Relationship-based Christianity

My poor, poor readers. I always wonder if one of the reasons why my blog will never go viral is because of how often I give them a case of mental whiplash. From my ode to the sexually willing Cosmo Girl, to plumbing deeper into the nature of Christian faith.

 

Do try to keep up, won’t you?

 

Arwyn has officially thrown in the towel. She’s tired of it. She’s had it. She’s going to give up and move on as this relationship just isn’t working out. No, not with me (although that’s not far off, I believe) but her attempt at starting a small group.

 

The Church Growth Movement (CGM) involves several set plans and models. One is “running the bases” which is a series of 4 classes that train and equip leaders in the church. Arwyn has been faithful in running the bases, at least to this point. Here are a few examples of other churches using this model:

A Baptist Church (And you’ll see they have 5 classes, the 5th being sort of a bonus course)

One of the basic classes that you can buy for $100

A Presbyterian church using the formula

And I knew if I looked hard enough, I would find a Catholic church using this.

 

 

 

Too bad she won’t go past 1st base with ME! Hahahaha!

 

Her and another guy went through the class and set out to start a small group for parents of children with disabilities. The small or cell group is a core feature of the CGM church as they recognize that a community can not thrive without close, intimate relationships. The problem is that you simply can not force a real relationship like that. Sometimes it might work, but it did not in this case. One reason is that a group of parents of kids with special needs are inherently needy themselves. You basically have a bottomless pit of neediness, and most have such similar needs, there’s no one who would join the group who would or could meet everyone’s needs. There’s so much need for support amongst everyone, there’s not a lot to go around. And everyone is rather tired from the struggle!

 

Also, this thing was thrown together without really consulting God at all. No one consulted God about this group beforehand, but just went ahead with it and then later asked Him to bless what was already done. This is a weakness inherent in the whole institutional and organizational system. Programs, policies and plans dictate what people ought to do, not the Holy Spirit. And then they wonder why they are forever having to engage in spiritual warfare. They think they have to fight for something God never really endorsed in the first place.

 

But the main and truly real reason this enterprise was doomed for failure is because no one in this group had any idea how to have a really true intimate relationship. Period. That includes me, definitely. The first place we learn to have genuine relationship is within our families.

 

Anyone NOT from a dysfunctional family, raise your hands. Okay, you people with your hands up just get the hell out of here because you’re all a bunch of liars! Your parents probably taught you that, too!

 

No amount of therapy is going to cure ones own dysfunction or that of another person or the dysfunction between two dysfunctional people. Adjustment, social and emotional, is sort of a relative thing. I’ve met people who seemed well put together. But once that facade falls, they are really screwed up. Arwyn was one of those folks. Therapy and recovery aren’t bad places to be. My father-in-law met both his ex-wife and his new girlfriend while in an AA group! I’ve been through both and learned from them.

 

Until Arwyn decides to show up to this marriage, she’s going to have a rough time of making this or any of her relationships really work. And the same goes for me. I think one prime difference between her and I, is that I’ve picked up many more tools to make relationships work if I want to use them.

 

The institutional church is a very poor place to learn about truly functional relationships. You can learn about relationships driven by guilt, driven by peer pressure, driven by obligation, by legalism, duty, greed, competition and habit. Compassion, friendship and loyalty occasionally make and appearance but love ends up on the bottom of the list. It just doesn’t happen too often in the modern institutional religious church. We are admonished all the time to do things out of love, but that only goes to highlight the dysfunction. How do you enforce a rule that say you MUST love your neighbor…or else?

 

Again, it is attempting to force relationship through rules, obligation and regulation. Even in a dysfunctional state, I can see that this is no way to run a community.

 

Relationship and faith walk hand-in-hand with each other, which is something Jesus understood and kept trying to teach over and over. Genuine relationship can not exist apart from faith and trust. Without some measure of faith and trust that the person is presenting themselves honestly, there can be no intimacy. Only a dysfunctional fool would entrust their heart to someone who was untrustworthy. But it happens all the time, doesn’t it? All of us have done it and gotten burned. We’ve also burned others if we’re honest about it.

 

I started this post a week ago and am not sure why I didn’t post it other than it seemed unfinished. But there was one interesting development worth mentioning. I ordered a DVD and book from Family Room Media. You can download the video for free, but I was thinking I would use it for my next Sunday school lesson. You can also read a good section of David Fredrickson’s book online, too. I may do a review of it later.

 

When it came in the mail, I was working out at the time. So I let Arwyn look at it. She proceeded to open it up and read it. And read it some more. And read some more until she had read half way through. She devoured the thing. When I eventually got to it a few days later, I managed to read it in one extended sitting staying up until 2:30 a.m.. It really is that good of a story. But she’s in a searching mode, herself. She’s also in a bit of a denial mode, too, but we all are to some degree.

 

The author of the book does express a thought that profoundly applies here. Mainly, that until we get a decent relationship with God, we’re pretty much doomed to not being able to get other relationships right. The institutional church tries, and I believe the people in the system are sincere in their desire to know Father better. However the system itself keeps people back and keeps them in a works-based and legalistic mindset. Coming into a more relationship-based mindset means cleaning out some of the stuff that’s been getting in the way. It means allowing the Holy Spirit to have His way.

 

D.

 

 

 

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5 Responses to Relationship-based Christianity

  1. Sailor says:

    Digger, your font for this post is screwy in firefox, just so you know.

    I’m one who enjoys the refreshing nature of never knowing what you’re going to come up with next, so keep on whip-lashing.

  2. diggerjones says:

    Thanks for the heads up, Sailer. I tried using Google’s Writely plus I’m using Sea Monkey (in a Linux environment no less) at this precise moments and not being a Unix propeller head, I”m lucky just to get something posted!

    For good or ill, my imagination can usually come up with something. But now circumstances might be beginning to drive things more and more. Stay tuned.

    D.

  3. Tom Allen says:

    I tried using Google’s Writely plus I’m using Sea Monkey

    Digger, I had to give up Writely (now called Google Docs) because it didn’t agree with Blogger or WordPress. Fonts and formatting were usually screwy. Besides, Seamonkey has a great offline composer (should you need to do so), and WP lets you save drafts online. Why be redundant? Why be redundant?

  4. diggerjones says:

    I need to play around with the sea monkey editor some more while in my Linux distro. I’m wondering if it has spellcheck. Abiword does not on this distro, unlike the windows version, and that was what was behind the move to the Google Doc thing. But I see WordPress does, so perhaps I’ll just abide in yor second suggestion.

    And quite procrastinating on the next post.

    D.

  5. FTN says:

    Digger, I think that even though we debate some of these “church” issues, you and I have some very similar ideas on the problems within the institutional church.

    Relationships can develop and work out, though. I have made some incredibly deep friendships with people that I met within the church. I wouldn’t say that church ministries “facilitated” the development of our friendships — as you said, you just can’t force that type of thing — but I did meeet most of my closest 4-5 friends from within specific church “ministries.”

    Of course, some of these close friends I mention are also rather disgruntled with some of the church problems you mentioned…

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