from England who lived from 1847-1929, that sums up my style of Christianity, the one I think I grew up understanding:

"Trust in God give clearness of vision. When we are thinking partly of doing God's work in the world, and partly of lining our own nest, we are in the condition of a man whose eyes do now look in the same direction... We are endeavoring to serve two masters, and our judgment is therefore distorted. Who has not often experienced this? You have tried to ascertain God's will, or to form a right judgment about your life, but constantly your perception of duty has been obscured by the thought that, if you decided in a certain direction, you would interfere with your interests in another. Your eye has not been single, and you have walked in darkness. When, however, you feel so absorbed in God's interests that you are indifferent to your own all becomes clear and you leave Him to care for all the results... The ungodly may worry about the maintenance; but a child of God may be sure that His needs will be supplied."

There is no way for me to judge churches for putting activities over personal spiritual life; of course, God works through activities. "Faith without deeds is dead" (James 2:17). Personally though, it is both a comfort and a conviction to know that activities done because of the leading of the Holy Spirit are the only way for them to succeed. Intellectual confusion isn't the only cause of "sheer activity;" it is that time and devotion haven't been given to the meaning and the Provider of clear vision.

I read somewhere else recently that Christians have become known for their meetings, as opposed to what those meetings actually accomplish. I know that MuKappa isn't a church, but as a subpart of the body of Christ, I hope that this isn't how we're perceived. One of my goals for this year was to add "quality" to our events and I think that we've been accomplishing this, but it's kind of cool and terrifying at the same time to think that we could totally screw up something, and God could still make it a success... Our Spring Retreat was last weekend and I think it went very nicely. All praise to God for that. Truly, everything good that happened was because of Him.

So, another thing I've been thinking about... if you could be part of any social movement throughout history what would it be and why?


Ian Kee said...

that part that you made bold:

When, however, you feel so absorbed in God's interests that you are indifferent to your own all becomes clear and you leave Him to care for all the results...

that's hard! it's so true to strive for that, that so good. and yet so hard.

rebecca. said...

hm. agreed. this was good to hear, love. thanks for sharing.


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