Monday, June 4, 2018

Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To

Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To, by Lillian Daniel.

Just finished reading Lillian Daniel’s latest book.  It is written from a perspective of a mainline Christian pastor coming to terms with the reality of life in the church today.  Some good takeaways and food for thought – especially for clergy and lay leaders. 

One insight is that in the church’s effort to attract and keep visitors and members, we can easily slip into comparing ourselves to other churches by saying what and who we are not.  WE don’t judge. WE bless gay unions, etc. Daniel encourages communities to be rigorous and positive. 

She divides those who profess no religious affiliation, the ‘Nones’, into: No way; No longer; Never again; and Not yet – and she offers helpful ways to understand the differences and ways in which we can learn about the real questions they are asking.  This is important because in my 27 years of experience in parishes, I have seen much time spent on trying to “get” or “reach out” to people into the pews.  We strategize, organize, and theorize about those who have drifted away or have not yet crossed our thresholds.  And we often say: “but if you/we only did __________ (fill in the blank).”  The author prescribes instead for churches to focus on what their true message and vision is.

Here at Christ Church we, like in many churches, ring our hands with the choices families are making around Sunday morning sports.  We lament: “where are the families?”  Daniel’s advice is to return to basics: what makes the worship experience worthy of people’s time to begin with.  Stop complaining and begin again to speak the truth and offer an understanding of faith that resonates with people who are hungry for truth. 

One of my favorite quotes: "Part of the nature of religion is that it delivers a message that is like sandpaper against our culture of narcissism.  It's not all about you. And no, you can't make this stuff up."  p. 22

A good read.  Worth some conversation. 

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