Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Still please yourself?

House family “Together Evening” last night, a time in which those who live at White Stone set aside a whole evening for – you’ve guessed it – being together.

Last night, after the trademark long drawn-out meal, followed by coffee and laughter (we laughed at the famous last words of General John Sedgwick in the American Civil War, “They couldn’t shoot an elephant at this dis−”, at a “knock knock” joke about an interrupting cow, and at a failed joke about an interrupting elephant...)

After that, we went through into the lounge and made cards for each other with encouraging scriptures on them.

My reflections afterwards were a little similar to after last time we had such a gathering (see “Please yourself”, 3.10.06) – that such occasions, though worthwhile and refreshing are, paradoxically, also rather hard work.

It’s comparatively rare for us to have an event where the basic purpose is that people enjoy it. Sure, I would always hope that every Agape meal or worship meeting would be refreshing and enjoyable – but that’s not the ultimate purpose. The ultimate purpose is to give: to build the church up and to worship God.

And, as a leader, you want people to enjoy that, but it doesn’t matter too much if they don’t (or, at least, if they don’t every time).

But here I was last night, sitting, relaxing, enjoying – but with the background tension that I was very concerned that others enjoy themselves. Come on! Enjoy yourselves! Now!

Let me illustrate: the meal was lovely – tasty, imaginative and lovingly prepared. But inevitably, some people aren’t as keen on chicken tikka as others. The coffee and laughter was fun. But inevitably, some people would rather not sit so long on our hard dining room chairs. The card-making was creative and encouraging. But some people don’t flow as easily in “arty” stuff as others.

My conclusion: church, by its very nature cannot function according to pleasing everyone. It cannot be about everyone having “the time of their life”. Because church is, fundamentally, about people who have laid down their lives for each other and for One greater than them. Church is not an interest group. (“Fly fishing for men”, “Tennis for beginners”...) That is why it is difficult for us to all do the same thing together for enjoyment and all find all of it – well, enjoyable.

The thing we truly have in common is Jesus. His cause. Sharing this we become precious to one another and take real joy from each other.

Then it’s not so much what we do. It’s who we are. And when we love one another – that is when “God lives in us and his love is made complete in us”.

I’m not suggesting that everyone ought to have spent the evening worrying about whether others were having fun (that’s my peculiarity!) But I am saying that, if we’re truly church, we ought always to live for the good of our brothers and sisters. And if this is true, then church becomes a wonderful place to be - hard chairs and all!


Anonymous said...

ha ha! this reminds me of when my parents decided we should be spending quality time together as a family. "We are GOING to spend time together and you are GOING to enjoy it.."

Think the key really is Jesus, 'cos we can enjoy Jesus in each other and it makes whatever we are doing less important. Have spent some happy times in the church all sat together peeling apples- which is not really a fun thing, but the togetherness is great.

If church relationships were just based on doing nice things we all like then we have missed the point, we would be missing out on the deeper level Jesus intended us to know.

Piers said...

Good stuff. I tend to aim at people feeling that they have had a worthwhile time, esp in kingdom terms. And yes, a leader/father worries about them all at times. Ah, responsibility :-)