Ministry, Decomplexified


Over in another forum, I was reading a lament about starting an affinity group for Christians. For those who don’t know that term affinity, it means people in the group share something in common. Harley Davidson riders, parents who had a child die, board gamers, survivors of sexual assault, fans of the TV show Firefly—get two people together who share a commonality, and you can have the start of an affinity group.

Except the writer of that forum post was in full lament. In his case, he had a hard time getting groups to work. There was prayer time to consider, worship to plan, Bible study…

Now hold on there!

I don’t know what it is about Evangelical Christianity, but there’s this rampant thinking—perhaps a remnant of the sacred/secular split mentality—that for something to be fully Christian, Christians MUST add layers of obvious Christian practice over the top. There must be the sanctification of the secular.

Just stop.

Look, no matter where Christians go, we are the Church. By definition. Also, it’s almost always the case that when Christians get together, we act like Christians organically. (If we must be cajoled into being Christians, then a deeper problem exists.)

I know this sounds antispiritual on the surface, but nothing kills real practice of the Faith deader than dead than forcing it on people. An overweening sense of duty doth not a vibrant faith make.

Which is why so many Christians’ efforts to launch affinity groups fail. We try to Christianize the hell out of them.

But there’s only a need to Christianize an assembly if one goes into it with a mentality that there’s nothing inherently spiritual about a half dozen people getting together to do something they enjoy or that brings them comfort.

That thinking is lunkheaded, though. It not only drives away people, it explains why something as simple as a half dozen people getting together to share an enjoyment of comic books suddenly feels burdened by all the Christianese that must be added so as to make it a Christian comic book fan group.

My experience is this: If you want to run an affinity group as a ministry, don’t. Your thinking is wrong from the start. Don’t treat it as a ministry, even if it is. Thinking about the group as a ministry will only taint it.Escher, Stairs, Complexity

The only factor you must include is to let the group breathe. Let it do that thing for which it exists. If prayer happens because someone wants it, then pray. If you need to anchor a holy moment in Scripture, then do it when that need arises and the timing is right, but don’t ramrod it.

The more we feel compelled to do such and such spiritual activity during a simple get-together of likeminded people, the more we run the risk of driving that get-together into the ground.

Where Christians are, Christ is. We don’t need more than that. And it’s high time we believe that to be the truth.

Let’s stop “complexifying” the Christian life and adding millstones around people’s necks. Christ’s yoke is easy and His burden light. C’mon, folks, let’s cut the endless burdens we keep adding to life. Or else we may wake up one day and find we are not living at all.

Various Spring Thursday Musings


A variety of thoughts on this sunny April Thursday:

+ I was thinking how power is the modern equivalent of will. We want to have power over all aspects of our lives, with powerlessness one of the most hated of all hateful ideas. But if we take Christ’s “not my will, but yours, be done” and do the word swap, how would it impact the way we live? What does it mean to surrender power to a higher authority in a society where individualism reigns and each person demands the right to control his or her life?

+ In keeping with that thought, whatever happened in the Church to the concept of corporate sin? And how are we worse off for its loss?

+ There is something odd happening in the Church when thousands (or even millions) of American Christians are lamenting Rick Santorum’s leaving the presidential race. A few months ago, not one person was clamoring for Santorum to be president, and yet when it appears he will not be, people are disappointed. As for Mitt Romney, one can say the same thing. I mean, who was screaming for him to occupy the White House? All this becomes even more puzzling when one considers my previous thoughts on power.

+ Not a day goes by when I don’t consider that the general emotional outlook of this country is nowhere near as healthy as it was when I was younger. Yes, yes, yes, “the olden days were better” someone will quote at me with a wink, but still.

+ I get the feeling also that in the rush to be good Christians, we have forgotten Jesus.

+ Now that everyone is on Facebook (and a few lonely souls inhabit Google +), can any of us say our interpersonal relationships are better?

+ Along those lines, the last of my small groups stopped meeting. I used to be part of four or five at a time. Now, none. That makes me sad. Looks like I’ll be bowling alone.

+ So far, 2012 has been a lovely year weatherwise. But here in SW Ohio, we were in the 80s in February, 70s in March, and now 60s in April. Should we expect snow in July?

+ Why is it that so few people seem to be able to commit to anything anymore? What happened to a person’s word? Does that concept mean anything today?

+ It’s sad, but the people who seem to do the most Bible study are often the ones who miss the most obvious portions of the Bible. Or they try like the dickens to explain away the hard parts (or the parts they are failing to live up to) by going all systematic theology on us. Anymore, I don’t have a lot of interest in what the self-labeled scholars are saying. And when someone recommends a recently written book on Christian subjects, my reaction is meh, since I rarely read any that make any astute points that challenge the status quo (or they fail to provide workable solutions when they do post a challenge). In short, people just aren’t using Holy Spirit sense, which is the only kind of spiritual insight that matters.

+ Right now, Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church is writing one of the best Christian blogs on the Internet. He should be a regular read for everyone, because he is not afraid to touch verboten subjects and question the crazy way we Christians practice the Faith.

+ At The Voice of One Crying Out in Suburbia, Arthur Sido is regularly writing some insightful posts in the same vein as Knox’s.

Six Steps to an Ignorant Church


Einstein: Duh!How to dumb down the biblical knowledge of the adults in a church in six easy steps:

1. Start with a relatively educated church.

2. Kill the adult Sunday School program.

3. Mandate that all adult education move to small groups (because that’s what everyone else is doing).

4. Fail to check whether the small group leaders are themselves biblically knowledgeable and well-equipped to teach.

5. Fail to nurture the new small groups just created, so (A) no one attends because no push occurred, (B) time erodes the enthusiasm after the initial push until the groups wither, or (C) both.

6. Do nothing, sit back, and watch the ignorance creep in.

I’m beginning to wonder if this is someone’s idea of a new programming trend, as plenty of churches seem to have done just this. Come to think of it, I suspect I know who that “someone” might be.