Not long ago, I gave a brief recounting of my own personal church history. Today, as I read the next chapter in Phileena Heuertz’s Mindful Silence, two statements resonated with me deeply. The first reads as follows:
“Many people find church services wanting, the worship music and teaching to be shallow, not relating to our complex human condition and our soul’s voyage.”
And the second is like it, but it is in the second that I believe we find an answer to the need expressed in the first. It begins with the same frustration and disillusionment brought on by an emphasis on orthodoxy that “fails to address their most impeding obstacles to developing personhood.”
And what is personhood?
She defines personhood as “a person who is united with all reality- an eye within the body (1 Cor. 12)”. To further clarify, it is a person who has died to the old self, the false self, and in whom his or her self identity is united with God and others. To put it yet another way, it is a self awareness that allows us to freely enter into real relationship with God and others. A place she would say we’ve been connected to God all along. It happens when we have been stripped of the lies we tell the world, layer by layer until the core of who we are remains. A core identity that has been set free.
And? So what?
“Ascribing to ‘right belief’ isn’t helping with the everyday challenges of discerning purpose, being faithful in vocation, accessing patience, mercy and long-suffering in relationship, and loving and forgiving those who hurt us.”
It’s great to tell me what I should and should not do. But how?
For me, I began to find the lessons I would need outside my local church. It was Julia Cameron who took me down the first paths of contemplation with The Artist’s Way. In exposing myself to Christian contemplation I soon discovered that my daily journal, my morning pages, are for me a contemplative prayer. The Spirit always meets me there and in that place, I am vulnerable and exposed. I began learning freedom there, and it taught me to listen. In listening, I began to see my lies and face them. In those pages were the seeds of self awareness.
Discerning purpose, developing routine and the power of habit to strengthen discipline came from Darren Hardy and Mike Matthews. One a success mentor who gave me the tools I needed to bring some order to my chaos. A man who taught me the importance of saying no. The second is a man who gave me the tools to take control of my health and make my way into the best shape of my life. The personal and life lessons learned in these processes are still helping me grow. Those lessons forced me to make decisions that provided greater clarity of vision, helped me better serve those around me, better keep my word, and remain truer to the man I claim that I want to be.
It was in living alongside friends in an unexpected community of believers that I began to better understand patience, mercy and long-suffering in relationships. During that year, that community of friends, of family, taught me more about what the church is than a hundred thousand sermons. We were sold. We were also seen as a little dangerous, vocal outliers upsetting the status quo.
In the end, I still sit here with as many questions as I do answers. I am not sure of the local church’s part in all of this. I do believe we can do more to address the orthopraxy that accompanies our orthodoxy in areas beyond bible study and prayer. I also believe that the key lies in our community. I’ll speak more on this later, but community is, in my opinion, the greatest struggle of modern day congregations. Probably because it is also a great struggle of our Western culture. That said, it’s people who lead us to connections like the ones above. And maybe, as I discovered for myself, we’re expecting too much of the local congregation and thinking too little of the church universal.
Ultimately the lessons lie in living this life alongside God. We learn as we go. We learn on the hard packed roads and hidden paths of our adventures!
What do you think? How do you think the local church can better meet the needs for deeper truth and better understanding in living a fulfilled life? Is that even something we should expect of our local churches?
Note: I linked quite a few books in this post. Books that have greatly influenced me and helped me to grow along the way. In case you’re interested, here are a few more.
The One Thing – Gary Keller & Jay Papasan
Bigger Leaner stronger – Mike Matthews
Walking on Water: Reflections on Life and Art – Madeline L’Engle