Posted by: mamaamy | March 13, 2008

E-Conversation on Frustration in the Church

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Microsoft Word Version: E-Conversation on Frustration in the Church Document

Amy- Thanks for getting back with me! Church is okay. We like the pastor. He is a solid, real believer and we have a lot of respect for him. What is lacking is the same thing we have whined about for years, the fellowship. My husband and I are convinced that this is just a lost art that nobody in the church (universal) understands anymore. It is such a lost concept, that nobody even desires it anymore or even realizes they should desire it. That part is more than frustrating for us. But we hate to talk about it, b/c you all and other friends have heard us WHINE about it for years now. WAH! We have kind of decided that we must just be malcontents who can’t enjoy the other “church” things that other believers seem to enjoy and find fulfillment in. We think maybe it’s just something wrong with us to desire a deeper level of life in the Body. Maybe it’s just a longing for the Garden or Heaven that cannot be fulfilled here on earth, or maybe it’s some kind of idolatry problem. We don’t know, but we’re a little weary of ourselves and everyone else too. That’s kind of awful sounding, isn’t it? We’re tired of complaining about the same old things, and at the same time we’re tired of having it (lack of fellowship) to complain about.

Hello,

As I read what you wrote concerning church, I have much that I would like to say so I decided to write a separate email. We’ll see if I can get it out:

You say: “What is lacking is the same thing we have whined about for years, the fellowship. J and I are convinced that this is just a lost art that nobody in the church (universal) understands anymore. It is such a lost concept, that nobody even desires it anymore or even realizes they should desire it.” And I say: “Amen” You say: “But we hate to talk about it, b/c you all and other friends have heard us WHINE about it for years now. WAH!” I say: “Don’t just whine—yell and mourn.” You say: “We must just be malcontents who can’t enjoy the other “church” things that other believers seem to enjoy and find fulfillment in.” I say: “Hurray!!!!” Now much of the rest of what you say is a lie and not the Lord speaking but the frustration. (“We think maybe it’s just something wrong with us to desire a deeper level of life in the Body. Maybe it’s just a longing for the Garden or Heaven that cannot be fulfilled here on earth, or maybe its some kind of idolatry problem.)
Consider it a great thing, dear friends, that you are not finding contentment in the sad shape that the church finds itself in—rather I should say that you find it in, because it doesn’t find itself in that place at all. As you said the church seems to be content and cruising along in this state of unwary bliss. I am quite convinced that this is the very natural state of things. Our enemy, Satan, has time, though a limited amount, to set up the systems of this world to try to draw men unto themselves (thus away from God). He knows the state of mankind from the fall– that it is mankinds goal and their fallen nature to provide for themselves and protect themselves. He is using this to draw men away from fellowship with God (walking with Him in the cool of the day) and tempt them to set themselves up as gods for the fulfillment of temporary pleasures: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. He justifies his own pride by this. We do have an enemy and his tactics are subtle. He will in time make the systems of this world so useful and appealing that to “receive” the mark will be a natural, unsuspecting occurrence. It says in the scriptures that men will receive it; it will not be forced upon them. Those that can sit in a service and be entertained by the show can also go home and be entertained by the other forms of media and technology that will continue to lull men into that state which can no longer say “I am not content to enjoy all these ‘church” things.” The Soma of our day is to be drawn into the systems of this world and become reliant on them. Religion is one of those systems. It is of this world—the Kosmos.

By its nature—the nature of the kosmos, church will not have what is truly fulfilling to the believer. I am not saying that there is no fellowship in churches and that we should not go. As you know there was a time that the Lord clearly showed us to go to church and we met some of our dearest friends at that church. It was useful and fruitful. It is possible that as our children grow older and want to find more friendships that He will show us to go back again. There is a place for church in the life of a believer. But if we rely on it to bring us into maturity in Christ, or we rely on it for true fellowship with believers or we rely on it to supply anything beyond that which the Lord has desired it to supply for a time and a season in our lives then we will surely be disappointed—if we are not sleeping. Christ is our all in all. He is the One to supply all. He is our provider in everything. By all means want more than what the church supplies. You are the Church, the called out ones. You should not be content in that place. The Bible says, “Make use of the world, but not as though you are making full use of it.” Make use of church, but don’t set your expectations that it will be satisfying. Don’t go to church expecting true fellowship.

The next question that logically follows is: What, then, do we do for true fellowship? That is an ongoing question, but that does not assume that there is no answer. First of all true fellowship, by definition is having “social intercourse.” That is a scary definition! Mitch has studied it and that is the definition. Well most people are not going to be willing to have this sort of intimacy in any relationship. It means that we must be transparent, not proud, open to the Spirit, willing to hear from the Spirit through that person, walk with them in good times and bad times, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. It is a commitment and covenant. I believe the Lord was the example. He had those that he saw and spoke to at the synagogue and in the towns and countryside, but then there were those that were closer than a brother—the 12 with whom he shared His most intimate fears and most profound wisdom.

As Mitch and I have struggled with the same frustrations, I can share a few things that we have come to. First of all the Lord has brought those into our lives with whom to fellowship. Some of those people are our children. Now that some of our children are older, wow, do we have some awesome fellowship with them?! Some are old and dear friends that have walked with us through our most difficult times. Some are friends that we have had for sometime, but they are younger and we are given as “older ones” to share our lives and experiences with. Some are new relationships that are now forming, but have not yet been tested.

For a very long time, we have been frustrated that the church doesn’t look like the New Testament model. We thought that since that is the example that the Lord had given us in the scriptures, that is how church should look. The Lord has addressed this for us recently. He basically showed us that the model was not the structure, for example, meeting in homes. The model was that those early believers did what the Lord showed them to do at that time: they followed the cloud and the column of fire. They let the Holy Spirit guide them into fellowship. We then saw that we live in a different era; fellowship is going to look different. We do not live near one another. Many of our closest friends, you for instance, live far from us. The Lord said, “It’s ok. I did this—fellowship anyway.” Mitch really saw that we can use the world (but not full use) and the technology of this age to communicate and fellowship with those that the Lord has given us. We communicate regularly on cell phones and through internet via email. Mitch will be flying to Texas to meet with some of the younger men there that we know to share with them what the Lord has been teaching him about being a husband and father. God has made the way for fellowship.

We are asking the Lord what fellowship should look like in this era. We believe, so far, that mostly it is doing what ever we see the Father doing and letting go of the rest. Sometimes it is not doing anything for a time. This is one of the most difficult because it eliminates our ability to constantly be doing something for God—thus further eliminating religion. We must come into His rest as Hebrews talks about—trusting that this is His doing not our doing and that it is for Himself and we are just the “third party beneficiaries.” Sometimes it means that we meet with those that seem unlikely friends. If we meet them at church, then look for opportunities and make opportunities to get to know them and bear with one another for a season and see if the fire falls on the relationship. Whatever way the meeting comes about and whatever shape the relationship takes is based our faith that the Lord in working out His will for our good as we cooperate with Him. Watch for what He is doing. Look for fellowship. Look for those that you may fellowship with. You may find them at church, but most people that go to church do not know what fellowship looks like, so invite them over. The other thing is to recognize when you have had fellowship and thank God for it. It may happen on the golf course, in the car driving with your kids, at work during lunch or any manner of places.

The bottom line is that He gave us the desire to fellowship. He created man that He might have sons and be in fellowship with them. He is molding us so that we might truly fellowship with Him, by fellowshipping with His Body through His sons who are in Him. (John 17)

You may know these things but my heart is to encourage you in them. I know that this is a long response to a short comment, but I hope that we can continue to discuss these things. We are not tired of hearing about it, we want to continue to be apart of your lives…even the hard or frustrating stuff. We love you and look forward to getting together someday.

Amy- Thank you so much for your encouragement. I’m going to try to grab a few minutes here to reply. If I don’t get it all said (and I won’t) I just have to e-mail more later. It was good to hear your thoughts on what I expressed. J and I stay frustrated at so many things we see going on in The Church and in our local church. Sometimes its like we want to shout to people, “Wake up! Don’t you see you’re just wallowing in activities? Can’t you see the emptiness of all that you are doing?” There are so many facets to this topic that we could discuss it for many hours, I know. We are currently disgusted with the fascination the Church (ours, too) has with Entertainment. What we basically hear from other believers is that church should look as much like the world as possible so that we can “relate” to them. Hey, we need to entertain, we need better music (read: louder, hipper), we need more graphics, we need less teaching (‘cause that scares people), we need to be funnier, we don’t need anyone who isn’t 20-38, we need something engaging, we need more sports stuff, etc…. And all I can hear Jesus saying is only one thing is needed: Him. And if the world doesn’t like Him, then so be it. J and I have said over and over to people at church,” I hear you, you’d like this or that program and you’d like it to be hip/cool/relevant, but don’t you think that pursuing cultural relevancy is like chasing the wind? What’re cool changes every few months? Why exhaust yourself, you know? What is always relevant? Love. Fellowship. True caring. That is never old or out of date. Everyone relates to it.” You know what we get when we say that? Big Blank Stare. It’s as if we had 3 heads or something. Here’s what we feel is going on in the Church: Nobody wants to be labeled one of those “odd” Christians. Nobody wants to be too different or hold a position too firmly. It’s weird. I don’t know, as I search church history, that the church has ever been as guilty as it is now of wanting to fit into the culture, of not wanting to be salt. I’m rambling, but it all relates back to fellowship. As long as things are busy, loud, hip etc., no real conversation can take place, no real relationships can be started and no one has any time b/c they have too many activities to even come to your house. Sorry for all the spewing- that’s just how we see it now. We are praying for wisdom etc. We are not going to “leave” our local body b/c there isn’t anywhere else to go that is any better. We’re just asking God to lead us so we know how to fill this void. I am thankful for your friendship. It has been a blessing in my life. I want to reply to more of your letter (which was so insightful), but school is calling. More later. Fondly, K

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