Church is for girls…

I have been following a discussion with interest over at on why men hate church, and have just finished listening to this mp3 about the topic on 98.5 Sonshine FM.  Now not being a man, maybe I am not suitably qualified to comment, but it seems to me that there are a few assumptions being made.  Firstly, that the current church paradigm is appealing to women (ironic really as it is developed, delivered, and often actively preserved by men).  Secondly, that men only want to sing battle songs about an oddly shaped red leather ball etc (this seems to me to be a stereotypical image of manhood that is not necessarily inclusive of all males), and thirdly, that the problem is the fit between men and church culture, rather than the problematic fit between expressions of church and culture more broadly.  I don’t dispute the inherent challenges of the current dominant church paradigm for attracting men (or anybody for that matter) – I just think that the problem is broader than merely a gender issue.  The way we do church in the west is fairly tame – lots of cosy bring a plate dos, rosters, singing, listening, sitting – the comments on the mp3 are fairly realistic in their depiction of church.   But is this what church is meant to be?  Is it perhaps a cop out to say that men are not in church because it is too feminine?  I am not sure that Jesus and his apostles established this kind of church.  In the mp3, there were talks about BBQs and other ways of bringing in and engaging men.  Sounds great, as long as it is not just a more macho version of the same thing – a cosy rugged Christian club that is focussed inward.  The early church was all about mission – mission that demanded your life, all of you, and quite often – your life literally.  They spent time learning, fellowshiping and in worship, but the drive was ever outward with more people to be reached, often at great cost.  It was life on the edge.  Dangerous, exciting.  Now if the pulse of church these days was constantly elevated by the risking all adventures seeking to be Jesus to our culture, maybe the men would be on board.  And women too.  I for one want to be part of church like that.  One does not need to be male to feel that passive cosy church is somehow missing the mark.  I don’t think the problem is the feminisation of the church, we have just forgotten what church is about in the first place.

That word “love”

You can thank (or not) Geoff for this post! He has linked to a discussion and article on why men are not in church, and one of the reasons was the style of worship, with its emphasis on “love”. I could have gone off in many different directions from that post, but decided to ponder this notion of love a little more. I sometimes wonder in church what it is I am saying when I sing about loving God. What does it look like, feel like, actually mean to love God? For me, to love is mostly about action and attitude, less in the land of feeling. I do “feel” God in times of worship or in nature, but it is more like an awareness of God’s majesty, bigness in contrast to my own relative smallness. Amazingly, I feel noticed, safe, but overwhelmed.

It is a complex thing to ponder. To simply say “love” seems to reduce the experience somehow. I love ice cream. I love chocolate and a coffee with a fabulous crema. I love people who are dear to me. These just some of the images I have of love. But what is it to love God? It seems less difficult to think about what it is to be loved by Him than the other way around. Maybe this is how it is meant to be, given that he is the ultimate source of love. It is most likely that what we experience and label ‘love’ is the faintest of shadows of the real thing.

Smoke what you’re selling

No, I am not promoting drug use, but this quote from Brian Mclaren’s series presented at the Revolution Conference has stayed with me.  As intended, it grabbed my attention as Brian hit the crux of his point – it is easier for us to promote Christianity than practice it.  You can listen to the mp3s here.  Do we merely promote our faith, or do we live it?  I think those who are opposed to Christianity have a keenly honed radar for the hypocrite, hence the media delight in the church’s fallen heroes.  No need to name anyone for the media does its job well.  But I think McLaren was not necessarily talking about those the media descends upon like a murder of crows (love that line from an old Sting song…!).  Promotion is not synonymous with practice.  Practicing Christianity is far more scary.  Lets be honest here – evangelism (aka promotion in one of its more easily recognised forms) is a scary prospect.  We are often not bold and mumble apologetically “um yeah, I go to church” or whatever admission we feel comfortable to make.  But it is not a patch on practice. Practicing Christianity is simply seeking to live like Jesus. To really do that, not just paying lip service, is the most full on risky endeavour we could ever undertake.  It could take us to places and people where we would rather not go.  It could, and should, cost us everything.

God’s love “gift-wrapped”

“It is our goal to wrap God’s message — His love — in acceptance, and in a way that blends seamlessly into `pop’ culture while still upholding the values we, as Christians, value most,” Wright Generation’s mission statement reads.”

I found this quote on this blog via the Jolly Blogger (convoluted way to start this post I know, but the eternal uni student within feels compelled to quote sources).

This quote is apparently part of the rationale behind “Gifted” – the subject of my last post. Wrap God’s message, His love?  As if anything we do could possibly contain, “wrap” or express all that is God’s love.  I know that one way of describing the incarnation is God sending his Son as the ultimate gift to us, but I didn’t see Jesus blend seamlessly into the “pop-culture” of his time. Jesus was not one for blending in, seamlessly or otherwise. Or for being wrapt up in the trappings of his culture. How Jesus challenged, complied with and transcended his culture is a topic for another post.   To me it looks like cashing in on a marketplace strategy – showcase young talent (to be one of the “Gifted” you need to be between 18-24 years old), make profit off the CDs, boost TBN’s ratings. To be honest, where is God’s love in that? He may be the subject of the songs, but that’s all. I am all for engaging with culture and using it’s mediums to engage in stories that lead to Jesus.  We don’t need to lose our saltiness to do so.

This summation from Hal Paxton says it all:

What we have here is yet another example of some in the Church setting aside the robes made white by the blood of the Lamb for the tattered garments of the world.”