Tuesday, July 17, 2007

to be or not to be?

The funniest thing happened to Jamie last week. Among the seventy or so students we work with, we have two British kids. One is an English girl, and the other is a Northern Irish Gypsy (a term which, apparently, is not pc over here, but whatever…). Our Irish kid (I mean Northern Irish…you people really need to get over it) has a bit of a temper (go figure) and is this funny little caricature of what most Americans think Irish males are like (and to be fair…). This one, in particular, is very issue laden and manages to wrestle with ADHD and, if he were American, anger management issues but, since he’s not American, is simply identified as a kid who wasn’t raised very well (I tend to lean more towards the British way of thinking on this one). Anyway, in a move that will go down in the annals of our experiences working with kids over the years, the other day a girl in the club really ticked him off. I mean REALLY ticked him off. Normally this would send him into a rage that would invariably end with he and somebody else in a fist fight, but Jamie’s been working with him for about two years, and on this day that work became evident for, instead of lashing out violently at this girl, he simply spun around, looked at Jamie, and shouted “MISS, WILL YOU PLEASE TELL ASIMA TO SHUT THE F*** UP!!!” Jamie thought it was such a funny request that she nearly did ask Asima to shut the f*** up, but thought better of it. Still, he’s moving in the right direction.

(on a side note Mel, you might remember his older sister. she was a part of our clubs when you were around.)

The question of “what is church” is always on my mind. I couldn’t tell you when I started asking that question, but I can tell you when it came to the forefront of every concern I have about the Church. I was working in an advisory role with a church who had recently purchased a roller skating rink to use as part of their ministry in the local community. After about a year, they had 350 young people coming through the doors of that rink each week, with about 50 attending a Bible study in that same rink on Wednesday nights. In the three years that I was involved in advising this ministry, however, this same church hired and fired three separate youth ministers on the basis that they were never able to bridge the gap between the roller skating rink and the Sunday morning congregation of this church. In other words, they could never get those kids who showed up for the Bible study on Wednesday nights, to show up for worship over at the church building on Sunday mornings. This ticked me off to no end because (a) As many churches often do, they were invalidating what was taking place on Wednesday nights. Was this Bible study, somehow, not church? Explain that one to me? In fact, explain to me how the youth worship service at your church isn’t church? (b) Never ever did anybody make the connection that, if young people (or any new people at all, for that matter) weren’t interested in attending their Sunday morning worship service, maybe the way they approached Sunday morning services just wasn’t relevant to that particular community. And (c), why does everybody always suggest that it is the young people who should join the adults for worship, rather than the other way around? I’ve been involved in several churches, and have advised several more, where the youth congregation was the only one that was growing. Seems to me that they’ve earned the right to keep doing things exactly as they’re doing them, and that the adults have lost the right to call their particular service “the main worship service”. I always wondered why the adult congregation of that church didn’t simply start attending the Wednesday evening Bible study? It’s like this church had a half hearted heart for mission, but didn’t have a mind for it at all.

Recently a pastor friend shared that one of the mothers who attended their mom and tots group had decided to have their baby dedicated, but that they wanted to do it during the mom and tots time in the middle of the week. In this mother’s words, “this was her church”. I sat in the midst of a group of pastors, wondering if anybody else had truly just heard the message that was shared. What is church? THE definition doesn’t need to change, but our modern day understanding (and possibly expression of it) does. In this ever changing world that we find ourselves living in, one of the commonalities that I find throughout many parts of the world, and throughout many different cultures, is that people are not finding our traditional expression of church (show up on Sundays) very fulfilling at all. Furthermore, many, many people do not trust “the church” these days and so, while they may be open to more casual conversations and even expressions of church, they just aren’t interested in walking through the doors of many church buildings. And please understand that when I say “casual”, I don’t mean “less committed”. In our current situation, volunteers are beginning to appear from the midst of the very people that we’re ministering to. Bare in mind that we’ve never ever asked these people to volunteer, they’ve just started showing up.

I once was involved in a cell group, made up mostly of life long Christians, but with one girl in it who hadn’t been a Christian her whole life and who spent her weekends as a jazz singer. One night, as we were discussing the idea of “what is church”, she expressed that she felt more loved and embraced at the jazz clubs where she sang, than in the church. This, of course, started up an uproar among the extremely defensive Christians in our group, but it continued the process in my own mind of re-evaluating this idea of church and trying to remember what exactly it meant to “be” church.

Ever go on a mission trip and come back feeling completely liberated and fulfilled? Try “being” church. You might just find that that feeling of liberation and fulfilment don’t have to be just a temporary thing.

Comments on "to be or not to be?"


Blogger Trent said ... (3:44 PM) : 

But Tim, the tithes and offerings of the adults makes the wednesday night meeting possible. Maybe if the teenagers were raised like we were they would be a little more respectful and understand the value of honoring their elders...

I hear what you are saying Tim. Why is it that the church has not done a better job of getting the members to look at the fields that are white for harvest?


Blogger Mel Reynolds said ... (6:52 PM) : 

yikes Trent...

So Tim, you're now just assuming I read your blog...I do. And I laughed my ass off. I can just see Jamie's reaction. I would have had to take five and hide in the office to laugh it out.


Blogger Trent said ... (9:37 PM) : 

You don't think I mean the first paragraph like its me saying that, do you?

I hope not but I have heard that very thing said to me when I was young, long, long ago.


Blogger Tim said ... (9:42 PM) : 

It's ok Trent, I knew you were kidding. I take very little of what you say seriously. : )


Blogger chris c. said ... (4:44 PM) : 

ok, im gonna be a new comment on this for you tim, and you will probably get an email from me sometime this week (im a friend or trents). let me say how much i love this post in two words, simply wonderful. i have no idea of what church is, i grew up in the pews, and now that im a college student at a baptist school the pews dont seem to do it for me anymore, i have experienced god more in the last year in the coffee shops, the house church that is us asking questions and fellowshipping together, and on the side of a mountain. i understand that we should attend a service and i dont doubt gods ability to work in me while i sit in the pews, he has just this week actually, but i cant help but wonder if that is really church, did the early church thrive on tradition or the idea of fellowship and community (and thats not a statement but an actuall question that i dont know the answer to) anyways,

thank you for your posts, between you and trent i have been asking and dealing with the tough questions and with myself. i hope your day is wonderful.


Blogger Mel Reynolds said ... (1:58 PM) : 

my bad...typing sarcasm didn't translate.


Blogger Larry said ... (5:08 PM) : 

interesting post. there have been some of us wrestling with this for years. Tim, i remember that nearly 10 years ago when we met, we had a conversation very much along this line.

i like the idea of being casual but committed. i think it is an idea whose time came during the early church and now has come again. being casual is not being defined by a structure. being committed is having your life molded by the Spirit. as a living organism the church in it various incarnations, needs casual style with committed lives.

got a couple of emails i need to answer from you.

talk to you later.


Blogger anniebuck2 said ... (4:35 AM) : 


Thanks for the post. As usual, you have thought provoking posts, that encourage me to think deeper.

Anyway, when I was reading about the Wednesday night youth service, I was reminded of the youth group, I as a part of in high school (not army). Since, I've been to college, the youth group has exploded with kids that don't even attend the church it's held at! And there adults that volunteer to be there (3 grandmas, a couple men, and women).It has been a beautiful thing to watch adults reaching out to youth regardless if they go to the church or not. And, I've witnessed them worship...all I can say is wow. Young boys, crying out to the Lord in their singing...the passion among these youths is incredible.

People seem to naturally resist change. But there are those that are listening to the Lord's voice, and they realize that the youth need them, to teach and show the way. perhaps, one day, the attitude will change among the church that this wednesday night service takes place.


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