the future and the present

August 12, 2008

For so long now James and I have had our future plans set. Graduate in May, move to Denver over the summer, grad school for the next two years. This has been the plan for the last two, if not three, years. Recently these plans have gone up in the air. James and I are considering new options and I can see grad school slowly slipping away. I think I’m excited about the other options but am still sort of grieving the whole school thing. I’m still going to apply to Denver for next fall but the reality is that I would have to have a full scholarship and someone would have to let us live with them for free for that to happen that soon. It’s likely at this point that school is going to be put off for a little bit. We’re just deciding what to do in the mean time. I don’t really have any updates on our plans but would really appreciate y’all’s prayers. We so want to be in the right place and we’re just not sure where that is.

Now, switching gears, let’s move to the present. I wanted to write a little bit about something that has been on my mind lately. Church. James and I do not go to church. There it is, it’s all out there in the open. We haven’t gone to church regularly since we left Valleydale Church over a year ago. We went off and on to a few places but nothing stuck. Here’s the truth of the matter. James and I do not like church. I do not enjoy being at church. For so long I was really negative about church. I had a bad attitude. Lately, as James and I have been talking through some things, I’ve come to some new revalations.

James and I both have a lot of missions experience. Well, a lot for your average Christian. We’ve done a lot of cross-cultural ministry. Whenever you’re “doing church” in another culture you really seek out ways to make the gospel relevant to people. No, you don’t change it, but you start with trying to work it into people’s lives. You seek to meet people where they are. That’s basically lesson number one – if you try to recreate american church you’ll fail, you have to create a church that will fit into people’s lives.

Now, I had never looked at American church this way. I know that this might seem simple to a lot of y’all. At some point along the way I guess I forgot that pastor’s are just trying to reach people where they are. This helps me to understand why it doesn’t have to mean a whole lot that James and I don’t like the church’s we’ve been to. This can give light to why a lot of my friends at Southeastern also struggle with church. We’re in a unique place. We’re not your average churchgoer and we’re not going to fit into your average college group. We study the Bible on an academic level and are in frequent conversations about the integration of theology in our everyday lives. Ok, that makes me sound like I think we’re all smart. What I really mean is that our classes are about God and the Bible and those topics enter our conversations pretty often in the same way that law students end up talking about law in their spare time. Anyway, we’ve got a certain perspective when we think about the Bible and Theology and spirituality and life that is unique. Not necessarily better but unique.

Thinking about the American church in this way has also helped me to see the really great things that it’s doing. I think about how good church ministries are at reaching families with small children, middle school students, and high school students. I mean, it is so effective to get a ministry going that engages children so that the parents are also getting themselves plugged in. I could go on and on about the ways that the church is ministering effectively to the groups it’s trying to reach and it is really awesome.

This also makes me have a little more understanding about all the different denominations there are. I mean, if you think about it, many denominations perfectly fit personality types and sub-cultures. For example, it makes sense that in an upper-class northeastern community a high church will do very well. That culture is used to things being done in a particular way (I’m searching for a word here but I can’t find it). Also, it makes sense that a church that really values eating big ole meals together will do really well in the south. Furthermore, different theological viewpoints make sense in certain cultures because they fit into people’s lives.

I’m not trying to get into a conversation about whether or not things are getting compromised in order to reach people. I really don’t think that they are. I guess I just think that it makes sense that in a country as diverse as ours that there would be churches that match that diversity.

So, for now, James and I haven’t found a church that has a ministry that reaches out to young, childless, married couples that study the Bible on an acedmic level but also want to see it’s relevance in their lives. That doesn’t mean that we’re lost and it doesn’t mean that the American church is failing. It means that we need to make sure that we keep in fellowship with other believers that can build us up and push us onward. This is why I’m ready for the semester to start. Southeastern is our church in so many ways. I’m looking forward to having friends over, eating food, and talking about the Lord with people who share my tiny sub-culture that is Bible College.

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3 Responses to “the future and the present”

  1. ashley said

    wow, what a loaded post.

    honestly, reid and i hate going to church, atleast any that we’ve been to in birmingham. it makes me feel guilty a lot of time, but other times i just get frustrated with it all.

    i felt like southeastern kinda was my church int he sense of having fellowship and discussing biblical issues in accordance to our lives, but now thats gone.

    i’m not sure where that leaves us now. i still don’t know what to do about church.

    thanks for the post, though. you have a lot of great insights!

  2. Trish said

    Try finding a church that has something for a young, single woman who isn’t on the prowl for a husband, is called to full time ministry (gasp! An unmarried woman in leadership?!?), but above all else simply wants to know God intimately, in the deepest parts of her heart.

    I work for a church, and I don’t like church.

    I sure do love Jesus though. 🙂

  3. Carrie Aoyagi said

    Jess,

    I hope you don’t mind I’ve been following your blog. The link came to me on an email you all sent. I love this blog. I have a real issue with todays chruch and a big issue with suburban churches. Our church has adopted a square mile in Denver were there is a big need. There is a lot of crime and poverty in this area as well as elderly who need help. Our church that we connect with in the inner city held a “Don’t just go to church, Be the Church” Day. We loved it and decided that right away we were going down there to work that day kids and all. We go to a church of 1500 people. Only 2 families from our church came that Sat. morning. More than 100 people from the inner city community came to serve. People walked to come to work, they didn’t even have cars, yet they wanted to serve people. The people were so full of love and acceptance to anyone. We have attended this church 3 years and I saw our paster at the grocery store. I said Hello, and he looked at me like he didn’t even know who I was. We actully go to the smallest of all the services. Only about 50 people. He should at least recognize me?? We regularly go and box food for the hungry too with the kids. We are really trying to teach our kids the value of what they have and that we need to give and give more than just money, but time. This is where my issue lies with a lot churches. I ask myself all the time, do we act as Jesus would act? Would Jesus just go to church and and than go back to his big suburban house with his new cars and all the material things we possess. It makes me sick. I get sick at myself when I see that we sometimes fall into that trap. Should we as Christians live this way?? We could live in a smaller house, drive older junk cars, and give more of our money and our time. What if all of the suburban Christians did this? Think about the possibilities. But instead we live in our posh houses, have wiis, cell phones, nice tv’s, computers, several pairs of shoes, clothes, ect…… I have cried about this as it is on my heart a lot. I feel this is not right, but I don’t know how to fix it or make it better. Is it right for us as christians to be a part of a church that isn’t really “Being the Church” What good does it do to sit in church week after week and not do something for others. Isn’t that what Jesus did? I feel that christians can be selfish and caught up in our lives that we don’t find the time to even think about helping others. How do we change this?

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