Service

Think about that word for a minute.  There’s lots of ways that it could be used.  There’s the service that you do for someone else.  Maybe a service you do to someone else!  Then there is a service rendered to you or done to you.  Sometimes it is a service that is done to your car or your house.   In the economic sense, a service relates to a particular skill or ability that is rendered to or for someone else, as opposed to goods which are tangible products.

 

In the case of church, it is often referred to as a “service” as in “We attended the 11 a.m. service.”  In a church service, who is doing the serving and who or Who is being served?  In reading the gospels and the epistles, we are repeatedly enjoined to serve one another.  “One another” is used over and over in the New Testament, where it is much less common in the Old Testament.  I’m getting back at the theme of my last post, where I was musing about what church should be like and I’m still thinking about the “one-another-ness” that should be part of the body of Christ.

 

Last week, I had a chance to visit what this church’s version of “Celebrate Recovery.”  Celebrate Recovery (CR) is their version of a 12 step program.  Arwyn goes to a step group on Tuesday nights and then on Thursday night they have a special service.  There is also a service on Wednesday night, which I haven’t attended, yet.  Last week they had some baptisms during the CR service, and I’ll admit that it was handled much better than it was when Arwyn was baptized.   However it was otherwise identical to a regular Sunday service only this was a somewhat smaller group.  The pastor in this case was a different guy than I’ve seen on Sunday and had the virtue of not being as long winded as the senior pastor.

 

Arwyn and another guy have been trying to start a small group, which would be closer to the type of experience that I might be looking for.  However this group is geared towards parents of children with disabilities.  There is nothing inherently wrong with this, except I get a bit weary living and breathing disability all the time.  Parents want to create a place where they and their children can feel comfortable and welcome, and this is certainly a pivotal factor in Arwyn’s decision to switch churches.  This church seems to be able to handle things a bit better for these kids.  However, there is still some friction as pastors are unsure how to proceed and so have put off any programming in this area.  At least until after the building program is underway.

 

This past Sunday, we had a second small group meeting.  It was quite small with two other families plus one other guy who was just interested in seeing what we were about.  While we ate and our children ran amuck around the church building we talked about all the stuff every group of parents talk about when they get together.  IEPs, the failure of the school to provide services, threatening the county director with due process, teachers who don’t know how to teach, doctors who don’t listen, special treatments, medications etc.  You know, just regular stuff.  What…you all don’t spend the whole time talking about disabilities?  Neither did we, because I kicked the topic back in bounds and basically said I didn’t want to be part of a group so hyper-focused on disabilities that Jesus had no place.  I’m also not into thinking all negative and getting into a woe-is-me mindset.  Yes, it is hard.  But it is not impossible or unbearable.  We can help each other, but perhaps being more helpful and being less needy might be a direction to shoot for.

 

There were organizational issues that came up as with any new group.  There were going to be some challenges ahead, for sure.  I came into the meeting not sure I wanted to be there and left feeling about the same way.  However during the get together I simply couldn’t stand to watch everyone drift around and drown so tried to give some tips on some baby steps to take and just a very brief bit of some of my concerns and ideas.  I have done some things similar to this before in the way of starting and organizing groups from virtually nothing except the desire to hang out.  My vision now is a bit more radical than it was even in earlier years of my faith.  But I’m reluctant to just lead a group right on into it without more thought and guidance.  I’m even reluctant to even launch straight into it here.  I prefer to set the stage, voice some concerns and see what comes out.  Are there others who would arrive at my conclusions?  Are my own thoughts too far afield?

 

We’ll see.  I’ve just finished the last and final bit of my LL series on Unsolicited Advice: WordPress and then I’m going to jump right off into it.  Some of the work has already been started on the UA Blogger site and I’m going to continue that on WordPress because Blogger has proven itself to be of the devil! 

 

But after attending more functions here at Saddleback East my unease has grown and increased.  It’s not just Saddleback East as pretty much every church service follows the same template and formula.  This one just happens to lack even the minimal substance that I had found at the Methodist church.  It’s not just about the emotional experience as much as the worship experience of connecting with and learning about God.  It has an appearance of Godliness but none of the power.  What is up with that?

 

D.

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8 Responses to Service

  1. Xian Husband says:

    I think you have at least three topics in this post, but I’ll just address the one I care about waxing philosophical on.

    As Protestants, we usually call what we do at church a “service” or when we feel more expressive, “the worship service.” There’s nothing wrong with that name, but the older name for this thing, “liturgy,” is a bit more expressive. It comes from a Greek word meaning “public work.”

    So, A) it’s public with all that implies (including that there must be private work we do, too); and B) it’s a work we do for someone else. That someone is, of course, God.

    It’s a service, but we aren’t serving the minister and he’s not serving us and we aren’t serving each other. We’re serving God.

    If your worship isn’t God-centric than it isn’t truly worship. Man-centric worship is idolatry.

    Yes, we certainly should serve each other, and absolutely all our Christian life — and in a special way our worship — should reflect the one-ness we have in Christ. But worship is about serving God. I’m reminded of I Tim 2:8 — which is about the public worship — where Paul says:

    “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger and disputing”

    It’s about worshiping God, but you can’t do it right if you and your brothers and sisters aren’t doing it together in unity and one-ness.

    Why no power in what you are experiencing? Well, are you leaving God out of it? If your worship is of people, by people, and for people then where is God? Without God there will be no power there.

    Small groups. Small groups can be alright sometimes. You can get some really good trust and intimacy and, depending on the group’s focus, you can get some good studying done. Our family used to be a part of a small group for years and benefitted quite a bit from it. We’re not on one now, though, and for some definate reasons:

    1) Small groups tend to be all about the parents getting together with their friends to have deep conversation and study and fellowship while the kids run loose. We decided that if we were going to get something spiritual out of it our kids should as well, but nobody in these small groups was really interested in putting together something for the kids. And my wife didn’t want to be the only one doing it week after week.

    2) Our small groups usually met at the same time as some of the rest of the body was meeting at the building for a worship service; and we decided it was better for the brotherhood as a whole not to clique ourselves off but to be together with everyone. It just seems divisive.

    3) Speaking of worship, small groups seem to never be worship-focused but US-focused. Which isn’t all bad — we all need encouragement and study and fellowship. But would it kill us to sing a bit? Apparently IT WOULD!

    4) We are called to be submissive, doctrinally, to our shepherds; and when you split yourselves out into small groups on your own how do you do that? It’s all about you and me and some other members getting together and studying stuff and learning, but who is giving us guidance? We’re referred to as “sheep” for a reason, and if you’ve ever had anything to do with sheep you know that’s not a horribly flattering name to call us. Sheep are deeply, deeply stupid and tend to just wander off into danger almost on purpose.

    How they survived in the wild without human shepherds is beyond me. It can almost be made into a point for intelligent design and against evolution.

    We’re sheep. We need shepherds. Taking part of our flock off on our own to learn about it all ourselves can be dangerous. We have leaders for a reason — God calls them for a reason.

  2. xi summit says:

    It is interesting how so many Churches claim small groups are the answer to cliques, then they turn around and organize them or allow them to be organized according to … similarities and/or situation and/or phase of life, thereby changing the cliques from an informal, disorganized undesireable into a Church-sanctioned desireable by their very nature. Several years ago our Church started having small groups just over the summer. It worked well the first year or two when they ‘randomly’ assigned families to particular groups and actually organized programs for the children and teens that ran in the same house, different rooms. I will admit that they did push together a couple groups that were mainly for families with children, but even within those had a healthy mix of singles, young couples, and empty nesters. The only group noticeably thin were the seniors who had no interest in this new thing.

    The past summer or two they announced the hosts and leaders, then allowed people to sign up on their own and the cliques were back in full-force. Queenie and I participated every year and found that the early years were very effective at bringing the Church family together over the summer making for a more cohesive Church when ‘regular’ programming took over in the Fall. These past two years have resulted in cementing the cliques to the point that they have perpetuated them intentionally now that we are doing year-round smalleys to minimize the complaining should they choose to split ’em up again. People who I felt I had become good friends with in the early years now hardly give me a glance just a couple years removed and there is a real fear (from a minority of us) that this may turn into a divisive thing that will split the generations.

    I will say, unashamed, that our family does not have a part in the current small groups. As soon as we found out the criteria for assigning people to the groups I went to our Elder and expressed these same feelings (though considerably more emphatically) and found the wall was all that was listening.

    Small groups can unite a Church or they can divide a Church. They can strengthen families or weaken them. It’s not in the idea, it’s the execution as you have alluded to here. But under no circumstances can they substitute for worship, which is the goal of a unified service. I time to come together to recognize and worship God, and to learn something new about Him.

  3. FTN says:

    I’m going to try to abandon my previously defensive posture. But to do so, I have to say this: We can’t just lump churches together by size. Or by worship model, or denomination, or how they approach small groups. You pretty much have to approach churches on a case-by-case basis. Some huge churches are lousy, some are God-centered. Some tiny churches are lousy, some are God-centered.

    In big churches, small groups are vital. People obviously have good and bad experiences with them. I’ve had good and bad experiences with them, myself. The small group I’m a part of now have become some of my closest friends in the past few years. It’s hugely important to me. We get together often, sometimes just for dinner, to hang out and talk.

    Two things about small groups: I think it’s important to have child care, especially for young children. Everyone in our small group is responsible for finding their own child care, in fact. I know that’s not easy for everyone. We don’t have our kids with us when we get together, and it allows us an easier time to serve each other and talk. Secondly, I think it’s important to have a mission, a focus. To have at least a general idea where you want to go and how you want to get there as a group. It’s easy to get sidetracked, and it sounds like your group was definitely unfocused. Or, they were focused, but it was just on a subject that you’ve grown tired of.

    Good luck to you. I hope you are having honest, non-attacking conversations with Arwyn about all of these issues. 🙂

  4. Digger Jones says:

    XH I appreciate your insight, as usual. In fact your bit about sheeple is an inspiration to elaborate on from someone who knows a thing or two about animal domestication. It nicely illustrates many things wrong with many, many fellowships. Almost all of them, in fact.

    Xi, (nice of you to reply in alphabetical order here), I hadn’t thought of the clique factor with the small groups. But it makes sense in the broader sense. And as for your Elder, this also makes sense in the way these decisions are made.

    FTN (why don’t people use something resembling real names here?) I appreciate your insight as well as I know this is hitting quite close to home for you. It takes some time for a brand new group to find itself, especially when the leaders are great people but with marginal organizational skills. As a Field Marshal, you can understand that people can easily get lost with direction. In my typical introverted version of your Briggs-Myer style, I let them flounder for quite awhile before adding my 2 cents which seemed to help them arrive at some ideas.

    The childcare idea is a good one, but we’re looking for some other ideas as well. I actually have my own ideas about small groups, but those are for another time.

    Hold on to your hats because this will be a very bumpy ride.

    D.

  5. Square1 says:

    For the record… I hate wordpress. Hmmmph…

    As far as churches go… groups of all kinds really… it’s hard to find people who do not wish to focus on negative things. But I hope for your sake you and Arwyn can find a group of people with things in common with you, that will also help relieve you of or help you temporarily forget your stresses on a regular basis.

    I imagine raising a child with disabilities is incredibly challenging, but it seems that it would be necessary to get out an be an adult, and that it is not selfish to need a break from talking, researching, and dealing with it. To me so much focus on that one thing would make it difficult to care for the child rather than just caring for the disability… If that makes sense??

  6. diggerjones says:

    Why am I not surprised you hate WordPress, Square? Anyone who likes tuna and crackers for breakfast…

    Stay tuned because there might be something here for you. I know you’ve had church struggles in the past, which is too bad since you’ve been in a position where the church SHOULD have been there for you. And this is what many parents of children with disabilities discover very early on: that those church folks really are not that much into tolerating, let alone helping. People with disabilities test us and we often fall flat on our faces for our own selfishness. I’m as guilty as anyone else at times, which is why I get an extra helping of trials in that regard.

    D.

  7. FTN says:

    One other things about big or growing churches. In one sense, it’s kind of like going off to college or something. The people that you find right off the bat won’t necessarily be your closest friends in the long run.

    It’s an imperfect place (more of a hospital than a country club, as many have pointed out in the past), and you’ll find plenty of imperfect people. It takes some time to find the friends that you can identify with and be close to. At first, it seems like it just isn’t a good fit because you don’t have those intimate friendships that you had “back home.” And the acquaintances that you do make can even turn you off a bit. Perhaps Arwyn seems to have found people she can identify with, but you haven’t seen anyone that really seems to be your “type.”

    Over time, that can change. Eventually, we fall in with people with similarities. Some call those cliques. But I don’t mean it in a bad way. It’s just the kinds of people we gravitate towards as friends. For some people, it takes awhile.

    Of course, that is, unless the whole church is made up of crazy, introverted avoiders. Then you’re out of luck.

  8. Square1 says:

    Hey don’t knock it until you try it. When you’ve got nothing else to eat, tuna and crackers seems like a banquet, no matter what time of the day it is!

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