Monday, October 14, 2013

12 Reasons Not to Come to My Church

Churches these days, in the United States at least, seem to desperately seek out new members.  That makes sense spiritually as well as practically, for Christians are called to evangelize, that is, to spread the word of God’s love to the world.

And in the face of dwindling numbers, as a church professional (translation: I’m a preacher/pastor), my FB page is full of posts about how to attract more people into the church, how to go where the people not in church are, how to be ‘relevant’ to the unchurched, how to market one’s church, etc., etc., etc.

But every church is not for every person.  So if you’re thinking about or looking for a church community to call your own, be warned: this may not be the church for you.

My own list of 12 reasons why you might not want to come here:

1. We’re small. . . really small . . . tiny even.  And small ain’t for everyone.  Because here’s the thing about small: it really is up to you.  So if you want a church where you can plug in to what’s already going on, slide in and slide out with little fuss, well, we’re just not the church for you, for the fact is that if you’re coming to this tiny church, you will be called on.

2. As a corollary to #1, there is no anonymity here.  There’s nowhere to hide, to be invisible, in a church this size – there just isn’t.  You will be noticed.  You will be welcomed.  And hugged.  And while hospitality is a good thing, not everyone is comfortable with being noticed.  That’s okay.  We’re just not for you.

3. Another corollary to #1, if you’ve got a great idea but no time or energy or interest to implement it, this place is definitely not for you.  This pastor loves new ideas and most times, we’ll all jump in behind someone who’s got one – but, and it’s a big thing – really – if it’s your idea, it’ll be up to you to make it come true.  We’ll help you.  But if it’s yours, baby, you run with it or it won’t happen.

4. If you insist that the church you attend have a predictable ending time, you really need to go somewhere else.  You can stare at your watch all you want; you can even install a clock where the preacher just has to see it (trust me, it’s been done) – it will make no difference.  Services end when they end.  It’s not an all-day thing, but I’m told it can feel like it.  So if you need an hour a week and no more for your spiritual sustenance, you really need to be somewhere else.

5. If you don’t want to hear about money, or be asked to give of your money, go somewhere else.  Enough said.  (I can give you the longer version some other time, but chances are if this is a deal breaker for you, we won’t get that far in the conversation, will we?)

6. If it’s all about you and your needs, please do me the favor of going somewhere else.  I have neither the time nor the energy nor the ability to meet all the needs of all the people all the time.  And it’s not my job.  Nor is it church’s job.  So you’ll just end up disappointed and angry and who needs that?  You don’t and neither do I.

7. If you need things spiritual to be clear cut, with no room for differing views, this is definitely not the place for you.  Doctrine and dogma may have their place, but we’re a rag tag bunch of current and former Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Unitarians, Reformed and Presbyterians, gathered under the Presbyterian umbrella.  And most of us are just way too old to want to arm wrestle ourselves into one worldview.  We’re pretty content, most days, to make room for each other.  We’ll make room for you too.  But none of us get to design the room alone, so it can end up looking pretty funny after awhile, with windows where there should be doors and vice versa.  If you need certainty, we are certain of a few things, but they are very few and everything else is up for discussion.

8. If you’re offended by laughter, you’d better just keep on driving when you get here.  We’re the kind of folks and I’m the kind of preacher, who like to laugh.  We celebrate communion sometimes with chocolate.  We come to the table joyous.  And we like it that way.

9. If a woman preacher is a problem, better keep moving.  Isn’t it obvious?

10. If you require entertainment, this place is not your place.  While I think I’m pretty witty, nobody is that entertaining week in and week out.  I know I’m not (and when I forget that, the folks here are quick to remind me).

11. If you’re just not that interested in things spiritual or consider yourself ‘spiritual but not religious’ - definitely give us a miss.  People come to church for all kinds of reasons.  No one here will judge your reasons.  But we are definitely about our Father’s business.  If that’s of no interest to you, there are civic clubs and groups and volunteer organizations that can better feed your desire to be of help to the world.  If you’re looking for friends, there are better places to find them.  We’ll do our best to make you feel welcome, but we won’t always get it right.  We’ll make room for you, but not always in the ways you would like.  And we are unapologetically religious as well as spiritual, spiritual as well as carnal.

12. If you think politics have no place in church or church in politics, you will not be happy here.  This is not a church that preaches on who you should vote for, but its preacher is definitely one who will challenge you to think about and enact your understanding of God as the Lord of all in the entirety of your life, which includes your life as a citizen.  So if it’s personal piety to the exclusion of public concerns that you seek, this is not the place for you.

If you’re someone living in the mountains of western Virginia and seeking out a church, I hope and trust you’ll consider McDowell Presbyterian Church and Headwaters Chapel.  We’re charming.  We’re historic.  We’re (mostly) pretty nice people.  We love Jesus and follow him the best we can.  We get mad at and fall in love with each other over and over again every day.  We’re part of the body human and the body divine.  And we’d love to have you.  But please, oh please, do think about whether you’d really love to have us too and if not, really, do give us a miss.


21 comments:

  1. I very much enjoyed that. My Church history professor always said you have to know what you aren't to know what you are.

    Thanks for sharing and making me smile- I need it

    MLH

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. :-)

      love the observation from your prof - so true!

      Delete
  2. I've got ideas, time, energy, and a passion to implement them, but I'm here and not there. Excellent observations all around; thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  3. like it as a small church lutheran in Alaska.
    Pastor Dan www.coslc.ws

    ReplyDelete
  4. Gee, I wish I lived close to you! Texas is a long way off I'm afraid.

    Keep on doing what you're doing. It works.

    Love,
    M

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marilyn, Thanks! We just keep on slogging, eh? Beth

      Delete
  5. Thanks Beth. I'm sharing with my congregation!

    Laurie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Laurie, thank you and always feel free to pass these musing bits along. Peace, Beth

      Delete
  6. Hurrah! I was so pleased to read this and it inspired me to put in my own two penn'orth on my blog. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you - and if you've a notion, send me the link. Peace, Beth

      Delete
  7. well, if you ever find yourself in Wine Country, come on in and visit Faith Lutheran Santa Rosa, you'll feel right at home

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanx Tim - I bet it's beautiful. Beth

      Delete
  8. Thanks, Beth. It's at http://bloggingontheway.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Checked it out & now I'm a follower :-) Really enjoyed your sermon on the leper gang of 10. And don't you love the connections we can make on fb & elsewhere, this far-flung body? Peace, Beth

      Delete
  9. Glad to have found your blog too!
    Grace and Peace x

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Beth,

    I just met your mother for the first time a couple of days ago. She sent me a link to your blog and challenged me to read this particular post! We shared a few beliefs and churches and religion among discussing relatives (as we are). I applaud your 12 reasons and your straightforwardness - reasons full of truth and much food for thought.

    I've bookmarked your blog and will drop in from time to time.

    Linda

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Linda,

      Thanks for dropping by. I know Mom was really looking forward to get the chance to meet you face to face, pulling out old letter and other items of family interest - I hope your journey east has been fruitful and filled with joy. Beth

      Delete
  11. Except for the chocolate communion (which had never occurred to me) your blog could be describing the two congregations I serve. I'm sharing it with the church leaders.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Clare, the body really is a pretty small place, eh? Glad to have met up. Beth

      Delete