Saturday, August 10, 2013

Puzzle Pieces or Hand-Hewn Stones? (Understanding how you fit in is far more important than finding where you fit in.)

 Has it gone viral yet? There is a wonderful list of attributes ascribed to the kinds of churches to which The Millennial Generation is “entitled.” Remembering that every generation since The Great Depression has been called “The Entitled Generation,” most of us will be able to see past the initial phrase in most lines (“You are entitled to a church where…”) and recognize that many of the attributes are admirable, and too-often absent or inadequately applied in many congregations. If you’d like to read it, it’s here:

Specifically, though, the post makes the point that if these things are not in evidence, “you are entitled to leave your church. You are entitled to a church that lets you go graciously when you decide to leave the church without calling you entitled or narcissistic.” Thankfully, that still leaves the words “self-ish” and, more specifically, “consumerist” to be considered. But here’s the comment I shared there and with friends who had recommended the post:
Entitled to leave your church? No. You’re not. Really. (Of course if, by “your” church, you mean the one you lived, suffered, bled, died, rose, and ascended for…then you can pretty much do whatever you want. But that only applies to the One Brother. Otherwise, you’re pretty much stuck with the rest of us that He has adopted into the family, and He says He worries about you if you find it annoying or inconvenient to attend the reunions.)

There are a number of problems with searching for a local congregation into which we fit so snugly and securely as a puzzle piece. But in many urban and suburban areas, those with sufficient affluence to afford unnecessary mobility are capable of driving past countless congregations of fellow-believers in order to extend their target radius. Even in our rural area, where a population under 10,000 is “served” by thirty faith communities, by the time you attend enough Sundays at each church to know that none are the church to which you’re entitled…well, our history is that, by then, there will be at least another half-dozen or so replacements for you to try.

So, unfortunately, you may search indefinitely, and never come to the place where you realize that the church to which you’re entitled…simply doesn’t exist. There is no “you-shaped gap” into which your puzzle-piece fits snugly and securely. Instead, there are stones, fitted and aligned with the Cornerstone. Roughly hewn-square by hand, they are “seated together” by literally grinding the rough edges down (both on the new stone and the old stones into which they are being fitted), until they are locked in place together. If you want the church to which you’re entitled, you need to grind out your own place, and allow Christ to grind on you so that we all fit together.

(I Peter 2:4-10 might help, too.)


Pastor Greg said...

Thanks for posting this! It is my opinion that we are entitled to nothing and that anything we have that is better than hell and death is only by the loving grace of Christ. It is He who has placed us, as he wills. It is enough for me to know that I belong to him and to the church. The church doesn't belong to me, I belong to it, according to the will of God. I can't say that I don't need any other part of the church. I am entitled to leave the church about as much as my hand is entitled to amputate itself from the rest of my body. I have so reached the end of my patience towards our western individualism...haven't you?

Wm. Darius Myers said...

Thanks for the comment, Greg. I do like many of the points the original post makes. It's just that I would start each sentence with "We have a responsibility to make our local congregations into places where...." Even then, however, some of the items listed are based primarily on a consumerist model, rather than a desire for authentic worship, fellowship, and service together as members of Christ's body. Still, I have to be careful of my own blind-spots on some of those before I try to do laser-surgery on someone else.

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