As a Christian, there are four things that I’m uncommonly passionate about:
- The Word
- The Tithe
- The Church
I don’t know why I’m passionate about these particular things. Everyone has her calling, I suppose, and I can safely assert that my love of story and literature is God-given and divinely-knitted into my heart, and I doubt I could ever achieve a casual relationship with the written word or scripture. It seems silly to even consider purposely squelching a passion like that, but I wouldn’t put it past God to require that I relinquish a passion that He planted in me. After all, He requires everything.
I’m not at all saying that I believe God is currently requiring me to give up writing and reading, but I use them as an example because one of my other passions is currently in flux.
I want my church to be more than she is and I don’t know if that’s fair or not.
I love my church and am not suggesting that I’d like to find another. I want her to be what she desires to be. I like the people who attend and I’m not criticizing her at all.
Everyday, I struggle against cynicism that tells me to stop expecting so much because the bride is flawed and sinful, just as each of us is. And it’s not in my nature to idealize as I have with her; I’m usually that person who walks into the movie theater expecting to have wasted my eight or nine dollars… because if my expectations are low enough I won’t be disappointed. I’ve known plenty of people who take that attitude toward their churches and live godly lives of Sunday attendance and daily sanctification that’s as separate from the church as it’s possible to be. They listen to sermons and think, pray, study, and serve without the church, and I admire them for their steadfastness and will to follow the Lord.
Most churches I’ve encountered are just fine. They could be doing better of course, but they’re obviously doing their best, and my desire for more isn’t a reflection of an evil they’ve perpetrated. It’s a reflection of my passion… just like my passion for the word of God. Most people don’t read the Bible as I read mine, but that’s not a sign that they’re evil. I find myself lacking in the discipline of prayer, especially when I stand next to those who are passionate about it, but I don’t believe that’s evidence of an evil in my life either.
So, when it comes to the church, I don’t begrudge people who expect less of her than I expect. Perhaps it might even better honor the Almighty and His Bride for me to expect less because, like Bonhoeffer pointed out, it’s dishonoring to them both to love my vision of a community more than I love the community itself.
So maybe it’s a sign of maturity for me to be less involved for a bit. Maybe I ought to settle into a casual relationship with the institution and relinquish my idealist passion. I can attend on Sundays and satisfy my own spiritual hunger with friendships and growth that transcend the institution. I can take the advice of those who’ve suggested I take a more realistic understanding of sin and the church… although what they’re saying is obviously the poorly-veiled, tactful and softened version of, “What you’re expecting isn’t possible.” And while I don’t agree with that statement at all, maybe there is a bit of wisdom in what they say.
I don’t know if I can ever accept that sort of lowering of the bar, and I struggle to see it as anything other than a faithless submission to the mediocre… a voluntary fade of hope and Emerson championing the five-paragraph essay and six-trait rubric. Of course no one would advise me to read less of the Bible and temper my passion for the Word.
So… I find it distasteful to dilute another of my passions for the sake of reality.
And yet, I no longer have the time or will to attend a Bible study at my church and another just to satisfy my conviction for commitment to the church and my hunger for depth of thought, relationships, and expression in regards to the word. My introverted batteries are running on empty because I’ve longed for and attempted to aid community at church, but found it more authentic, honest, and available elsewhere.
I find myself redirecting a passion I’d like to aim at my church, and I comfort myself with the thought that attending my church and passionately participating in the church might not be sinful or adulterous… it may, in fact, be the most righteous option available to me, because I cannot anymore squelch my idealism and hope in the bride of Christ than I can settle for reading my Bible once a month.
What do you think? Is it wrong to be committed to the Lord and the church, but only attend my church casually? How much of our spiritual lives should be connected to a church?