Is Church Like Business As Usual?

The posts I write on here have the ending “For His Name’s Sake”.

That tagline is written because I endeavour to make sure what I write on here is for the sake of the name of God. To me it doesn’t have to be overly deep and serious for His Name’s Sake. Humour and God are not incompatible. I endeavour, however, to be able to write a piece and send it up and say this is me and me as an ambassador of Jesus is not a cover for the real me – it is the real me. It is the real me in my desire to be pleasing to God in all of life. It is the real me in my frustrations and low points of life. It’s all me. It’s all for His Name’s Sake.

Well. Mostly all …I struggle to put that at the end of this piece because of the wranglings that go on inside me and sometimes I think I would be better off not writing and posting certain thoughts. Yet on this occasion I thought of my daughter Deborah. She’s already into communicating, she should go onto be far better and do far greater things than her old man. I also hope she gets into the nitty-gritty of faith – learning about God and Jesus and His church and His Kingdom and all that stuff and how sometimes it’s good to express what’s on your heart and see how it goes. I hope this will be one of those entries that she looks at in time to come and check out where her Dad was at where those issues are concerned.

So

We start at this time and expect everyone to turn up. When they turn up we expect them to dress in a way that we deem to be honouring to God because we have claimed this to be a holy place and a holy time. We expect certain behaviour from them in that set holy time in that holy place or else it’s a slur on the name of the church and the name of God.

Attendance to these holy times and these holy places are expected with contributions expected too. As we meet we also hope others will come to meet with us as well, by others we mean those who have not as yet accepted what we accept to be true and holy. We might put together special events to invite them to join us. We might offer literature and a patter to get them to consider accepting what we believe to be holy and true.

The group of people who attend the holy places at the holy times expect to be led by a leader who will organise things and be good at the main talking bits that are done in the gatherings. Sure there’s more to their leading than just the main talking bits, there’s the preparation for the main talking bits. There’s the ensuring everyone is visited and on board with the attending and the contributing financially so that the main talking bits can be done and the people who don’t accept the holy and the true bits can be convinced by the main talking bits.

I am not saying all that is all wrong.

It can get to the point however, that people see this as all there is to church and following Jesus. So when the numbers in attendance drop, that’s where we see a problem. When people don’t contribute enough, that’s where we see a problem. When people aren’t taking the talking bits seriously enough, that’s where there seems to be a problem. As if the whole point of the exercise is to keep that arrangement going and church is sweet and it’s business as usual.

Roles and positions are set up and it’s about people fitting into those roles and positions. If they don’t, we expect volunteers to do their best to fill these posts to keep the machine rolling. So it’s not so much about the group flexing and being moulded around the abilities, gifts and passions of the people, it’s more about getting people to be moulded into the roles and positions already at hand. Roles and positions we have deemed to be essential to the running of the business.

So we set up the measures of success. We slap on a bit of the holy stuff on it to help us know that when we don’t operate as we expect to then there’s something wrong with our holiness. Our faith is lacking. There’s something wrong with our commitment to the business. Rather than strip everything back to the bare essentials of the first questions of identity and purpose, we press on to maintain the status quo with minimum of adjustment. The thought of the need of wholesale reformation is far too scary for us to even consider. It’s much better and easier just to say we ain’t doing the business properly and we need to get back to that and do more of that and when we do then all will be well.

It’s healthy, though, for every generation and every new believer to go to those first questions of identity and purpose. It’s healthy for us all, even as we review our progress at different stages of our lives to ask those first questions. There will be times when we can celebrate the progress we’ve made in those journeys.

There may be times when we realise that in all our busyness we’ve veered away from that. We’ve got distracted by things that mean well and look holy and true, but actually are not as holy and true as we thought they were. Worse still, we can carry on with the best intentions in the world, but be doing the right thing in the wrong way, as well as the wrong thing with all the best sentiments.

Reaching such stages is hard and painful. Decisions we need to make can be difficult because of how costly they will be to those issues of our identity and purpose. It would be easy to fall back into what we know because it’s comfortable and it’s the usual. It would be easy – but it wouldn’t always be the right thing to do.

Sometimes to do the right thing means we can’t treat church as business as usual.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

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