We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Giving & Taking

There is a certain class of church goers who want to "just go to church" without being hassled about other things.  Their motivations for attending worship are various but usually focused on what they can take away from the worship experience.

To a degree, one can understand the desire to be left alone to worship without any expectations or add ons.  Mainline churches in particular have a habit of consuming large amounts of their members' time in the busy-ness of their institutional life without giving much (if anything) back in terms of spiritual growth and loving fellowship.  When members get together outside of worship, they don't talk about God and things like that.  They plan this and that event, carry out the plans, and then try to find some time for life away from church.  What little evangelism is carried out is done with an eye to getting more members so the church can "make budget."  It is little wonder, then, that generally only a relatively small percentage of any church is really engaged in the work of that church.

In theory, church participation is not about getting.  It is about giving.  Still, the work of every church should be the nurture of its fellowship for worship, personal spirituality, and for service, which means making joy, mutual support, and spiritual growth available to every member of the congregation.  Where there is greater joy, there also is greater service.  People become less reluctant to serve, which means there are more to share in service, and service itself becomes a part of the larger fellowship and growth of the church.  In a peculiar way, church is more enjoyable.  People laugh more—and share in their tears more as well.

One thing else needs to be said, however.  Those who truly want to "just go to church" should stay away from congregations that have a joyful, spiritually reflexive dynamic going on.  The members of such churches will naturally expect a higher level of commitment from each other.