I had a rather intense reaction as my coffee-time conversation was hijacked into a Bible study group. One of the main reasons I love church is being able to connect with people I have not seen since, well, the week before. So here I was in the church foyer with my steamed milk conversing with a friend on some deep matters of life. Suddenly one of the youth leadership members plopped down her Bible and pronounced “let’s have a Bible study!” My friend and I gave each other a look, while a few others joined the table. I remained at my seat for about two more minutes before removing myself, still having this intense negative feeling. This moment echoes my repeating question: why must every church-based event involve a Bible study? Why was my conversation not good enough for that youth leadership team member?
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/views/2023/book-review-without-vision-my-people-prosper
‘How can we think outside of the box…’
This sentence sparked a memory I’ve not visited for some time - a picture on a long-ago Ministry magazine. As I recall the picture it was of a pastor pulling a large wooden cart with a donkey riding in the cart - the pastor was red-faced and exhausted while the donkey looked…well, he looked a bit bored to me. I’m not certain of the accuracy but that is the way I remember it. I can’t help thinking how far we have come from the early church model where the home was the gathering place, and ritual and ceremony were not placed on a pedestal, and the sharing of life in Jesus was central to church life and a ‘sermon’ was only occasional. I recall a statement Ellen White made (7T19) and I couldn’t help reflect on how easy it has become to have our ‘religion’ something we ‘do’ as opposed to something we ‘are’. As I was thinking on all this a picture came to mind that church is so much like a potluck - everyone is invited and encouraged to bring something to the table to bless all who are present; however often it is only the pastor who comes prepared - and sometimes all he has is brown rice (his sermon). The truth is that everyone has a story, a testimony, a crisis, a prayer need, a miracle needed or a miracle received, a song to sing or a tear to shed; and when formality and liturgy take priority we miss the potluck of the heart with which God would love to bless us. It seems we would do well to think on the words of the father to the prodigals’ brother: ‘All I have is yours!’ Indeed, it was his choice to be stuck in a grind when in reality he could have had a party every day with his friends. For us to experience this, however, the box would have to go.
What a refreshing essay.
“Why not provide a place, like our homes and families ought to be, where people can enter without any fear of being marketed, analyzed, polled, compared, solicited or persuaded?” (112).
And I would add the word ‘judge’ to this list!
The anecdote of having one’s coffee/conversation commandeered by a Bible thumper reminded me of another reason why I didn’t like going to church.
It also brought to mind a lunch I had with some coworkers at the start of which our boss unexpectedly showed up with his pastor, a pleasant enough, good looking gentleman who headed a large, non-SDA church in our area.
As none of the other people at the table were members of his church, nor particularly religiously minded, the conversation drifted more toward current events, then politics. This was not a particularly appealing topic, either, as each of us knew that divergent views were represented at the table, so most of us were disinclined to have our meal disrupted by what we knew were contentious issues.
The good pastor was not nearly so reticent, however, and proceeded to pontificate on one particular matter after another and so much so that when we stood to leave, he felt the need to apologize for having had so much to say.
Ever magnanimous, I shrugged and offered him out, by saying, “Hey, you’re a preacher”
I don’t know how he took it, but my intent was not to complement.
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