Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thoughts on Church (and still thinking)

(I wrote this about a year ago, as I was taking my last semester of classes at Taylor)

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 gives 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 not 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 whether a church is putting activities over personal spiritual life (or the reverse for that matter); of course, God works through activities. "Faith without deeds is dead" (James 2:17). It gives me comfort to know, however, that activities done because of the leading of the Holy Spirit are the only way for them to succeed.

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... 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 is... if you could be part of any social movement throughout history what would it be and why?

I think that I would work with Jane Addams in the slum settlement houses of the early 1900's...


Anonymous said...

The thought I had on the quote is if someone set and handle some actions as a God's will for him and as right things to do then what about the rest? I don't think our doing any everyday things (not sins sure) makes any difference for God. Every our action made for a useful purpose is important in this way.

Эми said...

Max, I think that sometimes people become more focused on doing work for God than actually building a relationship with God, especially if they have doubts or questions. In other words, it's sometimes easier to be busy than to be honest with yourself.

But yes, God can work through our actions despite our intentions.


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