Excerpt from the Report on the Church Visiting Pilot Study.

From pg. 32 of the ‘Report on a Pilot Study on Redesigning Church Visiting for the CRCNA’, from the larger Better Together Project Report:

excerpt

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The Dry Dip

There’d been a sign posted on the tree,

inviting along all on the dusty road

to a baptism and barbeque.

It was a Saturday afternoon,

golden, cloudless, and hot.

The dog needed a drink as it was,

so need and curiosity drew us half a mile

through the grove to the baptismal bank.

 

When I saw the little crowd in the river

I wondered at their dryness.

Surely they were there to be wet?

But though the water streamed audibly

over rocks, pebbles, pinkish sand and

the sparkling of quartz

it didn’t seem to touch them.

They remained, they stood in the bed,

and some of them dipped themselves in and under

and through the current,

yet not a drop fell

nor ran down their cheeks from raised crowns.

I could smell the earthy richness of the soil,

the emerald ferns, the flowers of the river bank.

The dog was refreshed, and looked up at me,

awaiting a nod

that he might go into the stream himself.

Good water indeed!

 

And yet it seemed somehow malfunctioning–

one crucial property, misbehaving.

It would not get those people wet.

Long was I standing, marvelling at this

display of non-ness.

My forehead was tight with brow-furrows

as I thought and thought hard.

The dog, avoiding the bustle,

paddled about upstream.

 

There was a man in an odd blazer

who talked a lot.

Loud, fast, and a lot,

with a very big smile and big, energetic gesturing hands.

The color and texture of his garment

was strange,

made up of uneven pinstripes

and pilling wool and

the appearance of flakes.

And it was a long time before I realized that the

coat was coated.

It was dark beneath.

But it had been painted white.

This white was now starting to crack.

 

But now, at his enthusiastic behest,

folk more and more come into the stream,

talking, laughing, kneeling and dipping.

And still it is as if

the water isn’t there.

And yet it is.

 

I saw a fish, and a frog.

The water flowed, shone round the one,

shimmered on the latter

as she emerged

and sat on the bank.

The dog followed soon after,

gave his coat a good shake

before settling damp in the grass,

gazing contentedly at the daisy

before his nose.

He’d smell like the river later,

even after the summer sun had dried his fur.

 

It wasn’t the water after all?

But these were animals.

Ah, it was the people.

They would not get wet.

I looked and thought,

wondered… if there was an explanation.

But this was it—they would not.

<–Return to Table of Contents.                                     I am the Friend.–>

 

Inhumanity, pt.3.

Inhumanity in the Church, pt. 3 of 3.

<–Inhumanity, pt. 2.                                                Back to Table of Contents.–>

pt.3: Yawn.

In pt. 2, we looked at some of the issues which get folk anxious for ‘action’ in the CRC at large. It’s possible that some of these same issues might not raise the temperature at A., though I know of a few individuals who would readily approve of these churches’ notably PC demonstrations.

But typically, the general population at A. doesn’t get mad over things you might expect. Things I would consider absolutely unacceptable anywhere, but especially in church, people apparently don’t care about. These issues don’t get their Irish up at all. You have to commit a ‘real’ sin–well, probably they wouldn’t use the word sin–let’s just say you do something really bad, like offending people’s sensibilities or saying something is wrong which they think is unobjectionable, before they get up in arms.

You have an underdeveloped sense of morality.

 

Just like preaching Jesus doesn’t get many people at A. excited, seeing someone else getting mistreated, for example, doesn’t get those same people angry. Below, not listed in any particular order, are some of the sins and types of behaviour that have characterized several interactions at A. over the years, but are rather typical of events of 2015 and the 2016 aftermath. Keep in mind that these sorts of things are actually condemned as sinful in the Bible, or can be called sin and disciplined by the church based upon reasonable, responsible extrapolation from biblical teaching on similar topics. (Praising church-sanctioned ‘lament’ over Synod’s confessionally sound decision on gay marriage, in contrast, is not biblically justified–see Robert Gagnon’s book, and multiple programs and blogposts on Alpha & Omega ministries).

  1. Bullying: see Exhibits B., D., J., L., and W.; basically everything connected with 13; perhaps there will someday be a file devoted to parishioner 72.
  2. Lying: see Exx. E., H., I., M., P., R., T., U.
  3. Slander: see Exx. B., I., L., M., P., T., W.
  4. Rudeness: see Exx. B., C., I., L., S., V.
  5. Gossip: see Exx. B., C., E., I., U., W.
  6. Faction-building: see Exx. B., C., E., I., L.
  7. Stonewalling: see Exx. S., T., V.; What would YOU do? pt.1.
  8. Denying Justice to Fellow Believers: see veritaspraebita.wordpress.com; esp. Exhibit T.; Appendix iv., v.
  9. Misappropriation of Funds: see Exx. U.,V.
  10. Cruelty: see veritaspraebita.wordpress.com.
  11. Blasphemy: see Exhibit R.
  12. Cowardice: see Exx. I., O., T., V., Appendix v.
  13. Dressing up the Carnal as Spiritual: see Exx. B., I., J., P., R.
  14. Lack of Conviction: see 12.
  15. Double Standards: see Exx. E., G., H., I., J., L., O., P., S., T., U., V., W.; Appendix ii., v.; What would YOU do? pt.1.
  16. Hypocrisy: see Exx. P., R., S., U.
  17. Wilful Disenfranchisement and Marginalization of Vulnerable Church Members: see Introduction & Exhibit J.
  18. Rebellion: see 1., and Exhibit W.
  19. Sexual Sin: see Exhibit W. (search for the word ‘skeletons’).
  20. Apathy: see Exx. C., E., I. Also note that A. has recently had trouble recruiting members for their pastoral Search Committee.
  21. Critical Spirit: see Exx. B., E., G., I., J., etc.
  22. Arrogance: see veritaspraebita.wordpress.com
  23. Conspiracy: see veritaspraebita.wordpress.com, esp. Exx. C., J., L., S., T., U.; What would YOU do? pt.1.
  24. Corruption: see 23 and Appendix v; My Mistake.
  25. Peddling of Heresy: for example, starting an under-the-radar small group—presumably in order to avoid oversight—in which people read books like The Shack.
  26. Abuse of the Bible: De-, Re-, or Mis-contextualization and misreading of Scripture to support unbiblical positions. See Exhibit R.
  27. Rewriting History: see Exx. I., L., M., R., U., W.
  28. Spiritual Coldness: see Exx. B., E., F., I., L., R., V., W.
  29. Readiness to Accuse (worth noting that Satan is the accuser of the brethren?): see Exx. B., E., I., J., P., T.; What would YOU do? pt.1.
  30. Abhorrence of Sound Doctrine: see Exx. B., E., G., I., J., K., O., P., S.
  31. Resentment of the Preaching of Repentance: see 30.
  32. Refusal to worship God on His terms: see 30.
  33. Jezebel-like Exercise and Love of Power Over Others: see Exx. B., D., F., J., L., P., R.; also note the following two events: the reclaiming of furniture which had been gifted years before to a family now without furnishings because of their eviction from their home by their church; and the unjustified withholding of a security deposit which would have meant much to the young person from whom it was withheld, and little to the person/people who didn’t return it to her.
  34. Spiritual Abuse: see veritaspraebita.wordpress.com; Appendix.
  35. Treachery.

 

So, to sum up: if you’re afraid of making a certain brand of Christian ‘righteously’ indignant, don’t worry about causing offense by asking your parents to move your girlfriend into their basement; never fear getting caught lying about someone else or dragging his name through the mud; you needn’t watch yourself lest you pass on an unsubstantiated bit of gossip (at least 2 problems there!); and don’t hesitate to make a show of excluding someone you don’t like from church social functions (chances are that’s a popular thing to do, after all).  No, those sorts of things are fine.  Just don’t tell people they’re wrong, need to change, or that God has expectations, including that they use their brains when hearing His word, that they love all people like He commands them to, and that they are to apply biblical standards to EVERY aspect of life.  That’s what will get you in trouble.  For more on acceptable sins, see the book of a very similar title by Jerry Bridges.

[I will make one personal comment here–it’s one thing to lie, another to look the other way when someone else has lied… and then there’s being lied to.  That really pisses me off.  I wonder how many others feel the same when they learn they’ve been played for fools, or taken for a ride?]

We close this mini-series with a devotional drafted by 21.  Reminder: 21 is also the author of Exx. H., P., parts of S., and U.  How to reconcile the passage below with those, and with the ghastly ‘Overview’ document drafted by 21 for the Special Meeting of Classis in December 2016?

Devotion Entry for September 2016 by Rev. 21, entitled, ‘Sanctified–and Clueless’ (No, I’m not kidding):

“My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. — 1 Corinthians 4:4

Only now, over 20 years later, do I realize how clueless I was as a young pastor. I didn’t really know what I was doing with the little church we were starting. I had been to seminary, had read books, and had been to conferences. I also prayed my heart out and worked very hard. It all made so much sense at the time. Yet, looking back, I would do a lot of things differently today.

In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul is pointing, at least partly, to the mystery of not totally knowing what we are doing. I might know more now than I did, but today I will not get my life and faith 100 percent right. And if I live another ten years, I will look back to this time and real­ize how much I didn’t know, and I’ll probably wish I’d had deeper, stronger wisdom.

But God knows exactly what he is doing. He is weaving all of our “not knowing” together as our story, which is part of his story.

This calls for deep humility and total openness with God, from the heart. It calls for daily confession, repentance, and surrender—asking God for wisdom and direction.

Sanctification requires “a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17). That’s what I have strived for—to seek God and wrestle with God, all in a humble and honest way.

Are you doing that too?”

Now, think about it.

I’m practically LOLing, as the kids say.  And of course it occurs to me once more that 21 really has adopted (or co-opted) quite PoMo, Emergent-y (is that even a thing anymore?) lingo.  This ‘story’ stuff is really starting to get under my skin.  Like the term ‘brokenness.’  I prefer CS Lewis on ‘story’; reading 21 in toto recalls rather Rob Bell and Brian McLaren.  For CS Lewis, ‘Story’ is about getting at Truth, even if only at one aspect of it.  For Postmoderns, ‘Story’ is about validating and legitimizing even competing and contradictory experiences which are then treated like and acted upon as Truth.  *sigh*

Perhaps after we have completed part 2 of ‘What would YOU do?’, we will do a short exegesis of the devotional.

<–Return to Table of Contents.