Sunday, January 29, 2006

Beyond cliches and pat answers

This is the title I'm working on for my next sermon . . . I don't know when I'll be preaching next, but this thought occurred to me today and I thought it would be a fitting title to the next sermon I preach (as well as the next post that I blog).

Brian, thanks for your comments on the previous post - sorry I haven't had a chance to respond. You bring up good points . . . and your insinuation that I tend to be a "little hard" on the religious right is more than generous . . . I know I'm tough on them. I hope to incorporate my feelings on this political mess with the general direction for this post.

Here are a few of slices from my experience today that have preempted this post. First of all, this morning our elders gave their "State of the Church" address giving some airtime to what's been going on behind closed doors. Our assembly time was uplifting and the elders' "report" was good, but something still felt somewhat disconcerting for me. Tonight we had an area-wide worship assembly four or five Columbus-area Churches of Christ participate in (there are many other churches here in town, but they don't participate in these kinds of things. It was a great night together with great singing and fellowship time together, yet I still had that unsettled feeling (and it wasn't totally due to the incredible amount of junk food I consumed there).

Now, I have to admit that I battle a chronic cynicism when it comes to church matters. I battle it all I can, but there is no doubt a portion of that that will come out in the following words. That being said, I have come to believe that my disconsertion lies with the churches obsession and addiction to cliche Christianity and pat answers to life's difficult answers. Let me explain myself.

Cliche is a manner of speaking that evolves within a society to represent an ever-occurring reality transcending the ordinary and comes to be encapsulated in a catchy word or phrase that essentially supercedes the reality. At the heart of all cliches is a kernel of truth. However, that kernel of truth becomes infiltrated and overshadowed by overfamiliarity. This is exactly what happens in our "church cliches." Here are a few of my favorites from my own church setting and experience:
* we've got to "reach the community"
* we've got to be a "loving community"
* as Christians we've got to "give 'til it hurts"
* we're a "people of the Book"
* we've got to "vote our values"
* we pray that God will "guide, guard, and direct" our paths

On and on I could go. There is nothing wrong with these statements - with any of them really. My problem is how they've become cliches in our churches - more cliche than reality. I see chuches all around me that are obsessed with cliches and with pat answers to difficult questions. On and on I could go with doctrinal distinctions that divide God's church - and it is because we are obsessed with our pat answers. What if, on a Sunday morning, someone got up and said in our church, "You know what, I think the Baptists might be on to something?" or in a Methodist church the pastor said, "You know what, the Amish have alot to teach us?" No doubt both would be searching for new pastorates. However, I think that is the direction we need to look.

How much are we actually connecting to the non-churched? Perhaps they see more of our infighting than our unity. Perhaps they seek something deeper than pat answers will allow. Perhaps they are tired of cliches regarding prayer and the poor and are hungry for real action. Maybe they are tired of seeing political ties in church that swing only one way.

I have been searching for a direction in my posts the past few months - they've been a little choppy I know, but I think I'll start looking deeper in this area. What does a church that goes beyond cliches and pat answers look like? What do they do? How do they handle difficult questions? What do they expect when they come together to worship? The conversation goes on.


Jeff Slater said...

Good stuff, Metz. We're trying to work through some of this right now at our church (but it's tough).

I also appreciated your last post -- and I tend to be rather conservative in my political convictions!


Anonymous said...

I stumbled on your blog through Jeff Slater's blog. We've been having a rough time as a family (shameless plug: see my blog for details) and a dear sister told me I needed to "have a little faith".

My mental response was to punch her. Fortunately, I did not translate that into physical action. It's true that faith is necessary, but that was the last remark I needed to hear because it sounded so clicheish!

reading in tx said...

First I question your continued misuse of the word 'pastor' or it's derivatives to describe yourself and the minister in the church in this post. Surely you have not been around long enough to know that pastors are elders, not preachers. I ma sure that this will not be my last posting