In conclusion to last week’s discussion on the American church, here are Lizzy’s closing thoughts on the subject…
Great thoughts, Courtney! I like your words, “I’ve never encountered the church he’s describing.” I wish I could agree absolutely, but I don’t think I can. Daniel was kind enough to give us an updated blog post which you readers see here, shortened for the purpose of NOTW’s post. One idea I resonated with from his original, however, is the phrasing that the church “lost” him. Every TCK can come up with a list of the American church’s grievances that rub him or her the wrong way. Churchgoing in the US is just gruelingly hard for us. It presents each of us uprooted, adjusting teens with a unique set of challenges. In fact I believe Satan is often the one presenting those challenges, trying to drive us away from the American church–a body that creates an environment so unlike any we’ve known and yet is crucial to us fulfilling our individual callings in America.
Daniel’s post made me stop and think how the church has lost me. Rich white people? Materialism? Inwardly focused? Oh yes! I don’t want to believe those things of the entire church but I most obviously do! I don’t blame monocultural churches–diversity requires a lot of creativity, and giving, courage. And I can know that though there are most definitely great numbers of rich white families who are the best lovers of and walkers with God and I’ll still hate the image of Christian wealth. Heck, I could get rich, go to church, and still feel uncomfortable with other wealthy whites. Let my hypocrisy be revealed, that Satan’s victories in my heart be exposed!
I moved to the States two and a half years ago, to a good sized town that locals might call a city. The town is operating off of a big church planting revival period about ten years ago, and rich fruit has been born. I tried out churches for the first six months, quickly realizing there would be nothing quite like the loving international fellowship I’d left in East Asia, that met in a dirty shopping mall and represented over 160 countries. I was also astounded and a little disappointed by how long my list of criteria was for choosing a church. When my family decided to settle in one fellowship I went with them, but I wasn’t fully satisfied. When discussing spiritual subjects with my art teacher at school, I couldn’t honestly recommend him to attend my church, since what he felt would bring him back to the faith– a church of deeply sincere people, contemporary but art-filled music, diversity and a casual, accepting atmosphere–was what I was still looking for.
I ended up attending college in the same town two years later. I’ve spread my wings a bit. I now go to services at a large building half an hour from me, that does a great job of engaging believers of all ages and backgrounds in the Word. Really though, I just go for the college Bible study that meets early. I’m not so hot on the service that follows it. There you have my story; I’m going on two and a half years.
I’ll now pull on some tendencies to sin that I’ve encountered, and I think all of us do. (If you think of more, please respond to this post below!):
1. Giving in to generalizations about Americans that we have applied to form generalizations about the church.
2. Letting our high (or at least culturally-tailored, specific) expectations make us picky about churches.
3. Letting our misery in transition hinder our action in participating in the American church system.
4. Claiming our cultural upbringing as an excuse to give up on churches in our passport country.
To all you TCKs out there, I challenge you to ask yourself, “where has the church lost me?” Then, PRAY ABOUT IT. The church in America has major, MAJOR issues, but make sure you offer the things you see before the Lord so you are not tempted to judge and think falsely. I applaud our Slovak MK’s open, wise words here when he repeats throughout his post, “I am confused about_________in the church.”
Daniel: It takes time. Don’t give up on this flawed church. I believe that all those verses in the Bible that instruct Christians to meet together are yet embodied in the church system in America, and it’s therefore our responsibility to keep trying to participate in it, to engage in spiritual warfare there because the over-equipped, materially attractive sanctuary with the comfortable seats and stage lighting system is still the hotly contested ground, the spiritual battlefield.