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Sunday sluggishness

Nice to enjoy the patio again without fear of random interruption from our landlord. It's been good to swap stories: our upstairs neighbors are enjoying the same relief, and one of our former upstairs neighbors dropped by and commiserated with us over beer yesterday.

Wireless connection sucks out here, though. Would love to do something about that.

As I've observed before, Sunday mornings have a nasty drag to them. For me, some of it is just knowing how much the day going well depends on others, from our getting up and heading out all the way through to the end of the second service. On top of that comes welcoming others, keeping an eye out for problems and solutions, completing necessary tasks, answering questions, catching up with friends, and so on. And in this mix (I often need to remind myself) is worship. It can be hard to really let that be foremost with all the rest—even left to my own devices, there's something in my flesh that avoids and rebels, but coordinating things gives me many more layers of distraction.

The proverbial back-breaking straw is how much I'm interacting with others' different approaches to (and resistance to) worship. As with most churches, people come to worship services for a host of reasons, and many of the reasons that aren't worship tug at me. Friends catch up in the lobby during services and have to be asked to quiet down. Kids get away from parents and run around (just being kids, and most of our kids are fantastic, but the world's not as safe as they believe it is or we'd like it to be, even on Sunday morning). People serving need direction, which is often a repeat of information they've already been given. Volunteers who show up late or not at all need to have their duties covered.

All of this is part of being an open, worshipping community, and I'm firmly convinced the gospel calls us to be this—it would creep me out to no end to be the kind of "focused" church that's not only not invitational to others, but is even off-putting to ourselves in our various states. We should be able to come as we are, and that's not going to look the same from week to week or person to person, or even within the same person from one week to the next. So serving as I do is both my job and part of my own worship (which is hard to remember). I just wish there were more of us "on the line," and I wish there were more individual responsibility and shared burden for creating and being an atmosphere where God is worshipped.

My struggle is hardly "suffering," and there's a lot I can learn from my own heart in it. It just makes me sluggish when it's go time.


Pastor Kevin, our pastor at Third Reformed in Pella, said something like that in his sermon last week. You grew up around here, you know the stigma that Pella has and most have unfortunately embraced this. It's what you wear and what church you go to. Chuck and Lib chose this church when we moved to Pella three years ago. I still have issues with it's size. I feel that when you walk into your place of worship, you should feel "at home." Kind of like, wow, this is what I've been searching for my whole life. I don't get that there. I'm surprised that Chuck and Lib do. This is a church that requires $46,000 to run per week. PER WEEK!!!! It astounds me that a place to praise our Father could require that much money just to have the doors open to worship. Pastor Kevin has a good heart though. I like his sermons/teachings, usually. He has said several times in his sermons that we need to think about what it is that we come to church for. Is it to see friends? Is is to "show others" that we are religious? Is it to worship our Lord? Is it just to have a good cup of coffee? Why do we come every Sunday to TRC, and when we are there, are we loving to others? Is it a place those that they outreach to feel comfortable? I can say from my perspective...no. Whether it is my issue for feeling like I don't belong or that I am less because I don't wear the right clothes...maybe. That is my struggle and I fight it every day I wake up in Pella. On the other hand, we have been going there for three years and have not become involved at all. That is our fault, just being lazy at times and we were badly burned at one of the churches we went to in Ottumwa. I need to get over that fear of being hurt by extending myself.

On a lighter note...glad to hear that things are better on the home front with the traveling landlords. That's fantastic to have some freedom again, isn't it?
Third Reformed was my church when I lived in Pella, too (1995-98), and they seem to have been growing and growing. There's lots to be thankful for in God's work in that, but there are costs to being so big that make me shy away from it in principle (though in practice, I think there's also something to be said for laying down my preferences in order to follow God where He's at work). I can almost hear Kevin saying that.

Sorry to hear of the church burn—that kind of thing too often drives people from God (or from the church, but generally speaking, I don't believe one can authentically love Jesus and reject His Body, Bride, and people—at best, that's a massively dysfunctional relationship). I'm really glad you're hanging in even when there's much to endure and much to forgive.
Here's my pet peeve right now.

People hanging in the lobby to chat once worship has started. Seriously, nothing gets me angrier. And it's really bad since I'm on stage LOOKING out to the lobby and SEEING THEM. I just want to shout "GET IN HERE!!! THIS HAS A PURPOSE!!!!" Of course, I also want to shout, "If I can get myself, my husband and our three children here at 9:00 in the morning to REHEARSE for the 10:30 service, the LEAST you can do is come inside and SING! Or LISTEN. OR PRETEND TO SING AND/OR LISTEN!"

But I digress. :|
barlow_girl and I talked about this yesterday morning—no doubt that the world, the flesh, and the devil all work together to keep us from worshipping God. When we serve the church during worship, we face not only our own attacks on these fronts, but also everyone else's. One of the best ways to have me sidelined from worship is to get me more preoccupied with my frustrations than with Him. But it's a tough battle, because those frustrations are my job, too!

The other part we talked about is what it means to be a good soldier on all three fronts—the devil is external, the flesh is internal, and the world is a bit of both. Scripture sketches out some strategy for us (as well as being our sword itself). I wish more of us were more often willing to acknowledge that getting to and being in Sunday worship is at least as likely to be a battle as it is to be a time to "get our needs met" (spiritual and otherwise), then approach it accordingly. If we believe spiritual reality as presented in Scripture to be true, why do we persistently set our Sunday agendas according to everything but that (and then, when there are disconnects, conclude that God isn't present or we aren't being fed rather than admitting we're trying to run our own program)?

If I'm not chief among sinners in this regard, I'm still probably pretty high in the chain of command. But come on—the truth is, most of us are being duped, regularly (and in large part by our selves), and need to wake up. We have all week to chat—seven days of twenty-four hours each! On Sundays, helping one another worship should be priority one, and we owe it to ourselves and one another to be mindful of this rather than sabotaging ourselves and the people we claim to love.
I think what bothers me most is the church's unwillingness to acknowledge this as not a good thing. I should say that ONE Sunday my pastor said something about challenging everyone to get to a seat three minutes early so that they can pray for the service. But it sounded more like a suggestion. The justice seeker in me just wants leadership to say, "Okay... what can we do to stop this. How about we talk to the welcome team and train them to encourage people to move on inside once the prelude starts? How about we we send out a blurb in our next newsletter that says something about the importance of corporate worship and everyone being together at that time? How about we have Kent shout in the microphone 'Okay, Chatty Cathies! Time to come inside!!!'"

But I know that this shouldn't bother me as much as it does. I notice wrong-doing in others SO much more than I notice it in myself. I just don't want to go the opposite direction and, as Diane says, "Give everyone free passes" just because it's easier to let it go with the flow and not rock the boat.