Friday, January 7, 2011

Seven Things I Hate: A Defense

A while back, I published a list of Seven Things I Hate About Church, which I had actually written as part of a discussion of why men hate church.  It's a good post, and you should read it--especially if you want to understand this one.

Earlier this week, that particular blog entry generated a comment from my friend Kendra that merits response.  Kendra wrote:
I can agree with many of these points and I get your writing style of being semi-sincere, semi-humorous. Here comes the but clause though...But...

On #1 Why do you think it's insincere?
On #2 I think it is beautiful that people are seeking to know one another. The church is in far greater danger of people just showing up for an hour and going on their merry way, without being intentional. We are supposed to sharpen one another as iron, but we can't do it at all if we don't seek to know/be known.
On #7 There will always be bad Christians happening to good people, but I think the potential reward of authentic community far outweighs the risk of being hurt. Plus, it's not really about us. It's about being the body. Maybe it comes down to just trusting...which brings to mind that I'd like to re-read Ruthless Trust--Brennan Manning.

Why do you think it's insincere?  (I had said, "People pretend to care...")

Admittedly, sometimes someone feigns interest in me in a way that I perceive to be completely theatrical, but could theoretically be entirely genuine.  More often than not, however, you run into people who ask about your life during the "meet and greet" portion of the service who never bother to talk to you before or after the service.

To be fair, and in the interest of full disclosure, I hate meet and greet.  It's nothing but an attempt to create give-a-crap where none can otherwise be found.  If we really cared about one another, if we were really happy to see one another, if we were really friendly people, all of that would shine through before and after the service and wouldn't have to interrupt worship.  The fact that there's a designated time in the middle of the worship service serves as evidence that it's nothing but show that only the churchy people can really be happy about.

Of course, there's other signs, too.  It seems to me that the interest shown is directly proportional to the level at which the things I have to say are likely to lead the other person to gossip about me.  Of course, we define "to gossip about me" as "to enlist the saints to join together in prayer on my behalf."

In essence, I think it's insincere because it almost certainly is.

We are supposed to sharpen one another as iron, but we can't do it at all if we don't seek to know/be known.

Not to get wrapped up in details, but this is a trust issue.  Trust cannot be taken.  It can be earned, and it can be given.  Attempts to take trust when it is not offered is not socially acceptable.

Consider this true story.  I have a customer who is into a multi-level marketing thing.  I'm not into MLM at all, but this guy has been successful with it, and he sincerely believes in both the product and the business.  Whether he is right or not, he feels like he is helping people by talking to them and seeing if his MLM business might be right for them.  This past summer, a new co-worker met this customer for the very first time.  My customer asked him about his life, and quickly steered the direction of the conversation into asking him if he was happy with his life and what his goals were.  It was awkward, to say the least.  As soon as the customer left, my co-worker proclaimed, "That made me really uncomfortable!"

Now, if a conversation that basically boils down to "would you like to make more money?" is uncomfortable when trust is not present, imagine how it feels when it's about a more sensitive matter.  You just can't ask someone about these things as if you're asking them what they want to eat for lunch.

Once a person has an awkward conversation with their churchy friend that dives into uncomfortable topics of conversation, the next time their churchy friend strikes up a conversation, the person will start feeling uncomfortable, expecting more of the same.  It will take much longer to create that trust because the tiny seed of trust that existed by default has been smashed with a hammer to initiate the relationship.

Further, men just plain don't want to talk about it.  Ask me how things are going at work.  Bring up one of my favorite sports teams.  Say something nice about my daughter.  Other than that, you're pushing it.  I don't want to tell you how I feel about anything--ever!  Well, there's an off chance I might, but if I do, I'll offer it.

...I think the potential reward of authentic community far outweighs the risk of being hurt.

Yes and no.

Authentic community is important, and it merits a certain degree of risk.

Nowhere near everyone in your church will ever be part of an authentic community.  The church is a goldmine for gossips because under the guise of "I'll pray for you" lies the perfect excuse to gossip about me (see definition above).  Being an open book at church isn't running a risk-benefit analysis to determine if the potential reward outweighs the risk.  Being an open book at church is to hand someone a large, sharp knife, turn around, and lean back against the blade and hope that they don't hurt you.  Even if every single person in my church is trustworthy and in authentic community with me, there is going to be somebody who extends that trust to someone who is not--you know, so they can enlist the saints to join together in prayer on my behalf.  If you're looking for authentic community, you're looking for a good small group.  (I refer you to the 8th commandment.)  Your small group should have a rule that what is said in the group stays in the group--this is a requirement because complaint #7 isn't opinion.  It's fact.


  1. My cop-out, off the cuff response is...These are good thoughts/responses.

    And while reading them, I laughed so loud once that my dogs started barking.

    Most people know that I don't gossip and don't want to hear gossip. I think this has been some protection for me, because I never really know what they are saying behind my back. (Which also elicits some mild paranoia in me if I allow it to...) But I "put myself out there" pretty often with people and I very genuinely care about them, even strangers. I definitely will not stop doing this, but I can agree with you that "meet and greet" time is incredibly uncomfortable.

  2. No. 1 (& No. 2): I don't like meet and greet either and prefer, if it is to be done, that it occur early in the service so as not to interrupt worship. But since it seems to be a ritual in our churches these days, we need to ask ourselves, "How can God use this in my life?" Responsibilities often prevent me from speaking to people prior to the service. Couple that with those who run late and/or leave early. So, in spite of my personal preferences and insecurities, I can choose to allow meet and greet to be an opportunity. I have learned that we can, by an act of our will and with the help of God, change. So, I can choose to act as if I care and it may eventually shift (with God's help) to "I really do care", and I become more Christ-like in my attitude toward that person. That, I believe, is allowing Christ to live through me. So while I may be totally theatrical today, I may be asking God to help me with my attitude. Unfortunately, I may not be genuine next week either, but I'm trying to grow in Christ-likeness and it is a process - a very long one in some of us. In some of those "theatrical" relationships, one day we will become friends; maybe even close friends. But we have to start somewhere.

    So if you perceive me to be totally insincere today, pray for me. God may be at work in my heart and mind even as you are disgusted with my fake affection.

    No. 7: Isn't my job to be authentic and lend a hand to help others become authentic?

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