(...that didn’t prove true and what I am learning lately).
Glenn is trying a Synchroblog experiment, and I am inviting myself to the party. I am not a pastor, pastor's wife, church planter or theologian - just a not-so-innocent bystander who was away from the church for a long time, and has been back "in", in varying degrees, for the last six years or so. I am not putting anything forward here as "the truth", or to attack any particular church or denomination in particular. I am simply going to talk about some things I've been taught (explicitly and implicitly) over the years in church, and what I think about them now. I will start each point with a statement of what I learned in church (and what I've learned since in parentheses).
Church is easy to join (but it's hard to stay)
I don't mean that churches don't have their own initiation/vetting requirements for membership, but they project that they want everyone to come and visit and preferably stay (and join). And it isn't like the catechism/confirmation classes are that hard, especially if you're motivated. It is after all of that "newness" and learning have worn off and you settle in to the actual practice, the mundane, day-to-day, weekend-in-and-weekend-out attendance that it starts to get hard. I look at this almost like marriage (which, with the bride of Christ analogy is apt). First there's the flurry of romance, where both sides are interested and engaged with the other, and it's all new and exciting. Then there's learning about each other and what the other likes and dislikes. Then comes the formal commitment, followed by settling in together, making a life together...And suddenly it's not all beautiful and exciting any more. Some of it is just pure habit after a while. Then we start looking for (and finding) faults. I think a lot of people that end up finding "irreconcilable differences" with their church and go seeking another (I am not talking about those who suffered spiritual abuses - I am talking more about "ADHD Christians") are doing so not because their current church is all that bad, but just that all the excitement has worn off, and they want that "romance" back.
All those other churches are wrong (we're all wrong, and we're all right)
I am not a universalist. I think there are points of doctrine over which one can be wrong - very wrong. However, I am very sure that no denomination or individual church has a total lock on the truth. We all are approximating our understanding of something that we can't even really comprehend - the infinite power, vastness and love of God. We are probably all right about some things, and certainly all wrong about some other things. The point is to find the parts we share in common and concentrate on those. The church has suffered enough division already.
Gossip is good (because church people do a lot of it)
This one really gets to me, because I have heard a lot of really mean-spirited gossip from otherwise good Christians. And I succumb as well. It is a trait that as I get older I like less and less. Maybe we all need to just learn to shut up about others for a while. We may find we have much less to talk about. We may also find we have better things to say.
Talking about mission is mission (talking is not doing)
A church can have mission committees, give to missions around the world, have sermons about mission, and not be missional at all. This is my single biggest disappointment with my current church - the pastor has even told me that most of his focus has to be on "internal mission". Say what? That almost seems like a oxymoron. He had some good reasons behind it, but it didn't really convince me. So instead, I look for mission experiences elsewhere, and don't count on my church to facilitate or provide them for me.
Prayer should be formal, ritualistic and responsitory (God wants to talk to me, not a script)
Cards on the table here - I cannot stand responsive prayers (or really readings of any kind). They do nothing for me. It invokes the "reading in front of class" syndrome, where I feel all my brain effort is going into parsing and vocalizing (if the prayer is new) or simply mouthing the words to the "correct" rhythm the congregation falls into (if the prayer is a known part of the weekly script). I have railed before about how I don't like charging through the Lord's Prayer as fast as it can be recited - we might as well not even do it. However, our service sang the Lord's prayer this past Sunday and I found that to be very cool and engaging. It was slow enough and different enough that there was time to actually think and feel it and send it to the Lord as mine.
You must name things and people explicitly in prayer for God to grant your wish (God already knows what we want)
This was one of two points I was taught while briefly living with a charismatic family as a teenager out on my own. It always struck me as "prayer as magic spell" - that if you just say the chant in exactly the right way, God must grant you what you wish. Whereas I oft times think we should approach many of our prayers to God with a "Watch out what you ask for, you just may get it" feeling. Anyway, I've heard close approximations of this since in more mainstream churches, and I've never been able to reconcile it with Romans 8:26:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
God gave us our minds so we could throw them away and turn to Him in faith (God gave us our minds because He wants us to use them)
This was the second thing taught to me by the father of the family I mentioned above (a college professor, BTW). I thought it was ludicrous then, and I think it's ludicrous now. Fortunately, I haven't heard this repeated in a verbatim way in a church since. But I have caught a lot of whiffs of "You're thinking too much about that" or "You shouldn't read that, it might lead you astray". However, I think God wants and loves me, the me He created, not some mindless automaton (or He would have created that, instead). And that means that since He gave me intelligence, He expects me to use it. The challenge is to use it to His glory. That I am still working on, and believe I will be for the rest of my life.