It’s best to come to terms with who you are. I’m a critical sonuvagun by nature. In the blogosphere my kind are welcome, for sure, but on Sunday, in church, it’s different. Recently, I read through Hebrews, and in Chapter 12 the writer (somewhat) says, “Pay no attention to that critical guy, stirring up trouble. He’s just a bully with a blog.” Awkward, right?
So, fellow critical Christianers, what do we do? Show up, shut up, sit down? Maybe.
SIDE NOTE: If the pastor shortened his or her sermon, then the church could afford interactive Q&A from the congregation afterwards.
The older I get, and the more I read the Bible, the more I consider the mainstream’s misinterpretation and misapplication of verses—like the one from Hebrews 12—that suggest I shouldn’t speak my mind, or be who I am, in the church (like, say, a critical, tight-jeans-wearin’ hipster).
If you’re a red-blooded, churching going American like I am, then—no doubt—you’ve “taken breaks” from time to time. This involves not showing up on Sunday, anywhere from one month to a year. Inevitably, during your break, you’ll bump in to Mrs. Shwhereavyoubeen, from the church, and receive a hearty lecture about “forsaking the assembly.”
Once I was asked to stop forsaking God himself! Unfortunately I forgot my shun-screen that day and gave her a little lecture of my own.
Christians use the “forsaking the assembly” verse all the time to justify their priggish assumptions and large gatherings and lavish tithe-spending and Christian rock-bands. I read that verse the other day, Hebrews 10:25:
“…not forsaking our own assembly together, as some are in the habit of doing.”
I’m just not convinced the writer was condoning any one form of church. If anything, he was probably speaking to those who met in the home and broke bread together.
It’s just too easy to read the Bible through our own perspective, through our own eyes and ears and times and national flags; I don’t think we’re suppose to. Scripture is a process, one that involves digging deeper. The point is not to find ourselves in Scripture, but God. This means ALL of our preconceived notions should be thrown out the window, shouldn’t it?
SIDE NOTE: Operation Christmas Child feels a bit imperial to me.
We are all limited people who make mistakes (hell, I could be doing it right now!), and, yes, some Christians are a bit more critical than others. Some sneeze more than others, too. Go figure. Why label others as sinful just because they’re different? Isn’t that a bit, ironically,… well, you know.
If church is about coming together and being “real,” then fellowship should allow for all comments and concerns, especially negative ones! Generally, critical people aren’t being critical for the sake of disruption; they’re just being inquisitive. Who knows, maybe the problem goes away after we talk.
SIDE NOTE: Maybe if Christians were encouraged to be heretic, they wouldn’t be labeled “less intelligent” in academic studies.
That first Hebrews verse I mentioned up top, the one from Chapter 12, it warns about “roots of bitterness” in the Body. If I’m bitter, it’s only because I have no place to speak my concerns within the Body. I don’t mind being told I’m wrong, but I do mind being told my opinion is unimportant.
Everyone has a job to do in the Body, even the critical folks. Heck, maybe even especially so.
1. Are Christians afraid to engage in argumentative conversations?
2. Are you ever afraid to criticize even when the situation needs it?
3. Have you ever been shunned for speaking your mind?
4. Does anyone want to go into business with me? Shun Screen.
This is fantastic. It sums up so many of my feelings in one post. I love the shun screen idea and will likely use it. I’ve been pestered by people I grew up with in church. Why don’t I go anymore? You should see the things The Lord is doing here.
Whatever. I go to a new church that I love. It is a micro church that is fully interactive, deep at times, and soul satisfying all the while being fun and relevant.
I’ve left behind those who are critical in favor of those who are loving and encouraging even if I miss church for a month or so.
I grew up Plymouth Brethren, in which the Sunday morning service was open (anyone could get up at any time and speak, suggest a hymn, pray). When I was home for six months in grad school, working on my thesis, there were these two women who would always sing these awful minor-key dirges during Communion. I finally spoke up and said that the songs depressed me, and this is a celebration, for Pete’s sake, not a funeral, and I suggested a hymn expressing joy. I hurt their feelings, but neither my dad nor the other pastoral elder was bothered.
Great story! Way to speak up. Currently, the communion at my church is similar. Very depressing. Actually, I’ve been having the same thoughts: why is this so down? Isn’t this a celebration?
I think it’s always worth treading lightly when people’s feelings can be hurt (and of course, being critical doesn’t mean you’re always right), but it’s important to speak up and be part of the Body.
(“Pastoral elder” being my term, not an officially sanctioned PB term, of which they don’t really have any because they’re congregational so how can anything be officially sanctioned if there’s no church government to sanction it?)
This is a truly perceptive post. I get it, entirely. I hate when folk can make me feel like I’ve walked away from God because I wasn’t in church, which is the problem: they’re into church and I’m into Jesus. Do I go around questioning what spiritual habits they’ve engaged in all week? Have they seen my devotions…how do they compare?
No, I’m not afraid of the “touchy subjects” that rile others. Usually that means there’s some religiosity that needs to be purged. Some of us Christians don’t really understand the gospel.
If a situation needs criticism, I’ll gladly but cautiously engage it. It seems that I’m always that person. But I’ve always been prayerful about approaching others, asking God to give me the right opportunity; and I confront with grace because the point is to heal or correct. And I should say that I welcome correction for myself.
So, yes, I’ve been shunned. Now, what’s the business plan?
Haha.The business plan? Still fleshing out the details. Thanks for the comment, Michael.
Again, another stimulating post. It strikes many chords – I’ll mention just two.
1) When I miss Sunday worship (as I’ve done the past two weeks), I want people to notice and say something to me — not with judgment, but grace. Usually when I miss church it is because I am hurting (often depressed) and if I’m challenged, I only pull away more.
2) Are Christians afraid of argumentation? Perhaps. Many professing Christians are fundamentally passive-aggressive. We play nice within the fold, bottle up our frustration, and take it out on “non-believers” (a.k.a. everyone who doesn’t share our worldview), usually in impersonal settings where people can’t fight back (like the blogosphere or Facebook).
Your post reminds me to count my blessings that I seem to have found a faith fellowship that reaches out to me in love when I’m not around and allows me to share different convictions in respectful ways.
Hit the thumbs down accidentally. Should be thumbs up and can’t seem to change it.
Thanks for your sharing your thoughts, Tony. Interesting point on taking frustrations out on the wrong people. I’ve noticed when, say, me and a family member (or friend) go through a rough time that we always come out the other side stronger due to our struggle. I wonder if we are losing out on stronger relationships by non-confrontation. Hmmm.
This article is so thought provoking. Having been a Bible believing Christian for more years than most reading this post have been on earth, it sometimes amazes me how long it’s been since I have been active in attending an ‘assembling of the believers’. Never have I once questioned during the years of my sabbatical, my salvation or Christ’s love for me. I communicate my faith on a daily basis to those I come in contact with. I have many dear friends who are believers…many who are not. That being said, I do miss being a part of a church family to a certain degree. What is holding me back? Probably things beyond that ‘certain degree’. I need to move past them and find my place in the assembly.
Being retired I do have time to go into business. The shun screen is tempting. But family members working together can cause issues. So I’ll just follow along and wait for the next blog. 💗
🙂 Thanks for sharing!
Being called a heretic is how I know I’m doing something right.
You always seem to put to verse the quiet thoughts lurking in my mind. Thanks.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts about explicad. Regards