Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mission of the Church

I have finally completed my first seminary class, entitled "Mission of the Church" (finally! Three credits down, 93 to go! Hang on a minute while I go contemplate suicide). The class was a two-week intensive that required mountains of reading and a paper due each day. Needless to say, it was a long two weeks. The class also entailed a final project, which consisted a large amount of research, personal interviews, and a 20 page paper. For the project, we were to identify a sub-culture within the culture, and figure out what the "mission of the church" should be to this sub-culture. In other words, what should the mission of the church look like to, say, unwed single mothers in their 30's who are working three jobs to make ends meet? What should the church (the Christians who make up the church) do to minister to this people group?

The sub-culture that I chose was "20-Somethings Who Grew Up In The Church But Have Since Fallen Away From Both Faith and The Church." Yeah, I know - that's pretty specific. As part of my research I surveyed a few people, some active in their faith, some not (mostly not). The point is that all the people I talked to have at one time been very active in their faith, and now at this point in their life, have cooled off for whatever reason. My job was to find out their spiritual history, figure out what they thought of faith and the church, determine why they left the faith, and then conclude how the church should go about ministering to these people in today's context. What follows are some of the responses to my survey questions. I thought they were pretty interesting, so I thought I'd post them here. Some of them I had to "clean up" a bit, because some of these folks were pretty bitter. I'm just putting these out there for you to read and make your own conclusions. I could copy/paste my paper into a blog, but you'd probably get pretty bored reading it. Anyway, here goes:

1. When did you get saved?

When I was so young I hardly remember. I do remember more like growing into my faith as a teenager.

2000 years ago, the same time as everyone else.

First when I was 3, then when I was in Jr high a couple times.

2. What was your conversion experience like (what did you do?For example, did you “ask Jesus into your heart?” Did you pray the “sinner’s prayer,” etc.)?

Prayed the magical prayer.

Yeah, but that’s missing the point. Nothing any person can do, like saying the “sinner’s prayer” matters.

Most likely “ask Jesus in my heart”.

3. When you sere saved, did you have any knowledge of the biblical concept of repentance? If so, please describe how repentance has played a part in your life.

Repentance is something that I’ve always been pretty familiar with. When I was younger I always fell into the self-destructive trap of the cycle of repentance and relapse. It wasn’t until I stepped beyond that and realized that relapse is neither unnatural nor damning, that I finally became comfortable with my, for lack of a better term, moral life.

4. Are you currently active in your faith?

I seek the truth everyday.

Not in a "Christian faith."

5. Do you currently have an active spiritual life outside the church (Bible reading, prayer, fellowship with other believers, etc.)?

The underlying theme of my adult life has been the pursuit of a greater understanding of people, God, nature, and the universe. I pursue that goal of learning through interaction, contemplation, observation and experiences.

6. Do you think the church adequately cares for the “underprivileged” in society? If not, what could the church do better to meet social needs?

It is hard for me to define “adequately” since I don’t know what the correct amount of caring is, according to the Bible. Generally speaking though, I would say no. It seems like churches are far more concerned with “caring for” their own populations/members, rather than “reaching out” to society.

7. Do you equate the church and today’s Christians as part of the “religious right?”

The Christians of today have no balls anymore to act differently than society or express publicly what they believe in. This is either because they don’t truly believe, or because they don’t care, or because they have the teddy-bear God-loves-everyone view of God.

“Equate?” No. But there are certainly very visible and outspoken leaders within the church that have an overtly political agenda. Not that it’s necessarily a good or bad thing.

8. What problems or disagreements do you have with the church at this point in your life?

I feel that there is a large segment that is so closed to change. And to embarrassed and rigid to even dialogue with people who are so immersed in lifestyles that they disagree with. When was the last time anyone from a church chatted with or even saw a transvestite?

That they have “singing and worship” and “praying in public” which are two things I do not think need to be done in a group setting. At least they annoy the %#*$ out of me. They also preach in some pretend “magical” voice and are all “emotional” about stuff that I don’t think needs to be presented in such a way.

My biggest problem is that conventional “Christianity” is actually based more on the writing of Paul, then on the teachings of Jesus. It would more aptly be describes as “Paulanity.”

9. What, if anything, do you think the church does right or well?

They seem to have plenty of programs for their congregations/members, and plenty of services to sell them through tithing. They also seem to be more than well-equipped to rape the minds of young children and instill in them their idea of truth, rather than allow for self-discovery when children are at an age to do so. This type of indoctrination may or may not be biblical, I don’t really know. But I do not like the method.

My experiences in church have given me much to think about and ponder. Some lines of reasoning have been fruitful, some have not. But that’s perfectly natural. No one ever gets it right, but church has encouraged many improvements in my disposition and beliefs, and many of these are things that are not likely to have otherwise occurred to me.

10. What, in your opinion, does the church fail at or do poorly?

Fails to change stylewise and keep open dialogue with the evolving culture. Being a “Christian” doesn’t mean you are just 100 years behind the cultures in song dress etc…

They don’t teach the Bible very well or present it correctly. They also don’t discuss history enough in relation to Christianity or religion. They also seem to be very self-righteous people for the most part and very judgmental of those that are unsure of the truth or want to explore different avenues to find said truths.

I don’t like the way churches use guilt and fear to achieve their ends, albeit often unintentionally. I think that in many cases this can lead to mob mentality in the population, and self-esteem problems for the individual.

11. Do you think the church has progressed or emerged in ways that satisfy the spiritual and social needs of people in your age demographic?

Not really. To be active in the church in my age, you basically either have to be a fag or completely retarded when it comes to reality, and shun all sorts of reality. Or, you have to be two-sided like a penny. One side has a building on it and the other side has a shitty picture of a shitty dictator. You act all super-gay and feminine when you go to church, and then you act “normal” outside of church. Completely pointless then to go to church in my opinion, unless you are looking for some type of self-fulfillment to make yourself feel better. Obviously not what the church method is supposed to be.

12. What do you think the mission of the church should be? That is to say, what do you think is the purpose of the church’s existence?

Obviously there are many purposes, but I think they can be summarized by saying that the church’s purpose is to serve the community’s spiritual and physical needs.

Check the Bible and see what it says regarding church existence. I have no idea what it should be, but it should attempt to search for and follow the “truth” as much as possible.

13. If you could give the church one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t be so rigid about the things that you needen’t be rigid about. We say all the time Jesus hung out with drunks and prostitutes and then we never hang out with either of them.

Give me my money back. I used to “tithe” like a Gentile when I was younger. But now the church has seemed to drift left, castrate itself, and bleed all over the place and not be aggressive in pursuing truth or preaching realistic views of God/Jesus/the Bible. I also feel the church didn’t stick with the younger people who they indoctrinated as children, who then grew up and started thinking for themselves. Rather than assist in the thought-process and exploration, they are quick to judge and condemn (as am I, of them) and tell me to %@$# off. I would like my money back that I invested since the investment was based on false promises.

Lighten up. Don’t take yourselves so seriously, and recognize that just because others are usually wrong, that doesn’t mean that you’re always right.

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