23 July 2011

man, forget church.

I don't feel like going.

Actually, it's a little bit stronger than that - I have been upset at the end of every church service I've attended in this town, and not in a good, sanctifying sort of way. More like in a You Just Wasted Two Hours of My Valuable Sleeping Time With Your Empty Platitudes sort of way. I have an active desire to stay defiantly in bed tomorrow morning, eat Peanut Butter Crunch, and tune into my favorite long-distance preacher, Darrin Patrick, via The Journey's website.

And you know what? You know what? I don't really think I'm wrong to feel this way. Not entirely.

I know, there's that whole 'don't forsake the gathering of yourselves together' thing (freaking Paul, always up in my freaking business). And I know, just because I know myself fairly well these days, that it's good for me to get out and have a reason to come in contact with people outside my comfort zone every so often, and be reminded that the Church isn't meant to just consist of people that I choose/prefer to/am entirely comfortable with all the time. Okay, so the skirt ladies and stroooong charismatic overtones do get to me a little sometimes, but hey, Jesus loves the skirt ladies too!

And maybe the worship feels a little forced.

And maybe I'm not sure the preacher is entirely listening to what he's saying to us sometimes.

And maybe it seems like I'm getting Christian-ese "life advice" rather than the for-realz Word of God.

Seriously, man. It's like that.
What a second, now. When do I get to get off the hook? 'Cause I'm pretty sure that bad preaching (assuming I'm able to identify it, and further assuming that I'm not horribly biased by the fact that the preacher in question looks and sounds a lot like a politician to me, and his hair is so shiny I can almost see myself in it -- aggggh, I know, I'm so superficial sometimes) is an entirely legit reason to get up and leave.

Which I did. Last Sunday. Which I never do in church. But I was just. So. Pissed.

It's not just about sleeping in, okay - please believe that my priorities (usually) extend a little further than that. It's just that, I feel like I turned up with my little bowl (which in this metaphor stands for my state of spiritual hunger, okay), and instead of putting some yummy nutritious stew in there (I'd have settled for cream of wheat, even, honest I would have), he filled it up with cotton candy.

And I'm looking down at that, and thinking, "WTF, man?!"

I'm sorry that this has turned into a bit of a rant. But please realize, I was raised on very methodical, very let's-cross-examine-this-verse-until-it-cries teaching. My pastor (the man who married my parents and has, at this point, baptized most of my family - no matter what various churches we go to, he'll always be my pastor) doesn't just preach, he gives lessons. With, quite often, diagrams and outlines. (Oh, I miss his outlines. Nothing like a good outline in the bulletin to reassure you that the man up there has a clue.) When you listen to a sermon of his, you get freaking schooled. This preaching style was wasted on me for most of my B.J. (Before Jesus) life, but these days, I am appreciating it like never before.

(There's this other thing about my pastor that I love, just as much as the fact that his organizational tendencies line up pleasingly with my own. You can always tell that the man is being Real. I mean, he preaches like Jesus is his favorite thing in the whole world, like Jesus is cooler than sliced bread, the Superbowl, music-making and Apple products, all stacked on top of each other. And I'm just not feelin' that from shiny-hair man. Not at all.)

And I miss that organization, that solid teaching, like some of you Potterites are missing Hogwarts right now. (Hey, lookit! I'm being relevant!)

Anyway, sorry, what was my point? I think at this point, maybe I'm looking at a few of them.
1. When is church bad enough that not going is OK?
2. Is it okay for me to get this pissed about it?
3. Does it still count if I do the whole Virtual Pastor thing with Mr. Patrick? (He's got diagrams too, by the way. Just sayin'.)
4. Am I just being a bit spoiled and intolerant? (Meaning, are there perfectly good pastors out there who don't preach like they're your favorite college professor giving a lecture?)
5. Will Paul just give me a free pass if I suspect it's not genuine? (To be fair, this is only a suspicion, almost certainly fueled by my irritation about that shiny hair. I warned you - superficial.)
6. Am I focusing too much on the pastor, and not enough on the rest of the people?

Don't worry; I'm not going to try and address all that right now. For one thing, I probably only have about fifteen minutes left to finish this post. For another thing ... really, I think we would both lose interest if I went on for that long.
I don't know the answers to these things. But I think there might be something to #6. After all, I can hear all my Smarter and Holier friends going, "No, Lauren. The church is not just about the pastor. Come on, you know this by now." And I know that, but honestly, I haven't had the chance to really Get Involved with the church body, and between my work schedule and the four (just four!) weeks I have left in this town, I probably won't. So that's my defense, for what it's worth. But maybe that's also my problem.

I still don't know what I'm going to do tomorrow morning. Say a prayer, go out and hope? Or hedge my bets with my pj's and my laptop?
We'll see. Fortunately, I am confident that Jesus will still love me, either way. Lord (er, He) knows this is hardly the worst way I've ever tested our relationship.

That's all I've got for now, friends, and now that I've gone and corrected most of the atrocious misspelling/run-ons/gratuitous use of exclamation points, my time is up. Thanks for reading.


  1. I've spent most of my life with my father as my pastor. I understand having to try something new and it just not sitting right. And I won't blame you if you and Jesus have a slumber party in your PJs with cereal and your virtual pastor. But there is one part of the Sunday morning worship equation you might be missing. Worship isn't just for what we're getting out of it, but it is an act for God. And maybe right now its one of those sacrifice times. At least its a few hours of sleep and not your only son, right?

    And on an unrelated note, I love your writing voice! I hope you are having an amazing summer.

    - Elizabeth Anderson

  2. 1) Love The Journey.
    2) I often feel this way about churches... You aren't alone.

  3. I've never lived in a different city and I often wonder if I did would I be able to find a church with quality preaching? Unfortunately, there are a lot of churches feeding their congregations cotton candy (as you put it) rather than solid food (as Paul put it.) On the other hand, I can also appreciate your sentiment of just not liking a different preaching style. The whole point what are they teaching? I get the impression from your post that it's not terribly substantial.

    If there's something wrong with the substance and not merely the style, I think that's reason to seek out other sources of spiritual nourishment. How often did Paul emphasize the importance of doctrinal purity and solid teaching? A lot.

    However, the purpose of a local church is not merely the preaching, but also (as you identified) "gathering together." I know from a friend who spent a semester overseas with a secular group how important it is not to neglect the company of believers even if they aren't exactly your "type." But it's an uncomfortable position to be sure. At least you won't be there too much longer.

  4. Just thought you should know your dad sent this to the aforementioned pastor....the good one.


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