I follow the blog of a pastor friend of mine who takes on a unique persona for his blog – Cranky Reverend. He uses humor and what used to be called common sense with some crankiness to tackle some of the things we face day-to-day. Along the way, there is great insight.
Recently I read his post about going to church and comparing it to a dental plan. If that doesn’t catch your attention, nothing will.
Here’s a segment:
When Easter and Christmas roll around, you go to church because it is tradition. You find that your experience with Easter and Christmas are not complete without having that time in the Nave (though you have no idea what part of the church the Nave is, do you?) Christmas and Easter are so steeped in tradition, probably hearkening back to generations that have been long dead in your family and traditions that you have no idea who started them, that during these seasons you must be in church. So, CR wants to know why? It is a legitimate question for a cranky pastor to ask — if it is so important to be in church on a High Holy Day, then why not every week, when the rest of the days of your life are probably filled with holes?
Hang with Crankeverend here — when you go to the dentist, you go two times a year, right? Your dentist plan allows you to see your dentist — so you schedule a cleaning twice a year, and have the opportunity to show them you have flossed and brushed twice a day. And, most of you go, to the dentist, twice a year. You hope that this is enough for you to ward off plaque and the development of cavities (maybe). But two times a year is all the dentist requires. CR wants to know why you believe attending church two times a year is enough to ward off the devil? This cranky reverend wants to know why you believe that going to church two times a year, or even one time a month is enough to keep your spiritual fires burning so that you can endure the calamities of this world?
First off, I love the analogy – some people really do think that going on Christmas and Easter fulfills some kind of God obligation that will keep clean until the next visit.
I never understood the idea of going to church only on Christmas and Easter. If you can’t be bothered to go the rest of the year, why bother making an appearance for these two holidays. If you do this, is it because you think that because they are special holidays you’ll get extra credit for attending them?
I’m going to do something here that I would guess is not in vogue right now from anyone – I’m going to poke at someone who only visits on these two holidays.
Why do you do this? Out of family tradition? What does the tradition really mean?
I wonder if you think that you are in control of your life, so why go to church any more than twice a year to make some kind of appearance. I’m wondering if this is true if you are materially well off and life just seems to be humming along for you.
Do you have struggles in life? How do you handle those? Who do you turn to for support? Or maybe you feel like church is not relevant, or its boring, or it doesn’t speak to you, or you don’t like the preaching, or…
There’s always something you can find that’s wrong with church – it’s made up people who struggle you know. Church has plenty of faults – especially when you think that church should be catering to you, as if church is about entertainment and feeding you.
The problem with this approach is that you’ll never be satisfied with any church. And yet, you still have this hole within in that you want to fill, so you’ll keep trying to fill it with other stuff – material things you buy, people, adventures, TV, entertainment, maybe even drugs or some other addiction, like exercise or work. None of this stuff is ever going to satisfy and you know it.
So here’s the challenge to you Mr. or Ms. I go to church twice a year. Why bother going at all? Don’t want to upset grandma or your parents? Really?
Church is different than most things in life. It’s a place where the holy is right there in front of us. It’s a place that doesn’t or shouldn’t cater to our every desire, but addresses our needs. It’s a place that should challenge us and make us uncomfortable enough to rethink our lives and how we live out what we say we believe. It’s a place to encounter people who are struggling and walk with them. It’s a place to hear God’s message of peace, love and grace that conflicts with the message of fear that we are inundated with the rest of the week. It’s a place we are fed so that we can go out and be peaceful, give love and share grace with a hurting world. It’s a place where we are confronted with the reality that we not in control.
But yeah, you’re right, who needs that more than twice a year? Taking in something like that might actually cause you to change your life – maybe even in ways you really didn’t want to change. Maybe it would force you to do the unpleasant work of rethinking the priorities in life. And no I’m not talking about church membership here – I’m talking about rethinking what’s most important based on how we use our time and money. Ultimately, church is just a tool to help the people experience God so they can go out and be God’s hands and feet to the world that desperately needs hope. Really, it’s not about church at all. It’s about changing your life, your community, and the world we life in.