Within the past couple of years, I was a member of a nearby Sunday school class. It was a good place too be: nice people, thoughtful subjects and I had the opportunity to participate. Probably too much participation for some people\’s taste. My wife and I were invited to their functions and treated nicely, cordially and with respect. But honestly, that\’s about as far as it went. Trying to otherwise \’break in\’ to their clique proved impossible.
Eventually, we just stopped attending. It seemed to us, that while we were welcomed to attend their functions, parties and services, we were not too welcome in their hearts or lives. Once we stopped showing up, the Sunday school teacher began sending us messages in the mail. We were being missed, so it seemed, and it would really be nice if we came back.
So we did. Once or twice. For we could cut the tension in the air with a knife. It was as if we had offended them by actually coming back after such an absence. Even the single person that my wife had connected with was a bit upset that she had gone missing for such a period of time – \”oh, so you decided to come back?\” is a close paraphrase to the first thing she said to her.
It also turned out that we showed up at the \’shift change:\’ There was a new teacher taking the reins of the class. And once he took over, the old teacher stopped contacting us, stopped inviting us to their functions, stopped sending the thoughtful and appreciated messages in the mail. And the new teacher? He certainly didn\’t care to pick up where the previous one left off.
You see, it seems to me that the previous teacher was interested in us as long as a couple things where true: first, that we were there to support her Ministry and to be involved in her class and the church functions, and secondly, as long as it was her job to be involved in our lives. Once it was no longer her job to coerce us into participating, we were off her Ministry radar.
So what happened? Did we make errors in our participation? Probably, but only inasmuch as every relationship has two parties that are mutually responsible for how things turn out. But please understand that I\’m not trying to assign blame here or point fingers at who did what right or wrong. I\’m well aware that it\’s difficult to find a Church body that actually fits, it\’s difficult to make friends, and that it\’s difficult to get involved in \”The Ministry\” at a local church – since those things are reserved for the vetted elite.
What I\’m really interested in however, is the bigger picture. Why does it have to be this way?
For you see, what my wife and I experienced was normal – at least for Christianity in the United States. That\’s just how it works. Historically, Christianity in the USA has held that The Church is equivalent to The Ministry. And if you\’re in anyway involved in ministering to others (which is defined as teaching or organizing) then you\’re in a different, more special class – the Ministry Class. And everyone else is in the lower, people who have needs to be met, working for The Ministers, class. And people in the Ministry Class have certain expectations placed upon them – such as keeping in touch with those for whom they are deemed responsible, and attempting to keep those people involved.
So I\’m not at all surprised that our Sunday school teacher(s) stopped contacting us – for we never really were their friends, we were no longer in their sphere of responsibility and we no longer had anything to offer them – or possibly never really did at all.
What\’s the Problem?
The fundamental problem (for a lack of a better phrase) is that we\’re doing Church wrong
. Because Church is not something you \”do\” – it\’s something you are
. Consider that Jesus never called us to \”do\” witnessing, rather He commanded us to make disciples
, and that we would be witnesses
. There\’s a big difference between the two (being and doing) – and the Religious Intelligentsia doesn\’t understand that (or refuses to acknowledge it). Probably because it\’s all part of being the machine we have made Christianity and Ministry into.
Somewhere along the way, Man messed it up. He determined that there should be a people (the Ministers) who\’s job it is to make your life right with God, and wherein it is your job to feed and clothe said Ministers. So, that\’s what we do today. We live our lives, throughout any given week, piling guilt upon our souls for all of the mistakes we make so that we can go to Church in order to be Ministered to for the purpose of being made to feel better about ourselves for the next week. And while we\’re there, we pay our dues to keep them fed and clothed so they can in turn, organize and recruit \”lay\” (volunteer) Ministers – so that we can participate in Their Ministry and hopefully along the way, somehow feel better about our relationship with God and others.
It\’s time to wake up folks. Its time to rouse ourselves from our placid dreams, our apathy and our abdication of personal responsibilities. The machine we have made Christianity into is not the Church – although the Church does participate therein.
Inviting someone to church is not inviting someone to meet Jesus, as I was once instructed to teach my Sunday school.