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What is the church? What's it supposed to be like and why

Help, unsure what to say

Postby ForceFedChristian » Sun Nov 02, 2014 10:49 am

For 21 years, I've been force fed the Christian religion, by being made to go to church every single week by my Parents. My Mother is very stubborn, and refuses to see differently, and the whole fact of "going to church" doesn't even sound fun anymore... My Sister says the same. Is there something I can say to my Mom that she might "understand" that going to church should be MY CHOICE, instead of me being dragged out the door by my Mother???

Re: Help, unsure what to say

Postby jimwalton » Mon Nov 03, 2014 9:09 am

I'll be glad to discuss this with you so that we can hopefully work things out.

> For 21 years...

I'm guessing I can assume you're 21 years old, then. At 21, I would think, most people are making their own decisions about life choices, although sometimes it's still the rule of "as long as you're living under my roof, you do what I say." If Mom is still housing you, feeding you, and paying your bills, I can understand why she feels she has a right to ask for a few things in return, such as church attendance (so she feels). I'm just trying to think through your situation here.

> being made to go to church

I read into this line that going to church is not something you're interested in doing, that if she let you make your own CHOICE, you wouldn't go. We'll come back to this one.

> Mom is stubborn

I think this is a trait of most humans. We are interpreted as stubborn when we believe strongly about something and stick to our guns about it. When we respect the position a person has taken, we view them as persistently committed; when we disagree with the position they've taken, we call them "stubborn."

> going to church doesn't even sound fun anymore.

What I think would be a great discussion between us is that "church" to you is a negative experience. You say you've been "force fed the Christian religion." Am I to understand you think it's all a crock? God doesn't exist? The Bible's not true? Or is it just that the church your family takes you to doesn't suit your tastes? I'm going to guess the first—that you don't believe it. That's what we need to talk about before we talk about what you can say to your Mom.

I would like to discuss this with you honestly, if we can. No judgments, just the honest truth. I find that a lot of people turn against Christianity because they have misunderstandings and have been misinformed. If we can talk honestly and safely about those things, maybe we can work them out, and maybe we can't, but you want to believe and stay or walk away for the right reasons and not distortions, right? I'd be pleased to talk to you about what you've been "force fed."
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Re: Help, unsure what to say

Postby ForceFedChristian » Tue Nov 04, 2014 3:49 am

Sure, that sounds like fun, my feelings with this are as so. 1. I don't remember anywhere in the Bible that says you "have" to go to church every holy day, (unless I'm mistaken) 2. I do help pay for food/rent/other things, so that doesn't help much. 3. I have the unfortunate fact that I normally fall asleep while listening to a sermon, and it's not because I don't go to bed on time, or that, I tend to fall asleep when people ramble on for a subject, which she wonders why I don't even sit in with them on Sunday Mornings. It's not the fact that I don't appreciate that she brought me into the church, I feel that if i'm going to fall asleep listening to a sermon, i'd be better off listening at home, since I know the Chapel @ Crosspoint and some other churches livestream their sermons. I think the only thing that i've been really force fed into, is having the mindset that "Oh God sees you more of a Christian because you attended Church every single week without stopping

Re: Help, unsure what to say

Postby jimwalton » Sat Dec 20, 2014 1:01 pm

Thanks for your honesty. Now we can start to talk. I'll start off with two things about church: what it's all about and why we even bother to go, and we can talk about those.

In the Old Testament, people just did their religious thing. Each family was their own unit, so to speak; the dad was the family priest, and families worshipped at home. When they had to go to Jerusalem, they just went, killed their sacrifice, and came home again. It was only three times a year that the nation was to gather at Jerusalem all at the same time.

When we get to the NT, the picture suddenly changes. It's no longer, "I want you to do your religious thing, whatever's convenient for you," but "I want you to gather. From now on, you're going to be a community. You're going to help and encourage each other, teach each other, learn to love each other, forgive, work together, be together, and be My people." You can see the progression through the Bible. Before Abraham, it was "call on the name of the Lord" (Gn. 4.26). Then Abraham was called out to be a people, and it was "build an altar" (Gn. 12.7 et al.). God shaped them into his people in the furnace of slavery in Egypt. (If not for that, they would have devolved into squabbling tribal groups and split apart.) Under Moses he gave them the Law to guide their relationships with him and with each other. When Jesus came, he formed a "new Israel," a new community around himself of 12 men. They weren't alike at all: tax collector, fishermen, zealot, etc. But the plan was: figure out how to be a community together. And they did.

After the resurrection, that plan was stepped up. "Let's all do this" (Acts 2.44-47). They shared things in common, helped the poor, taught each other, and worshipped together. It was a new model of a new community: WHAT THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE. We can't really learn to love unless we're with other people who are tough to love; we can't learn to forgive unless we're around people who offend; we can't learn to give of ourselves in service unless we're around other people and humble ourselves for their welfare; and we can't use our spiritual gifts to build others up if we're not in a group that needs help. That's what the church is for. Can you worship in the woods? Of course you can, but you're missing the whole idea. The idea is that people will know we are Jesus' disciples if we learn to love each other (Jn. 13.35; 1 Jn. 2.9, 3.10). The idea is that we belong to each other, much like married people (Eph. 5.22-33), and we have to figure out how to make it work (1 Jn. 4.20), to live at peace (Rom. 12.18) and in unity (Eph. 4.3-6). That's what the church is, and why we go.

Do we have to go every Sunday? The Bible would say that's sort of like asking, after you're married, "Do I have to see my spouse every day?" I'm pretty sure the thought is, "If you love God, you want to worship him and be in a community with his people." Hebrews 10.24-25 hits that nail on the head. If your relationship with God is vital, you want to carve out time to worship him, but not just in the woods, or on the Internet, as good as that can be. I was going to plug in some verses, but just about all of Paul's writings and the rest of the NT (other than the gospels) are about how to be a community together. That's the plan. We're not just to be Christians as individuals. We're to be Christians as a community. You'll notice that in Acts the church was gathering every day (Acts 2.46); soon that settled into a once-a-week assembly. Just as it's tough to be husband and wife if you only see each other once a month, it's tough to really be a community if you're gathering only occasionally.

Now, it sounds as if you feel that your preacher is pretty boring—rambles such that you tend to fall asleep. I hardly know enough of the situation to give advice, but let me take a stab at a few things:

1. I find that if I take notes, I tend to be more alert and get more out of a sermon. If you approach Sunday morning as a learning opportunity—trying real hard to understand and get something out of it—, just maybe you will.
2. Sometimes (shhhh, don't tell anyone), I find that as I take notes, my mind engages in a different place than what the pastor is saying, so I'll spend the sermon time studying the Bible on my own, based on something the pastor said, and that helps me learn what I need to learn. After all, I've set aside the time for God, and so if I deepen my relationship with God and engage his Word, that's a good thing.
3. (I'll stick my neck out on this one...) What if you promised your mom you'll go to church, and then go to a church that you choose? Would she accept that? As long as you're in church on Sunday mornings? When you got home, you could share with her (them) what the sermon was about, engage in conversation (to be a community together with your family), and help her feel good about your spiritual growth. From what you've hinted, she's not gonna like this idea, but I thought I'd toss it out.

But keep talking to me. I've said a bunch of stuff for you to think about. One thing is for sure: it is untrue that God sees you more of a Christian because you attended Church every single week without stopping. We aren't racking up points, we aren't earning our way, and we aren't being more religious (and impressing God) by our weekly ritual. We attend church to show our love, both to God and to his community. We're not there for the ritual, but because of the relationship. Now, if church to you is ridiculously colorless and tiresome, maybe we need to discuss your relationship with God and his people (after all, this is anonymous so you can be honest). Just wonderin'.

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