Sunday, November 13, 2005

You Want To Speak Into My Life?

"How do we build an atmosphere in church that allows us to speak into each others' lives?"

That's a question that was asked by a friend of mine as the house church network group met this morning. It's a great question. Unfortunately, it was asked at the end of the gathering time instead of at the beginning...

Briefly, to get you up to speed, I previously wrote in "Death of a Church and Life in the Hot Zone" that the house church that I had been a part of for three years discontinued meeting but that I was still relationally connected with the network of house churches (there are other house churches that still meet). Two months ago, I wrote in "...that God Has Made Clean" about the last time some of the people from the network gathered. At that time, I told everyone that I had "struggled with same sex attractions" and that I was journeying into a world of taking my faith into the places where the mainstream Church refuses to go - the "Hot Zone".

So the meeting this morning was another one of those times where people from the network were coming together to talk about "Church" and what it looks like to live out our faith. It's a particularly interesting and relevant topic for me because my whole journey has been about living a lifestyle of faith that isn't afraid of being "contaminated" by the secular and the profane. We talked about good concepts but we really didn't get into practical ways of living in community.

When we talk about how we can build an atmosphere in church that allows us to speak into each others' lives, it frustrates me because some of these people don't even know my life. How can you speak into my life if you don't know what my life is like? The irritating thing is that some of these people enter into the conversation with the assumption that trust occurs in a group context. That's not necessarily true. So when someone asks how we can build this kind of atmosphere "in church", it tells me that all they're concerned about is "playing" church. They want to look like church when we gather together by keeping each other accountable and "speaking into each others lives". That may "look" like church, but in my opinion, that's not community if it isn't also happening in an individual context.

Everyone there this morning was at the meeting two months ago when I shared that I was gay. Only one person in that group has since engaged me in conversation about it. Two months later. He's the only one that has the right to speak into my life regarding my journey. I'd find it incredibly offensive to come to one of these gatherings, in a group context, and have someone bring up me being gay and start talking about what i'm doing to "resist" temptation - keeping me "accountable" and "speaking into my life". They have no right to do such a thing, in the name of community, because they were unwilling to engage the conversation with me through a personal relationship.

I'll own up to the fact that much of this comes from the loneliness I've felt from their silence. "So i've told you I'm gay. Give me some feedback! Tell me what you think! Are you going to support me? Are you going to condemn me? Are you going to walk this through with me and help me figure it out? Do you care that this is difficult for me?" It drives me crazy because their unwillingness to "go" to me and engage a relationship with me communicates to me a lack of interest, concern - love. So now someone wants to "speak into my life" without understanding the context of my journey?

I think that this "come to me and I will help you fix your life" attitude is pervasive in church culture - it's arrogance. No wonder people who don't yet know Jesus are so resistant to those they perceive as Bible-thumping Jesus freaks who try to "witness" to the "lost". How about trying to get to know the "lost" before trying to get them "found"? I think church culture has lost perspective of discipleship. Discipleship implies walking through this exciting and difficult faith journey together. However, church culture seems to think the goal is "saving" people - articulating Jesus in such a way that convinces them to say a prayer of faith.

I think that Jesus' Great Commission to us was meant to be accomplished through those two commandments that He said sums everything else up - love God, love each other. We are called to "go and love". Yet, church culture tries to evangelize with words while being ignorant of why they are increasingly becoming ineffective in "making disciples" - they are doing so without the heart. The willingness to get to know and invest one's life - time and resources - into another person's life is a demonstration of love. It is in this context that we have the right to speak into another person's life - whether it be discussing the Gospel of Jesus with one who does not yet know Him, or talking about specific ways to be a better disciple of Jesus with one who already knows Him.

"How do we build an atmosphere in church that allows us to speak into each others lives?" We cannot build a faith community that does this without first establishing genuine individual connections of trust and mutual respect that forms the very foundation of that community. If that's not happening, it's an artificial atmosphere and I'm tired of "playing" church.

For more, I recommend reading my post on "Band of Brothers and Sisters."

3 comments:

JJ said...

This is one of the things I worry about when I think about coming out... all the people who really don't know a thing about me who will feel it is their "duty" to ask me about my sex life (or lack thereof to be more precise)... as if my being gay means that I have less self control than any straight single person they know.

Angel said...

I've been muddling over this (not for reasons of my sexuality but due to my health issues). Church *should* be safe, but it's not. Why isn't it??? (take that as rhetorical or not)

I'm sorry you don't have that support Eric.

Elizabeth said...

You know, I really relate to your "playing church" talk and it's just...annoying really and I just wish that more Christians would get to know the lost before "guiding them". I'm sorry you don't have much support at your church. I more pity them and they're ignorance than anything else.