May 22, 2010

sharp curve

Photo by Jamie Gordon (license)

Today, I rounded an important corner: I had to repent of despising my church.

I don’t mean the Church Universal, the Bride of Christ — we’ve never had problems. But my local church, The Journey… we’ve had a love-hate relationship for some time. I see things differently. The directions, the approaches, the focus of effort — these all frustrate me. And I’ve been hurt. I’ve spent a couple of years moving past my pain. And I have tried to reduce my frustrations by letting go of my need to change anything.

I’m not sure why I was invited to a leadership retreat today. But I was, so I went. And there, I got to know some really wonderful people — beautiful people, committed to doing whatever they can so that “people who are currently not actively pursuing faith in the context of a local church will be welcomed into The Journey Community.” And these people being reached are not treated as statistics, or notches on a belt. The care is genuine. I heard stories of lives gradually being transformed.

It was a beautiful thing, and I had to repent.

Then there was a surprisingly long and open time of worship. This is not a charismatic church by any stretch, and the people usually want the safety of structure and control. But something happened. I don’t know how many people were aware of what exactly was taking place, but I think everybody sensed something unusual. It was clear to me, even apart from my trembling: the Holy Spirit was moving.

I will continue to see things differently.
I may continue to be frustrated.
But today, God did a work of healing in my heart.

Update: Ray Hollenbach has taken what I shared and turned it into a meditation at Students of Jesus: Beautiful People?

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

15 responses to Repentance

  1. I love the hope, healing, and honesty in this post. Thanks for being real with your faithful readers.

  2. That is good to hear Jon.
    At the church I attend a group of us for varying different reasons are and have been going through ‘issues’ with our church. But interestingly the one thing each person is committed to – and that is we’re not going anywhere just because we are frustrated.
    That alone has been an amazing healing process for the individuals and now, slowly but surely like a ship the church is changing a few things.

  3. This is a sweet account of an important–and personal–event. Thanks.
    Sometimes I turn to Colossians 3: 12-14
    “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
    And I think, where else can I put these words into practice other than my church and my family? Blessings abundant to you on your journey.

  4. Thank you, Chad. It’s been a process, but I was surprised by the unexpected, focused encounter with God.

  5. Stuart, I have seen many people leave our church out of frustration. If I had joined them — and I wanted to! — I would have missed this.
    I’d love to hear more about your group, but I realize it may be too sensitive to post publicly (and possibly too sensitive to share privately).

  6. Ray, thank you for sharing that scripture. Applying it to myself, I think the breakthrough I experienced was moving from forgiveness all the way to unity. When you have fundamental disagreements, unity is challenging! Yet there are so many references to it. “Father, make them one as we are one.” (John 17:11)

  7. I am impressed that you stick in there with your church through all the frustration. Even pastors and church leaders get frustrated, I know; I am one. But I also know that God has called me and others to this body of believers. The Spirit places us in the body as He wills for His purposes. I am glad God is doing a work of healing in your heart. I pray that you will love Jesus and His church even more in the future. –Richard

  8. Richard, thank you for your comment and your blessing. I may blog more about this, but I wonder now how many people miss out on this kind of blessing because they leave as soon as they are disgruntled.

  9. I love you, John.

  10. OK. I love you too, Jon.

  11. Big Atta, you are truly special. Thank you for hearing my confession.

  12. Chuck: Well, duh. 🙂

  13. Hey Jon,
    Thanks for the post. After God twisted and ruined my wife and I with 8 years as missionaries in Thailand, we have struggled for 3 years with just jumping back into church here in the US. We feel the same frustration you do. Despite being different than “other churches” little words from leadership and others still reveal a mindset of “attractional” rather than the clear mandated call to “go”… I am in a continual state of repentance as I see our body in a progressive continuum and have to recognize that our body is changing, but not fast enough for me… Then my own selfish condition reveals to me that I too am in a continuum and prefer grace and mercy over justice and condemnation.
    I struggle with feeing prideful but God reminds me I am not where I am in my understanding or view because I am smarter than others, it’s only because He chose to bless/curse me with a growing Kingdom view. I look around and, being held in check with my own flesh and sin, I can’t say I’m beyond or above anyone else, just in a different place. But I know God has called me to help bring others into this place as well.
    I feel your pain and understand the frustration. A fellow “freak” at church refers to our little “rebel” group as “weirdos”… I think it’s fitting and I’ll take it.
    Thanks for the post.
    PS One thing that ruined us was that we now don’t have a place to call home… So many places seem like home yet not at all. I am glad for this curse as it reminds us that our real home is at journey’s end and not here in the broken world amongst this present war…

  14. Oh, Guy! Someone else who has been ruined, who cannot simply be a churchgoer! I am so glad you wrote, and shared so much that I identify with. It’s kind of a strange feeling, being “recognized” by you. You see, I grew up a missionary kid in Japan (as did my wife), then we spent spent three years there. I’m afraid I did more growing than sowing, but I guess that’s just part of the process.
    I fully expected to return to Japan, but God has kept us here, where I continue to grow as a missionary. And thus the rub. Thank you for your wise words, especially about recognizing that I, too, am on a continuum.

  15. Jon, Guy,
    If you two are saying that Christ’s Body the Church is more and different from today’s denominations, then you won’t get much fight from me. That there is a bigger picture is definitely true, but do we take ourselves out of our congregations? No, I don’t see that as an appropriate response at this time.
    Do we not have access to True Worship with the Holy Spirit in our congregations? Yes, we most certainly do, hence, why we shouldn’t just take ourselves out of our congregations.
    Does an attractional church in and of it’s attractionalism make itself void of God’s Moving Work and Holy Spirit Empowerment in its growth (attractional) techniques. Well, no. An attractional church can have very many Holy Spirit filled techniques.
    So, therefore, hence … why do missional people think they are really any different? Any organized human effort to reach out missionally will succumb to attractional results of ‘growth’. Like if you try to run an only missional fellowship. There will be those who will latch onto your success and want to ‘join’ your group. They might even become readers and posters in your blog-space. Or they might live out in the fringe and read your blogs with or without posting and not desire to join your blog-space (the what I’m calling your new not organized church), but that would be good in your eyes because you are just being missional not growth oriented ‘attractional’. But there was still that group that did want to ‘join’ your blog-space, so it grows and in that sense becomes ‘ATTRACTIVE’.
    Human nature in this semi-blinded state of seeing things dimly will drive all attempts at purely missional (non-attractive, non-growth) oriented endeavors into a growth oriented/attractional bent. So give in and include attractionalism with your missional work!