the weblog of Alan Knox

Longing for change while others are fine with the way things are

Posted by on Jan 16, 2012 in comment highlights, community, discipleship, fellowship, missional | 7 comments

Longing for change while others are fine with the way things are

Over the weekend, after I wrote my previous post linking to a great comment by Arlan, Bettie left another comment that I would like to highlight so that more people read it and think about it.

As with the previous post, Bettie is actually introducing himself to me and my readers. However, her comment touches on an issue that I often struggle with as well. What do you do when you have a longing to change the way you live among the church (in whatever aspect), but others around you are “fine with the way things are”?

Here is Bettie’s comment:

I’ve been enjoying your posts for a while now, and sharing them from time to time. I guess when you say something that I’ve been thinking the same way about, it feels safer to let you say it than for it to be just my opinion… You have a nice way of challenging our thinking from a perspective of humility.

I have been a missionary in Guatemala for 14 years now, involved in different forms of ministry, and attending a megachurch. For the last three years or so I have been feeling more and more restless with that situation, studying both on my own and with the help of others like you, and coming to some disturbing conclusions about the current state of church in general.

My challenge here is that Guatemala is highly evangelized. Sometimes I wonder why I stay here when the Gospel has been so widely preached, but in reality Christ-followers are difficult to find. There is a church on almost every block but mostly full of religion, legalism and man’s traditions. I feel that with the religious freedom here we have a wonderful opportunity to be a greenhouse, so to speak, to raise up missionaries to go to places where the need is greater but North Americans wouldn’t be so welcome.

So when I read of missional communities, house church, simple church, organic church, etc. etc. I feel a longing for something like that but the culture here hasn’t seemed to be conducive to that sort of movement. People seem to be just fine with the way things are but I just can’t go on this way. So I feel like I’m longing for a home that I’ve never seen, and wrestling with the thoughts of whether I am to start something, keep looking for something already existing, or what. Somehow I know that I’m not the only one around here that feels this way.

So, I’ll ask you the same question that I asked Bettie in response to her comment: Why do you think you feel a restlessness about “the way things are” while others seem to be fine with it? How does someone move forward in this situation?


7 Comments

  1. 1-16-2012

    “Why do you think you feel a restlessness about “the way things are” while others seem to be fine with it?”

    Alan,

    That’s the 64 million dollar question and one I have been asking for a long time. I don’t have an answer. Sometimes I wonder if I am nuts.

    “How does someone move forward in this situation?”

    That’s another high dollar question, which my only answer is to pursue Him and not a model….

  2. 1-16-2012

    sigh.

  3. 1-16-2012

    Jack,

    I don’t have answers either… but it is incredible when you meet someone who God is moving in generally the same direction.

    Cindy,

    What’s the reason for the sigh?

    -Alan

  4. 1-16-2012

    I almost dare say this restlessness is one of the best signs of a true believer. It is that common. What do you think that it means for the author of Hebrews to say,

    “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.”

    If you listen for the emotion in many of Pauls greetings and farewells, you can hear some of this. “All have forsaken me…”

    If you even listen to Jesus you will find the same thing: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how I have longed…”

    I don’t think this is an ailment Christians should expect to cure. I think churchs sometimes break up when people realize that this group is not going to fill that longing (how can a church replace Christ?). Sometimes chruches rightly “break up” because God is calling some of his servants to move on… and those left behind are hurt and feel betrayed.

    We are not home yet. The best of churches is a family reunion–familial, loving, and sharing, but not permanently home.

  5. 1-17-2012

    Amen and I feel ‘ya and head nodding and all that, Bettie. “People seem to be just fine with the ways things are…” is a universal disease. : ) I used to have it too, and there are some days where I just want to decide to devote our lives to the brain-sucking TV and join their “movement”. : )

    The issue is, we have tasted something so good and sweet – real encouragement, real fellowship, getting to see the light come on inside a person who was dead to real life – and so we crave that. We by no means have any kind of perfect house/organice/simple fellowship going on here, but after 5 years of reaching out to this rural, poorer community, we do have some real relationships and a request to study the Bible together. We have great solid believers who go to traditional churches whom we can reach out to for strength and encouragement. We have (tried to) stopped torturing ourselves with the stay/continue/create something eternal question that usually comes from my impatience and dissatisfaction. Our prayer is the same that our friend who moved to Liberia says when we ask him how we can help him personally: “My only fear is that I won’t be obedient. Pray that I will be obedient to God.”

  6. 1-17-2012

    Arlan and Heather,

    Thanks for continuing this discussion. Whatever the reasons, there will always be some who disagree and there will be some who are moving in a different direction (which may look like no movement to us). I’m trying to learn to help those who are interested in following Jesus while continuing to encourage those who are satisfied with the status quo (from my perspective).

    -Alan

  7. 1-21-2012

    I think that the church is dying because it refuses to allow for, much less nurture, encourage and support growth. It is reflected in our endless, church body destroying quest to pin down our theology into something which can be used in a power point presentation. It is reflected in the hostility a lot of Christians have to the actual world God has created (where things take lots of time, growth and change cannot be stopped, there is both endless variety and patterns woven throughout – all things which are very threatening to a lot of people). And it’s reflected in the fact that there are so many mature Christians who are restless and know in their spirits that they are supposed to be moving and growing in a context where such things are very threatening. People like the status quo and churches have too often been guilty of encouraging and supporting this natural tendency.
    I really believe that until the church learns to embrace growth and change in all aspects of religious life – including theology where it has been practically struck out in favor or preserving what we already know without having to enlarge, correct and tend to it.
    My sense is that God is moving, but honestly, I’m not sure what role churches will play. I have seen new churches attract literally hundreds of mature Christians just dying for a place to help and grow and then refuse to make use of the provisions God is providing for the mission there because these people have ideas and drives which don’t fit neatly with the nice, neat church the leaders envisioned. And those mature Christians end up leaving, discouraged and feeling like they have devoted themselves to God only to become unwanted by the church. But as it works in the rest of the world which God has created, things must die and be born again. Perhaps this is one of those times for the body as well.

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