Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Spiritually Dry

I haven't posted about our family's church search in quite some time.

We had made the decision to leave Mega-Mart Evangelical Church in January of this year. One month later I received my breast cancer diagnosis. Things got a little hectic as our family kicked into survival mode.

We visited several churches at first, but eventually decided to stick with a small United Methodist church once my diagnosis and treatment options became more complicated. Circumstances weren't optimal for carefully finding a church home.

At first, this seemed like a wise choice. We settled into this small church and enjoyed not having to think about the whole thing for a while. Our kids acclimated and seemed content. DH and I, on the other hand, struggled with attending. The actual content on Sunday mornings left a lot to be desired. The preaching was "bible lite"; not much substance and a few worn-out cliches.

That sounds really harsh, and maybe it is. The pastor is a nice enough person. It's not a lack of sincerity that undercuts his teaching.

Still, the superficiality of the messages seemed to run through the entire church. We tried several times to integrate into a Sunday School class with depressing results. The people were very nice, but no one had leadership of the class. The entire hour would be spent chit-chatting or debating about whose turn it was to lead that morning. No one was prepared. No one wanted to be prepared.

That happens from time to time in any church. Here, it happened on multiple Sundays. The class was floundering. 

The most excruciating moment for me came during a particular Sunday morning service.  The pastor was sick and the worship leader/music director was giving the message.  I squirmed in horror while he related an old urban legend, which he received as an e-mail, as proof of God's control and care of the universe--The missing day/hour of earth time.  

What could be worse than promoting a completely fictitious story from the pulpit?(ok, atheists/agnostics, I don't want any jokes about how that happens every Sunday.)


As we have wrestled with what we are looking for in a church, I have been having my own spiritual upheavals.  Much of my thinking about what the purpose of a church is, and what one should expect from church, has changed. I find myself leaning more and more towards a sacramental view of communion and baptism, and away from the purely symbolic view that my Baptist/non-denominational background has taught me.

This is not particularly new to me.  I have always thought that more emphasis should be placed on these two rites, than what is traditionally done in evangelical circles. I just didn't know what to do with my thoughts about it, or even realize that some of my beliefs were affirmed in more liturgical churches.

Not proudly, I will admit that I always viewed liturgical churches as dry, dead, and probably liberal. They were probably barely even Christian.

Someone should have slapped me with a cold fish.

Liturgy can be dry.  It can be boring.  It can be rote.

When approached with faith, it can be extremely meaningful and worshipful.  

Now I have two sides of myself in constant debate.  My non-denominational, evangelical ways have been so ingrained in me, that even as I reject a portion of them, it is painful.  My leaning toward a sacramental, liturgical view of things is requiring a major paradigm shift.  I am left somewhere in the middle trying to discern which path to take.  

It's uncomfortable and a little breath-taking all at the same time.


nancypants said...

Wow... I know it can be easy to look on all of your thinking here and actually become depressed about it but I read this and it excites me because I find it so awesome when people start to be dissatisfied with the status quo and the way things have always been, mostly because it reminds me of that turbulent but ultimately exciting time in my own life. I have no idea where you live and I can't guarantee every church in my own denomination to be one that I would actually even attend but you should consider looking at the PCA. (for local congregations check www.pcanet.org there are lots of them in Florida) I grew up non-denominational and baptistic, as did my husband. But here we are, happily, in a reformed, joyfully liturgical (not dry at all), sacramental church where we are passionate about reaching the lost with the love of Christ, both in tangible and intangible ways. And God is blessing us and our church so much with transparency and grace as we allow people to struggle through their fights against sin, their misguided notions and ideas and their pasts (both Christian and non-Christian) which inevitably have formed their current views about God and his bride, the church.

I will pray that you all are led to a dynamic church where you find truth, joy, vulnerabilty, orthodoxy and all that God desires for his people. I know it can be difficult and emotionally crippling at times to go through the process. Praying for grace for you.
Hubs recommends this guy's blog as a place where you might find some good thoughts on the subjects of sacraments and liturgy, etc. http://jeffreyjmeyers.blogspot.com/

Have you read Knowing God by J.I. Packer? That was one of the first books I read as I was beginning to question some of my traditionally held non-denominational ideas and it was very helpful to me in forming a more Biblical understanding of Christ and scripture as a whole.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Many people have been on this road over the last generation, and have not all ended up in the same place. But it can be liberating to open doors you never thought were going to have anything behind them. I was a 70's Jesus Freak who was a Lutheran for many years. My non-denominational/baptist friends could never understand that. We are now in the Evangelical Covenant, a Lutheran offshoot that used to be entirely Swedish but is general evangelical now.

I don't want to kick the United Methodists because they're employing my son at the moment, but they have lost their Wesleyan grip, haven't they?

Read your CS Lewis and GK Chesterton, and fell confident that there are a lot of good places to end up.

Like a Child said...

I was going back and reading some of your old posts. You have been on this journey much longer than I...I admire your courage as you battled cancer while dealing with all the spiritual and church stuff. Thanks for sharing it with us!