11 February 2013

The Problem With My Church

I've ranted before about the church -- both the specific church I attend and the church in general. I've gone on and on about the apathy, the cliques, the exclusion, the frustration of disorganised people and (the worst) people who say they'll do something and don't follow through, often texting me at the absolute last possible second -- oh sorry can't make it, can you fill in for me?

Sure -- except I'm also filling in for about six other people right now. Get off your lazy butt and keep your word.

Yesterday though, two things happened.

One: Yesterday was the official farewell service for our associate pastor and his family. Two: The White Heart Facebook page (you just knew they'd show up in here sooner or later) posted a status asking what is one thing we'd like to change about our churches.

I have to set up the first one a bit. The previous associate pastor had been phenomenal. He pretty much single-handedly introduced me to the real God -- not the sadistic white-bearded 'God' of popular imagination, the real, holy, beautiful God. It's thanks to that pastor's work that I still attend church at all.

So when he left and the next associate pastor came in, naturally our standards were very, very high. Perhaps too high, especially since this one was fresh out of Bible school. Of course, it took him some time to get a handle on the job and it took me even less time than to dismiss him as sub-par (it sounds so horrible when I write it out now, but it didn't seem so bad in my head).

For two years I mostly just tolerated him. Looking back, he implemented some really great stuff that I personally am genuinely thankful for, but I didn't see that. All I saw were the times when he would cancel something and tell everyone involved but me. The times where he would be leading the song service and I would be on PowerPoint and he would randomly change the order of service on the fly, leaving me scrambling and the congregation completely lost.

But today, at the farewell service, several very different people got up and talked about their memories with him and his wife. All of these people had nothing but gratitude in their hearts and in their words. And it wasn't just because the pastor was leaving and they wanted to make it look good -- no, they meant what they said. Every one of those people confirmed each other's statements in their own previously prepared speeches. Every one of them saw his creativity, his passion, his desire to help people.

And I got to thinking: if they all saw the same thing... then I'm the one in the wrong.

Here I had been all high-and-mighty. At least I tell everyone when plans change. At least I arrive at meetings on time. At least I know what I'm doing.

What I failed to realise until this farewell service was that it wasn't that he didn't know what he was doing -- he was just doing it differently than I would have. Different, but not necessarily wrong. After all, he accomplished a lot of stuff in two and a half years -- far more than I would have in his position, that's for sure.

Suddenly I began to realise what I had missed, simply because I was too busy picking apart his flaws to see his strengths. I was ashamed -- for the words I've spoken behind his back, for the thoughts of fury in my mind when his spontaneity clashed with my 'perfect' PowerPoint presentation and made me look like an idiot in front of 175 people. Note the use of the word 'me' in that sentence. It was all about me. He was making me look stupid. He wasn't up to my standards. He was more of a relational person, rather than the theology nerd I wanted.

I was so focused on how he was 'ruining' my plans that I didn't bother to look at him.

Exhibit two: the Facebook status.

I re-read the status after I posted my (severely self-censored but still lengthy) rant on it and noticed it said one thing you like about your church and one thing you wish would change. I had put down two things and three, respectively. Oops.

First up was the clique issue. There's a lot of venom behind this one. I spent five years wasting my time and energy and my parents' gas money attending youth group only to go completely unnoticed. Eventually one of them finally told me I was stupid and annoying. I stopped attending youth group and began plotting my own demise in earnest. If the Christians couldn't love me, nobody could.

Next up -- the 'college and career' group they just started. Oh wait, did I say 'college and career'? How quaint! How stupid one must be to think 'college and career' actually means 'college and career.' Hah! What a joke! What a laugh! And you thought you would actually be with likeminded people. Oh, you poor sap, Kate. How innocent you are!

Welcome to the 'college and career and junior high and senior high and whoever the freak else wants to join because you 18-and-over people aren't actually that important to us -- it's much more fun with the young people there too. You know, the ones who aren't yet being bullied by their relatives into making more money right freaking now and moving out when you're not yet self-sufficient and are still perfectly content with you finishing your education before they cram all that you're-an-adult-now crap down your throat' group.

The third rant I already mentioned at the beginning of this post (the one about people volunteering and then un-volunteering at the absolute last possible millisecond).

I posted the comment, but as I reread it, I started to feel doubly ashamed of myself.

For starters, my first two rants are embarrassingly polar opposite. I hate the cliques -- yet I'm angry that this group doesn't get to be clique-ish. Put another way, I hate the cliques... except when they include me. Then I will whine and argue and fight to the bitter end to keep it exclusive. Way to be all-or-nothing, kid.

So what's the problem with my church?

The problem is me.

I'm a selfish brat. Everything that I see as being wrong with the church stems from how much it inconveniences me. Are there issues with the church? Definitely. Do they need to be worked on? Absolutely. But maybe before I start demanding they fix everything that inconveniences me, I should let Jesus fix me first. How can I expect others to be open and loving and perfect if I'm not? I mean, I already knew I wasn't perfect, but somehow I was still expecting everyone to do everything my way. How can I sit and whine about everyone else expecting everyone to pander to their tastes when I'm expecting them to do the same thing for me?

Is this the church of Kate or the church of God?

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