In my last post, “Feed Me,” I wrote that comments about “being fed” need a serious cultural reinterpretation. But I really don’t think “being fed” is the issue for most people, even if it feels like the issue at the time. And even if all sorts of evidence and rationale are used to make it the issue. No, I would argue that in most cases there’s something much deeper going on. Like, maybe it’s not so much a matter of whether we’re being fed, but whether we’re being served.
Think about it: It sounds much more selfish and greedy to leave a Church with the excuse that we’re not being served there, rather than to claim we’re not being fed, right? But if we’re honest, that’s often the issue.
If we really believe that the Holy Spirit is much more concerned with our character than our comfort, then our anticipation of what Church should do for us changes.
Listen, being the Church is difficult. I came across a quote recently that just nails it: “Growing a congregation seems rudimentary compared to transforming a community.” The pressure comes from all sides. If we really believe that the Holy Spirit is much more concerned with our character than our comfort, with who we are becoming than who we think we already are, with the good of the community than our personal satisfaction and, ultimately, with the glory of God and the coming of God’s Kingdom, then our anticipation of what Church should do for us changes.
Now, don’t get me wrong — being part of the Church should never be an endless enslavement in the salt mines. We all need to be served by the Church, by God. I’d argue that at times it’s more difficult to allow ourselves to be served than to serve others. Why? Because it’s really, really humbling to be served out of love and concern and our own lack of ability to do whatever it is we need done. We have to admit we need help. Also, our preferences are always getting in the way. In our consumer-dominated culture, we’re indoctrinated in utero to fight for them, taught that it is sin to not have the absolute best whatever out of all the possible options. We’re taught that it’s failure to settle for anything less than what most gratifies us.
So we never really give ourselves to serving others or allowing ourselves to be served in meaningful ways. And we get antsy, judgmental, dry...deep connections rarely happen...and we move on.
And as we do, we leave behind all the opportunities to find real depth, connection and transformation. Not that we can guarantee them if we stay; it’s just much more difficult if we go.
John Ray is a missionary, spiritual director and the elder responsible for teaching at Grace Church of NWA. John and his wife Jane spend way too much time packing and unpacking, vacuuming dog hair and chasing raccoons off their porch. They much prefer sharing good food and good coffee with friends, reading and trying to keep up with their daughters.