Monday, August 01, 2005

Contrarian View From the Pew: Problems and Solutions

For a problem to be solved, the problem must first be observed. Then the problem needs to be analyzed in order to understand the cause of the problem. After understanding the cause of a problem, possible solutions can be tried. It is very common in most organizations for the leaders and the participants to have a different list of problems that need to be solved. Rarely do all of the followers even agree on a problem. A husband and a wife may even disagree about whether or not certain behaviors of their children are a problem. Observing, analyzing, and solving problems within organizations is much more complex and much more difficult. Solutions to problems often cause new or different problems. And so the cycle continues…

Most Christian leaders believe the problem with Christianity is a lack of commitment from average believers. These leaders think that if and when they inspire their followers to greater commitment, more Bible reading, more prayer, more evangelism, more donations, and more service, then the cause of making disciples will be advanced. Most followers do the best they can to meet the leaders expectations, while feeling a little guilty about not ever being able to be or to accomplish everything the leaders want to achieve. Most followers know that time and effort are limited. And so the cycle continues…

One of the aspects of the blogsphere that I have enjoyed is the number of non-Pastor bloggers who are offering their own solutions to the problems within the Christian Church. For instance, Teresa at Restoration Station is an advocate of Home Churches and the Home Church movement. There is much to like about Home Churches. In many ways the Home Church is exactly what I am writing about with the concept of more “ownership” within Christian Churches. When an individual or a married couple decide to use their own home as a facility to congregate, break bread, fellowship, and pray, more opportunities for unfiltered and direct ministry should result.

The interesting part about Teresa’ solution and my support of her solution is that the two of us are trying to solve two different problems. I like Teresa’s solution because I think there are many believers and also many non-believers who would prosper in a Home Church environment. However, I don’t think the Home Church movement is the solution to all of the problems within our Churches.

I see one of the big problems within our Churches as an over-emphasis on relationships which has led to the males of our species becoming disinterested in Church matters. Teresa sees the problem within Churches as the inability of believers to form meaningful relationships because of the time and money being wasted on non-relationship matters, such as buildings. Maybe we have been going to different Churches, but most probably, we have a completely different perspective.

Our perspectives have been articulated in a couple of posts and comments. Teresa’s Give Him Back post and comments and my Relationships post and comments are the background for Teresa’s post yesterday. In my next post, I will add to some of what I’ve already written and also respond to Teresa.


Teresa said...

I think you pegged the problem well, but like I said, I don't think that there ARE any inclusive solutions. The ONLY solutions is to LET the HOLY SPIRIT lead the church; ANY church, House Churches, Small Churches...The problem with that is that the larger the church gets, the more politics role in and it is unlikely that the Holy Spirit will be involved in all desisions made. I'll look forward to hearing what else you have come up with. Did you ask God what He thinks?

Jennifer said...

David, you said "I see one of the big problems within our Churches as an over-emphasis on relationships which has led to the males of our species becoming disinterested in Church matters."

Over at Teresa's, you said "simple solitary yard and garden work is more honoring to God than “busy
body relating”. I agree with this statement. However: honest relating to one another and to God
is always more important than anything else, including yard work. If your idea of Christian relationship is nothing more than sharing cupcakes at Bible study, I feel incredibly sad for you. Teresa’s view of what the church should be is not a feminized version; it is the biblical version.

The Bible refers to "the church" and "the body of Christ" as the believers, not the building. (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:12)

We are called to wash each other’s feet (John 13:13), love one another John 13:34-35, Romans 13:8), Be devoted to one another in brotherly love and honor one another above yourselves (Romans 12:10), live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16), instruct one another (Romans 15:14), agree and be united with each other (I Cor. 1:10), serve one another (Galations 5:13), be humble patient with each other (Ephesians
4:2), forgiving of each other (Ephesians 4:32), speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19), encourage each other (I Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 10:25), have fellowship with one
another (I John 1:7), and I could go on!

Now, it’s entirely possible that you are able to do all of that with another believer while cutting the grass. And it’s entirely possible that Teresa does that with another believer sitting together at Bible study. Both involve relationships, and both are right. It has nothing to do with being male or female.

The entire reason Jesus came to this earth was to teach us how to have loving relationships with each other. The entire reason he died was so we could have a realtionship with Him. It stands to reason, then, that fixing our relationships is the key to walking in accordance with God.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Teresa and Jennifer,

Thanks for being open to this discussion. I wish I had a reference manual or other resources to recommend, but this topic doesn’t seem to be a topic that is written about or even discussed much. You know I always try to tell it like it is. I’m not always right, but just because I express a different view than most, doesn’t make me wrong either. There are some things that are true, but rarely discussed. From my perspective, the topic of relationships and men seems to be one of them. Please forgive me for my clumsiness in this discussion; I am doing the best I can.

Teresa, I talk to God, but God doesn’t talk directly to me. I am certain the Holy Spirit has been involved in my life, but I am only certain through hindsight. I try to be truthful and I try to be obedient. I also try not to let any of my feelings effect my decisions. I suspect that many believers mistake their own feelings for the Holy Spirit. However, I have no way to know. I trust that this discussion is in some way God communicating with me and God communicating with you. I totally agree with you that there is not one problem and not one solution. Perhaps, the segmenting of different Christian expressions is good. However, I hope we don’t segment too much.

Jennifer, I don’t think I was very clear. Yard work is not equivalent to a relationship and Bible studies are not all tea and cupcakes. Some Bible studies are nothing more than tea and cupcakes and some yard work is honoring to God. If I am working in my yard when I should be helping my daughters, I am dishonoring God. However, if I am gossiping with a neighbor when I should be maintaining my property, I also feel like I am dishonoring God. Please understand, I agree with what you are expressing about relationships. My gripe is not with relationships. We need relationships in order to be the Church of Christ. I don’t even have a problem with an emphasis on relationships. My problem is with the over-emphasis on relationships that I see in Church and the best way I have to describe this over-emphasis is the feminization of Church. I wish I had better words to use. Please stay tuned and be patient. BTW it is assumed that Jesus spent most of his life as a carpenter and only a short period of his life with his disciples. We don’t really know what he all he did before he turned water into wine, but it is fair to believe most of his life was normal.

Teresa said...

David, God speaks to ALL of us, and when He does, it is very plain. He speaks through the Holy Spirit, through His word (the scriptures), other Christians, circumstances and prayer. If ANY one of those things do not confirm what is being said to you, then it is not from God. That is how you will KNOW for sure. And the ONE reference that it is written is the Bible. Other books and stuff are great as long as we know what the Bible says and the reference does not conflict with it. I love your heart David, "seek the Lord in ALL things and you will find the answers" (my emphasis), but the key is SEEK.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Teresa,

Maybe it’s a matter of how we use the word “speak”, or “talk”, but I try to use words as accurately as I can. God has never talked to me or spoken to me. I know some people who have told me that God did speak to them in an audible voice. I take them at their word, but I have no way to know for sure. Other believers have spoken to me, but again, I have no way to know whether or not what they say is the word of God.

I trust that the Holy Spirit is guiding my life as long as I am obedient to the clear teaching of Scripture. However, the Holy Spirit has never spoken to me. I do seek the Lord in matters when a decision is not obvious, but most of my decisions are just doing what I know is right from years of experience.

I trust that God will use me for his purposes, usually as long as I am being obedient, but I also trust he will use me even when I make mistakes. Your description of communicating with God is a very common belief, but just a little too mystic for me.