A LightGirl Funny
July 26th, 2007 by Sonja

I got a joke in my inbox today from LightGirl … this is pretty funny.

A friend was in front of me coming out of church one day, and the preacher was standing at the door as he always is to shake hands. He grabbed my friend by the hand and pulled him aside.
Pastor said, “You need to join the Army of the Lord!”
My friend said, “I’m already in the Army of the Lord, Pastor.”
Pastor questioned, “How come I don’t see you except at Christmas and Easter?”
My friend *whispered* back, “I’m in the secret service.”

I laughed out loud when I read this. I can see the scene perfectly in my mind’s eye. Pastor, proud of his church and wanting lots of people to come and receive the benefits of being in relationship with God, and a community of faith. He sees a great opportunity for this man who visits but twice a year and wants good things for him. The man, on the other hand, feels pressure, to behave in certain ways, befriend certain people, belong to a certain club. Two perspectives … same end.

What if God did have a secret service though? How would a run of the mill pastor respond to that? Would we regular humans be able to put enough of our ego aside to allow for people coming and going in our midst, with no apparent loyalty to one church or another? Can a person belong to more than one church? Can a man obey more than one master? Oh … hey … what’s that question doing in there?

I’ve been thinking about the concept of church and community lately. It started with with this quote from Deitrich Bonhoeffer that Hamo posted about a week ago about vision:

God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man [or woman] who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.” (Life Together)

In turn Hamo found it here.

For the last, I don’t know, 10 years? 15 years? there has been a real focus in western Christianity on “community.” Having community. Live in community. Let’s fellowship. I hate that sentence. First of all “fellowship” is not a verb, it’s a noun. It’s not something you do, it’s something you have, something you gain out of entirely different actions that require a sense of responsibility on your part.

That said, there’s been a focus on community within the western Church. This has probably been a reaction to the increased sense of isolation that people feel living in the suburbs. It has also been in response to the clear calls throughout the Bible that God gives to his people to live together and live in community with Him. I think it’s a good thing. I think that being with people, and living amongst them allows us to see ourselves in a myriad of different ways. We can only see ourselves in clear view when we rub up against different folks.

Can the ideal or vision of community become an idol? Might that be what Bonhoeffer is talking about above? I think it can. I think there are many communities of faith where the community has become an idol and the sanctity and health of that entity must be preserved at the cost of any individuals therein. It’s difficult in this day and age to speak of idols. We think of bronze calves and graven images. Statues, with aboriginal dances going on around them … drums and tribal music. That’s idol worship, right? Not something we sophisticates need to worry about, need we?

Oh, but we must. We have our graven images … our Excel documents and Powerpoint slides. Whole congregations dance to the tunes of financial reports, the beats drummed out low and slow. We must have our building funds, our new programs, new sound board and equipment for the worship band. Those are the obvious idols of the modern, institutional church. What about simpler forms of church or community … are they at risk?

I think Bonhoeffer might say, yes. I think any time an institution or entity or vision is put first before God’s will we have created an idol. I think that an idol might be created in a community of 6 people meeting in a home church … if that home church is based upon one person’s vision at the expense of others and not God’s vision as expressed by all, then it has the potential to become an idol.

So … I’ve been thinking about how do we, simple humans, protect ourselves from ourselves. How do we stop ourselves from begging Aaron to cast a bronze calf for us? That’s the real problem isn’t it? It’s not that the priesthood (senior pastors, leaders, etc.) is calling us to worship these idols … although they sometimes are. It’s that we also ask for them. We beg our leaders for visions. Following the fire just isn’t satisfying enough.

Could it be that we need to change the dance? This isn’t, afterall, a waltz. We’re involved in rhumba. We’ve become too disengaged from one another … leaders and followers. Perhaps we need to be more intimate again. Perhaps we ought to stop making tiny idols of our leaders and allow them to have lives like ours.

What do you think … are we making idols of church and our leaders? How can we stop this silly business?

9 Responses  
  • lyn writes:
    July 26th, 200712:26 pmat

    Very funny joke :-)
    I was talking with Jonathan about christian leaders as idols yesterday. We were talking about how some leaders seem to have “groupies” It’s not right, we are told not to have idols, I guess some of the big marketing and media machine has something to do with Christian leaders as idols. How to stop it … not really sure.

  • Erin writes:
    July 26th, 20071:57 pmat

    Secret Service – yup, that’d be me.

    These are very god questions – and as much as I tend to criticize leadership for what they have created, I suppose I don’t give enough credit to us sheep for demanding that kind of leadership. I like what Lyn said about groupies, I used to be one – not so much for my Pastor because no one could touch him with a 10 foot pole, but for his wife – Mrs. Second-in-Command…

    The parallel you draw with Aaron and the calf makes me think – these people were impatient, demanding something to worship while waiting for God’s vision to come (via Moses in the form of stone Tablets) – I suppose because they didn’t want to feel like they were doing nothing…not exactly sure how that plays out, but it makes me think.

    How can we stop begging our leaders for “vision”? I guess when I think about that, I think maybe it’s our idea of “vision” that has gone wrong here. We want vision to be big and meaningful and powerful, what is vision was simply to make the world better in whatever way we can each day? People wouldn’t go for that because it’s too vague, it’s too simple, and it’s too much work. Instead, we want fierce and mighty leaders because this is WAR, you know?

    Ok I’m rambling. I’ll stop.

  • Erin writes:
    July 26th, 20071:57 pmat

    Ok so these are very GOOD questions as well as very GOD questions, lol.

  • Patrick writes:
    July 26th, 20077:06 pmat

    More than just idols I think Christian leaders in many, many cases become essential the Holy Spirit to people. They lose their identity in them, and too often the leaders accept this investment, so that instead of a church reflecting the wideness of the Spirit a church reflects the wideness of the pastor, or elder, or whoever is running the show. Making for an emaciated, and all too often destructive form. Destructive because the presumptive holy spirits don’t like to have their authority questioned by peons.

    Personally, I think God is in the business of training already. More and more, here and in other places I’m running into people who have been plucked out of the normal routines, literally unable to play the standard game. Not everyone is. Some are still fighting the fight in the established ways and in many cases doing wonderful work. But God has a plan. And I’m recognizing these people as they go through hassles, and frustrations, and suffering, training them to be humble and wise, able to be true servants behind the lines.

    What we need, though, is magic galleons so that we can gather together when needed. And maybe a room of requirement to practice in every once in a while where the Filches of the world can’t find us.

  • Paul writes:
    July 27th, 20071:39 pmat

    Yes, licensed to chill 😉

  • aBhantiarna Solas writes:
    July 27th, 20077:43 pmat

    I don’t know how to stop it either … it’s so pernicious and we don’t think about “church” being an idol. But it slapped me in the face the other day. In some ways we’re not worshipping AT church, we’re worshipping church. Whoa … that’s not right. I have a couple of ideas that are sort of hazy just yet .. we’ll see what happens as they gestate.

    Patrick … that room of requirement idea has had me thinking all day!!! I love it. I’ve been wondering what it would look like to be subversive in plain view … right under the noses of all the Filches of the world. I love the analogy … it’s so wonderful. I’m waiting to see what will sprout out of that seed, because something’s growing … I just don’t know what yet. 😉

  • Nate writes:
    July 28th, 20073:11 amat

    Just stepped off the porch at Decompressing Faith and ended up here. Must have been the back door. Haven’t been out that one yet. But yes, religion has become the new idols that replace God. It is being recognized very widely now in the US, and on many blog sites. Which is refreshing to see people choose God over religion.

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