Saturday, October 13, 2007

New Yokes for Old: or, It's hard to be Martha with So Many Shirking Marys Around

Sometimes people say things that I just completely disagree with, but I say nothing in response for fear of creating an uncomfortable social situation (people don't like to be disagreed with, I've noticed). But then, sometimes, I’ll bring this repressed disagreement to the blog and vent about it. This procedure works pretty well for me!

For example, someone told me the other day that we should always remember that life in Christ is supposed to be fun! I wanted to say, "Yeah, after all, doesn't the Bible say, 'Play out your salvation with fun and frolic, for it is God who plays in you for your good pleasure.'"

But I didn't.

Here’s another example:

Sometimes you hear it said -- usually by someone who happens to have a lot of time for church volunteering -- that not enough people are pitching in to help out at church. They’ll say, "It seems like 10% of the people are doing 90% of the work!" They’ll say, "We need to impress on people their responsibility, yadda yadda yadda."

Yes, it's hard to be Martha in a church full of shirking Marys. In this case the use of numbers is taken to provide incontrovertible proof (numbers don't lie, after all) that people just aren't doing enough. Inevitably a note of mild (or sometimes not so mild) accusation enters in. There's talk of "doing your fair share" and "pulling your weight." The presumption is, something is definitely wrong with the 90%.

I hate this kind of talk. Might we be laying obligations on people that simply amounts to new yokes for old?

Perhaps this talk would make more sense if the church were the primary place of ministry in our lives. We’re all ministers, after all, and the church is where we do ministry, right?

Let me put this in emphatic caps: WRONG!

Our day-in/day-out lives is where we do ministry. Therefore: if a man is trying to love his wife and family sacrificially and to pursue his vocation "as unto the Lord," he’s probably got a full plate. He just might not have time for ushering, serving in the food pantry, the book store, the grounds crew, working the sound board, or teaching in children’s church.

I think it’s difficult for many of us to imagine church these days without frequent urgent calls for volunteers, homemade commercial-like videos touting some ministry or another (with lots of visual pizz-zazz and snappy music!), and the laying of obligations (explicit or not) on the congregation.

Fie on all that. Church is the place where we draw near to God as a body of believers, sitting at the feet of Jesus, learning from him, so that we can take what we’ve there learned out into the world, our venue for ministry, and work it out in fear and trembling (or even sometimes fun and frolic, I suppose).

There. I feel better now.


Anonymous said...

it is true. there is a small number of people that volunteer for anything. and it can get to be overwhelming for people that are trying to find volunteers to run all of the programs that most organized groups come up with.
and there just seems to me to be more programs instead of less.

it is enough to make anyone run for the hills and never come out. and it gets to be something that is looked at as obligation instead of vollunteerism. if the group is trying to do more than the group actually wants to do. than maybe some of the programs should be cut.

then again, maybe we should also cut out some of the craziness of our own personal lives also.

maybe our personal lives could do with some program cuts too. maybe we lay obligations on people in our day to day life as well that are yokes.

i open my self to what message God has for me when i go to a gathering, i put my mind on God and worship of God, and let most of the pizzazz go over my head.

it use to bother me quite a bit, and then one day i just let it go. poof, just let it go. no more thinking about church, churches, denominations, missions in far away places through churches, whether i should join a denomination, etc etc etc...

it was just too much to think about. so i gave it to God and I think that He will work this out in my life.

in the mean time, i am not going to judge how anyone does anything in any church.

Bob said...

I love that response, Nancy. I think you've got a good approach there. Your right when you suggest that we might have too much going on in our lives generally, too many burdensome obligations etc. But we know the world will do that--will hang yokes on our necks--and we agree to let them, because we think it will be worthwhile (say, for example, the burden of credit card debt).

Still, the church should be a relief and a rest from all that, a radical alternative to driven-ness. That's my take anyway.

Thanks for the thoughtful and wise response!

Anonymous said...

yes, it should be a place of rest, relief, filling, and worship.

can it be?

is there anything to do that would make a difference?

or do we just find our own little group....denomination?

maybe we shoud just run for the hills...or go to the mountain.

this was my quandary.

i did not have an answer, so i gave it to God.

what are your thoughts?

Bob said...

Well, I don't want anyone to misunderstand, I like a lot of things about my church. I'm not thinking about leaving it. This past Sunday morning I asked myself, what are the fundamental things I hope for and expect in a church service. I decided on 3 things: 1) Drawing near to God (with others) in worhsip, 2) lots of prayer for one another, and 3) learning from Jesus (with others) through the preaching of the Word.

So I prayed for those 3 things to happen in church on Sunday, and you know, well, 2 out of 3 ain't bad! I 'm still having a little trouble on the worship side of things though (#1 above).