Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Spiritual formation exercises vs. church activities

Every now and then I will hear from someone in our church who wishes we "did more" (I usually hear it second or third hand, of course). You know, "Why doesn't our church ever do anything?" Or, "Why don't we ever have the youth do anything?" and things like that. I think what they're really saying is, "Why don't we have more church activities?"

I am not against doing things together as a church, and, the truth is, these people don't usually ever seem to want to participate in anything I come up with anyway (and they certainly don't want to come up with anything on their own). But I think this thinking is part of what is wrong with so many churches. All they want are things to occupy their time and make them think they've done something spiritual. That way they can check off their "activity" and feel like they've accomplished something for the Lord.

However, when I think of most "church activities" I'm not so sure how spiritual any of them are. Nor how much they accomplish. Most of them are nothing more than "club activities"... and you don't need the church for that. They are things that are only for church people, and only about your own church group. But they seem to lack any formative element, or have anything to do with participating in God's redemptive mission in the world.

What I would like to do is, rather than have church activities, is to come up with more spiritual formation exercises for people (or maybe "practices" is a better word than "exercises"). These would be exercises designed more to help us be formed into the image of Christ. THAT is more my idea of what the church ought to be about. This is what our Midweek Meditation is designed for. It's not a "church activity," but an exercise/practice to help spiritually form us. I think our "sharing the warmth" ministry is much the same. Going to homeless and hurting people and sharing the warmth of Jesus love with a smile and a new coat or a pair of socks does as much or more for the person doing it as the person receiving. I am also hoping the "Practicing Hospitality" stuff I got from Roxburgh is similar to this. Things that move us more in the direction of 'loving God and one another,' rather than just filling up our time.

The thing is, I'm having trouble coming up with more of these spiritual formation exercises/practices. I know that different people relate better to different types of things, and I think it's important that we have a certain variety for people to choose from. Not a lot, but at least a few. So, anyway, I'm trying to think more in terms of spiritual formation exercises/practices, rather than mere church activities. People can find activities to do anywhere; I believe the church needs to get back into the business of helping people be formed in the image of Christ. But maybe that's just me.

Peace out; and in.