Ancarrow..the blog

Welcome to "Ancarrow...the blog," a place for us to share some random thoughts as we help start new churches in MD.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Ancarrow sheds a manly tear?

So, we married off our Casey the other day. I saw "our" loosely, of course, since Casey is A: NOT our real daughter, per se. B: NOT our pet C. NOT our property.

What was weird to me about the whole affair wasn't just that she was a former student - we've done plenty of those. It was a few things. First, Casey has always been incredibly special to us. I wanted the day to be so beautiful for her; ordinarily, I wouldn't care. I do my part, eat a piece of cake, pass out my hugs, and enjoy watching someone get married. Because of that, I put a lot of pressure on myself to do a good job , and to help take care of all the little details, as if I had a vested ineterest in them acutally happening. Because of that interest, I refused to open the event with "Mar-wij is wat bwings us togefer today..." I did't want to get the crowd too riled.

For those who were wondering - I held it together all day long. No tears - in fact, not even the THOUGHT of tears until the end of the night. I had returned to the church to let Casey get the rest of their stuff - plus, change out of her wedding dress. it was in those final moments - the final passing of the baton - perhaps the last of the "Casey talking to Scott at the Church" moments that everything hit me. So, Casey got her wish - she got to see me cry.

Congrats Dave and Casey, we look forward to this next chapter.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Should I stay or should I go?

I've been in a lot of situations recently, having discussions with people about church. Maybe I'm a cynic, or a pessimist, or maybe even a crybaby, but lately these conversations have not been about how great I am, our church is, or how great my friend's church is. The conversations have gone like this..."we are going to leave because ... (insert myriad or reasons here). My reason for writing on this topic actually has little/nothing to do with one person, or any one conversation. Instead, it is the culmination of many conversations - and in my head then, many questions.

A variety of feelings, thoughts, and emotions immediately dance in my head when I have this conversation. It is a feeling of inadequancy (after all, I work in a church - FULL TIME), anger, hurt, sadness, etc - but overwhelming all of these feelings is - "is this right - is this biblical?" While I could argue that the WAY that most people leave - gossip, rumor, anger, slander - is not biblical, what about the concept itself?

In the midst of writing on the concept - I stumbled upon an article from one of my favorite sources - relevant magazine. I love this guy's points. Check it out.

I would say that the first fundamental reason for this issue comes in how we view church. If we view church as a consumer, then church has to give me something to keep my business. The sermons have to fit me, I have to like the people, and worship must be in a way that I can at least tolerate. When the church fails to provide what I want, I "consume" some where else. But is that what Christ had in mind for the church? If you look at Ephesians 5, Paul makes the connection that marriage is like the relationship between Christ and the church. Couple that with the talk that the local church is a body (1 cor 12), and that Christians should pursue unity (eph 4), then we must understand that sheer business principles cannot define a good relationship with a church. Infact, the only consumer in the church, even in a seeker sensitive one, should be God. However, that is often not the case, and is a large reason why people ultimately leave a chruch for another at some point in time.

What if we view the church as a marriage, or a relationship, between a group of people? Surely, this would change how we viewed leaving or staying (or it should - as a Christian). Perhaps we would wrestle longer, have more conversations about the process, or do what we can to "save the relationship" when the honeymoon ends. This doesn't mean there would never be separtion, leaving, disagreement, or even divorce, but perhaps we wouldn't do it so often.

Where I see this play out the most is after 3-4 years after someone comes to Christ. The newness of the church wears off, the hope of Christ is taken for granted, a new staff person has replaced someone that another person loved. No one brings us cookies anymore - in fact, we're now in charge of making sure they get delivered. We're not getting invited to lunch anymore - in fact, our pastor tells us to be the ones inviting.

All the while, we're in a spiritual rut. Something has gone wrong - and we're frustrated because no one seems to have the quick fix anymore. We begin to look at this place, or that place - or the mega place - because they certainly will have the cure. While often this requires a deeper dedication to our own personal disciplines, often it is the church who gets blamed for "not feeding me enough."

We look down the street and we ___________ church. We say, "hey, this church has a starbucks, great preaching, a jacuzzi, and tons of hot singles! We think our answer is there - and we jump.

The equivalent to this in a relationship, even with a friend is, "hey, I know you're my friend and all, but I know you well enough to see your problems and flaws - and I don't that other person well enough to anything more than just have some fun once in a while." In my marriage, this is the equivalent of trading my wife in for a 'younger model.'

Many times, especially here on "megachurch lane," we as believers are prone to look at someone else's series, someone else's toys, and say, "they're better off than me." Little do we know that there are many in those seats saying, "maybe I need to look at this place."

And in the end, we have a revolving door of Christians who spend their time church - hopping and shopping, rather than taking seriously Jesus' charge to "seek and save the lost."

We need shots in the arm. Retreat experiences. Date nights, if you will. Should a church provide such an opportunity? Yes, I think so. these are times that renew intimacy, and remind why you love that person to begin with. The newness of dating does wear off. The newness of a preacher does get old. You need that time of refreshment, and many times, when you are a weekly, plugged in, serving church member, that happens in really weird times or on a retreat. But may we as a body of christians remember perhaps one of Satan's greater lies - the one that says, " the grass is greener on the other side."

I think there are scriptural reasons for leaving a place, and, in the end, I think there are some unbiblical reasons that are okay too. I just wish there was a deeper dedication to trying to make things work out in the meantime.