TRUE STORY 1
When i was a young boy [yes, yes, many years ago in a galaxy] i remember a number of occasions of sitting in front of a plate of [now] cold cauliflower cheese that my mom had made for what seemed like hours with the mantra ‘You don’t move until you’ve eaten that last bit’ hanging over my young little head.
I hated cauliflower with a passion and the logic of eating it while it was warm cos it was at least a whole lot better than when it was cold, was never quite explained to me in ways that i assimilated.
Years later, i love cauliflower, and in particular, my mom’s cauliflower cheese [which is cauliflower with a white cheese sauce over it – so great!] and really can’t get enough of it when we go for lunch and she makes it.
Some things change.
TRUE STORY 2
I hated strawberries my whole life.
Until something dramatic happened one day.
I ate one, and discovered they are actually not all that bad.
For a time i would still defer to others when strawberries were around because i knew some people REALLY enjoyed them and i just thought they were okay.
But now i might knock you down if you try beat me to the last one. Especially if it is dipped in chocolate.
I have absolutely no idea why i thought i hated strawberries as a child and i was literally 18 or 21 o something when i discovered, never having tasted them before that i could remember, that they were actually okay and later became pretty amazingly good.
TRUE STORY 3
i hate raiSINs.
no, i mean really.
no, more than you.
i REALLY hate them with a passion. always have and always will.
i believe there is a reason the word SIN appears in the second half of the word…
i can trace back my vicious hatred [as opposed to just the standard hatred i had before] to a time when i was 5 and my mom made me eat something with raiSINs in, via a similiar cauliflower cheese plate-staring contest and the result was that i ended up vomiting and missing out on our annual visit to the local children’s home to watch the big screen movie [to this day i have still not watched Ben Hur] and so that is when it grew in me, but as far as i can remember, even before then i did not dig them at all.
my hatred of raiSINs and all things squishy fruit led me to write and record two anti-raiSIn/squishy fruit songs in fact, which you can track down if you are really desperate, over here.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
And then there is just the pure hypocrisy like the other day when we had dessert at my mom’s place and both my mom and my wife, tbV, looked on with unbelieving eyes as i helped myself to a large piece of Swiss Roll despite there being jam in the centre. You know, squishy fruit. i hate jam too, but for some reason, in swiss rolls it is okay [must be some chemical transformation that takes place, or something]
WHAT DOES ALL THIS HAVE TO DO WITH CHURCH?
Well, i AM working on self-publishing a book about church that will help explain a lot of this to greater depth, at least in the way that i see it.
But in the meantime, through posts like ‘Did you go to Church today?’ and this one, i hope to challenge the way many people think about church [or maybe more accurately, don’t think at all]
Leaders of churches seem to get particularly iffy when people start questioning church or encouraging others to question any aspects of church.
But i believe it is so incredibly important for us to be questioning why we do the things we do on a regular basis [and if we discover that there is no reason for doing something we do regularly, possibly taking the big risk of stopping it]
This is my conclusion for pastors and other leaders. If your thing [in this case, church] is a good thing, then surely at the end of questioning and challenging, people should naturally arrive back at what you have. If they don’t and you realise collectively that change needs to happen, then surely that is a great and important process.
WHY IS THE CHURCH SO AFRAID OF QUESTIONS?
In Acts 17.11, we read this incredible piece:
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
And then ignore it completely forever.
i am convinced that one of the biggest problems in so many local congregations of the church today is that it is filled with people who don’t read or know their bibles outside of a sunday meeting hardly at all and so, because people do not know their bibles, whatever the pastor says up front has to be correct [because they have nothing to tell them otherwise]
a comparatively huge and related problem seems to be so many people in church leadership who seem to have a fear of people in their congregations asking questions [or, heaven forbid, expressing doubts] and so we cultivate a space where people are encouraged to ‘just believe because i said so’ and not be real [to suppress questions and to hide doubts] and always give the impression that everything is great.
i wrote this piece a while ago in response to that:
because if Jesus told us to Love God with all our heart, strength, soul and MIND, it does seem like he might be wanting us to use our minds.
WHICH BRINGS US BACK TO THE FOOD
When we start looking at how we do church [particularly in the meetings we typically hold on Sundays but also in prayer meetings and home groups, prayer times and youth gatherings] perhaps we will have some cauliflower reactions: As a person growing up, i never saw the reason for this and didn’t particularly like it, but now that i am older i find that it is amazing and i know that is is really healthy for me.
[i have seen a lot of people, especially in Americaland heading from protestant churches back towards catholic and more high church liturgical gatherings, because they realise that in their pursuit of living out their passion for Jesus, they may have ignored or missed out on some incredible practices and rituals that make a lot more sense now]
If we start asking questions and sharing fears and taking what we see up front [and behind the scenes] and, like the Bereans, holding it up against Scripture, we might find like the strawberries that certain things we haven’t thought were worth doing, actually are. We might also have the opposite effect and realise that some of the stuff we have always liked [because it was always there and we always did it just because everyone else always did it and never took the time to ask why] needs to be thrown out, or given lesser preference to. i really believe that any church that gives itself the time and the energy to look at all its stuff and ask some why questions, can only benefit from the outcome.
We also might find, that like raiSINs, some other stuff we have always been against, is right to continue to be against. Just because others around us might be professing that raiSINs are good doesn’t mean they are.
This becomes an incredibly tricky task because there might be different things that fall into these different groups, yet seem to be similiar things which should be treated the same. So much wisdom and discernment and being led by the Holy Spirit is required to be able to move forward. To let some things go. To add some things in. To change some things around completely. To embrace some things we have always had more tightly.
But at the end of the day, it must always come down to Love.
Loving God and being known by the Love we have for those around us.
[If you feel like your church leadership might benefit from reading this message, why not forward them the link, or print it out and hand it to them. These are important things to consider.]