95 Theses

luther2How pretentious is that?

I’ve got some thoughts about Church that I need to get out. I realized the other day that if I really intend this to be some kind of record of my life and a deposit for my kids to be able to remember who I really was, how I really felt, and what I really thought, it would have to include more about Church. It is the community of followers of Jesus that consumes a great deal of my time, energy and attention.

During my “Bible College Days”, which I mostly haven’t written about yet, I sat in on a tribute to the oldest and longest serving member of the faculty. His kids, one after the other, told the same story of feeling “alright” with having had to share their dad with the Church while they grew up. They didn’t see him as much as they wanted to but they knew they were sharing him with the Church. I started a prayer then and there that I’ve kept up to this day, “Oh God, may it never be with me…” Church isn’t my mistress, surrogate kids or home away from home. Church for me is the community of friends, followers of Jesus, of which I am a part.

About 6 years ago a group of us started meeting together here. Our little community has grown over the years but we’re still not “big”. I’ve been involved in “ministry” since becoming a follower way back in the early 80’s and taking off for Bible College. I don’t come from generations of “pastors” or hardcore (or even softcore) evangelicals. I’m 45 right now and based on experience with the Church in my life I can say with confidence that this is my final gig. I’m committed to this community but I am completely out of juice for any idea that involves going to another church to start or be part of a whole new situation. I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve got no ambition when it comes to treating Church like a business opportunity or a car – I’m not looking to trade up, move up or any other “up”. In fact, if it weren’t for the stories of my friends and being invited to be part of their stories, I’d be done now and trying to be the best manager Wendy’s has ever had. As it is, I really do think we’re taking over the world, one heart at a time, story by story as we share with each other this story that we find ourselves in.

If you’ve ever read C.V. before you know that a big part of this has to do with how overwhelmed I feel at times when I take a look around beyond our local community of followers and see what’s up in the Church. It’s the thing that brings on depression for me more than any other thing in my life. Like the mosquito in the nudist colony I’m weighed down by the work in front of me.

What sort of things am I talking about? I struggle with the pressure to be a Republican/Conservative in my politics that seems to be part of the deal here in NorthAm. I struggle with false promises of health, wealth and preferential divine intervention that seem to come along with the package. I feel pressured by tendency to claim that tithing to the local church is commanded or part of the new relationship Jesus established. I bang my head against an unseen wall when the “well, since it didn’t work out (or if it doesn’t work out) it just wasn’t God’s will” reasoning gets regularly tossed into conversation to make us all feel better. I can’t help but giggle when someone suggests that the democratic system is a divinely inspired system of government or that it’s how Church government should function. I’m awed by the mental gymnastics required that read the last book of the Bible are somehow manage to put the US of A right smack into the middle of the culmination of the Ages. I can’t shake my frustration with people who tell me that the size of their church and their budget proves God’s blessing and approval – but fail to apply that same principle to other groups/religions with more money and more adherents. More than anything else I’m stunned more and more by the simple truth that I’m part of the very same group (religious leaders) with whom Jesus had the most trouble because we keep adding rules, guidelines and ‘covenants’ to the freedom for Christ came to set us free.

That’s not really an exhaustive list even if you’re exhausted by reading it.

And this isn’t an exclusively “Christian” blog but I am going to be writing down some thoughts over the next month. I invite you to participate with comments. Agree. Disagree. Shed some light on some stuff for me. Add your own mysteries to the story. Or not. But in part, this is who I am, this is what jolts my heart and keeps me living wide awake.

I’m involved in a counselling process at the moment as a client. Someone is helping me and a friend work through some relational conflict. Last week I was told that one of the reasons for the conflict is the high value I place on truth and integrity. I’m still processing that. I do think truth matters though and want to get some stuff down here about where truth and church overlap for me. I hope to keep it interesting.

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About brianmpei

Stumbling towards what comes next.
This entry was posted in bible college, Christianity, Church, Confession, emerging church, God, Meaning, Reflective, religion and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to 95 Theses

  1. willohroots says:

    Sounds like a Christian Blog. A good one too. I am wrestling with the same stuff. I find my blogosphere friends to be rather helpful.. I am working, with their help on a church-goer bill of rights, and trying to cut down on spiritual Abuse. Help out if you can.. You have it, church is a community. or ought to be.

  2. shelleyperry says:

    man…it must be hard feeling like the only sane person in a group of crazies…or the only crazy person in a group of sane people maybe? I don’t know which one it is, but either way you shouldn’t feel like your views on the church are in constant opposition with the wider big “C” church. I am all for unity between Christians, but if you don’t have regular people in your life who think at least remotely the same way as you, you will start to feel crazy. Just so you know, there are others like you out there. Many, in fact, who share your frustrations with Christian culture and hope for a better church.

    I guess i read your rants sometimes and think “yes, of course. no big deal. doesn’t everyone think that way?” I forget that not all Christians are the same as me (probably a very good thing!)…I guess I have come to equate being a Christian with social justice, messy love, and deep mystery. I can no longer tolerate violence and war as part of good theology or political platform issues as a legitimate expression of faith. I firmly believe that the word “Christian” is not synonymous with “Evangelical.” I would even argue that that is actually a very small (western) understanding of Christianity. So what does that make me? Charismatic? Emerging? Liturgical? Liberal? Post Modern? Heathen? None of the above? I don’t think I care to find a label, thanks.

    Maybe it’s just this messy and wonderful community that I currently live in…or maybe it’s a generational thing, I am not quite sure. But you seem to have this struggle (politics vs. community) as a daily part of your life and I forget how hard it must be sometimes to live in that tension all the time (and YES, i am still a christian, and YES i still believe there is life in the church, and YES I am even a “leader”…maybe just not in the exact way that we all imagined church leadership to look like 10 years ago).

    That is all to say, I am sorry that this “conflict” has been so life-sucking for you. As you build community, i hope you find it for yourself too. I hope you find other “crazies” to laugh, cry, and vent with.

    May your dream of a community free of “church politics” soon come to pass. 🙂

  3. brianmpei says:

    Thanks Shelley. The truth is that the world of Christendom at large is far less aware of me than I am of it. The struggle is pretty much all inside my head/heart.

    I’m at an age and stage where I think it’s time to start describing the picture that’s grown in my head/heart about what can be, rather than what is.

    A bottle of red will help.

  4. willohroots says:

    some of us have to do something, the old school has failed. Lets do the what it could be thing, cause it could be great!

  5. brianmpei says:

    I think it could be great Willo’. I’m not sure I’d give old school a ‘fail’ but I do think we’ve made it a lot harder than it needs to be. Sometimes it feels like we’re inviting people on a hiking trip that sounds like a great adventure on our way to an even better destination (talking about God with us, not heaven). Then we load everyone up with the backpack we think they’ll need, and the uniform so we can identify them, the exact path they need to take – no original thinking here! And I think most of this is completely unconscious and the result of playing the old telephone game and never asking questions about the message that’s been passed on to us.

    Enjoyed your blog. Love the story about Uff.

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