Monday, May 30, 2005

Coffee Deficiency

I haven't had a single cup of coffee yet. Not one. Amazing or not, I'm brewing a fresh pot right now to liven up the evening a little bit. I think there's a scientific study to be done somewhere that would prove once and for all that coffee is either another major food group in its own right, or is of such great worth to the human experience that it rises to the same level of necessity as shelter and clothing.

Why do people not get involved in "small groups"? In our particular church culture, things are centered around Sunday School and the Sunday Service, and folks feel like they're giving way beyond themselves if they also get involved in church things one evening a week. But other than those few hours per week, we typically stay away from each other. It's not intentional - but this family has its plans and this other family has its priorities and that other family over there lives a little further away. It's difficult to build "community" when we think of "church community" falling within the time and geographic constraints of weekly church stuff - and we miss out, I think, on what it means to be the Church, the Body of Christ in a locality.

The biggest reason for not being involved with each other is that we just don't have time. School, careers, and extracurricular opportunities take up most of our weekly daytimer pages. That's a matter of planning on the surface, a matter of determining what's really important at the root level. I think alot of what we're involved in is very good, so I'm not saying anyone needs to drop all the baseball practices in order to get involved with small groups at church. In fact, making the mental leap to look at being with other parents at those youth practices as a "small group" because you're together for a common goal - I think that's at least one solution, too.

After the issue of time, there are a few other reasons given for not being involved that need to be addressed more directly. The personal problems of not wanting to get involved with people I don't know, or being afraid on some level of rejection, or wanting some kind of golden ticket invitation from God before joining with a new small group - these reasons are usually "excuses", meaning that we have a tendency to latch onto a justification for just not wanting to connect with others. Why do we as Christians not want to gather with other Christians? Fear of intimacy, fear of honesty, fear of being exposed, fear of reading the Bible or praying out loud - whatever it is, I find that "just do it" usually knocks those justifications over.

The last reason I've found for not getting involved is the one that breaks my heart: the idea that it's just not that important, that it's not really necessary as a Christian to experience community and to grow together. In this frame of mind, I only join a group that would (1) help me in an area with which I think I need help, or that would (2) need my particular area of expertise or learning. This mindset not only keeps a person away from other Christians, but if this person does happen to get involved he or she is closed off from growing in the spirit of togetherness and mutual submission. It's a commitment to a covenant based on condition: if I feel like I'm needed, or I feel like I need you, I'll be there. Otherwise, I'm okay without it. And if I get involved at all, once I feel that the usefulness of this gathering has gone past, I can separate without feeling guilty, right? It's a consumer mentality that weighs everything on pragmatic and cost-effective terms. And that's sad.

Coffee's ready.


Anonymous Mark W Beech said...

Congratulations, you were the 18th Person to beat me on battle of the blogs and you even did it without any coffee.

30/5/05 6:52 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

heh heh - thanks - nice site by the way, i was reading up on your experiences with "ghosts" - woo hoo.

30/5/05 6:55 PM  
Blogger julieunplugged said...

I'll give you a reason you didn't cite.

I left small groups because I got sick of the repeated doses of "right theology" that must be redigested in ever increasingly creative ways to mask that we've already heard it all before. :)

If Bible studies were about exploring the edges, opening ourselves to new theologians, to hearing viewpoints that weren't our own cozy versions of faith, I'd make time again to re-join.

The best thing about Bible studies (when we did them for ten years) is getting to see your friends on a regular basis so that when someone was sick or had a baby, there was a caring community in place to support you. I DO miss that.


30/5/05 7:29 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

i did forget the "hurtful" aspect, too - that some folks feel out of place for whatever reason, or the mood of the group turns away from where we'd like. been in those too.

but it's that relationship idea that keeps drawing me to the group we're in. i'm a "small group coach" who's over the leaders, but i appreciate being "under" in this group because people are together and committed to that. :)

30/5/05 7:31 PM  
Blogger MaryAnn M said...

we are struggling with that too...

30/5/05 8:54 PM  
Blogger MaryAnn M said...

ghosts? thanks for the lead...i will talk to him about my friend's house. they have seen it and heard it...they know it is there...they have no idea how to handle this situation.
we have tried all the "methods"...and no one else knows what to do cuz very few people believe in them, or believe that Christians can have inhabitants in their homes...

thanks..will go talk to him about his ghost

30/5/05 8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After a few years of liking our church back home (in Louisiana) but feeling unconnected, we joined a small group - and loved it. Each spring and fall "semester", groups would form and study a particular topic. The next semester you may be in a group with totally different people, or you may be in a group with a few others you already knew, or you may rejoin a group that was continuing. We loved being able to get to know other people from the church and formed some really meaningful friendships that way.

After moving to Texas and finally finding a church we feel comfortable in, we decided to join a small group again. We didn't like the feeling of drifting from the early church service to Sunday school, smiling at familiar faces, not really knowing anyone. The small group dynamics at our new church are different from our old church, being that we don't break up after a semester, but rather stay together until moving away or choosing to join a new group. We've only been once, but we really connected with our group members. It was very evident when we were at church the following Sunday and not just spoke to, but actually conversed with some of our group members. It was a nice feeling.

I'm planning on blogging on our small group experience in more detail soon.

Good thoughts, Rick.


31/5/05 8:51 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

thanks, maryann and ashley, for sharing your stories, too :). we're tackling some of these issues on a big scale and on a smaller group-sized scale. we'll see what pans out.

31/5/05 8:56 AM  

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