I didn’t feel like fronting up to church this morning. Part of it was a headache, most of it was a distinct lack of enthusiasm for being there. Yet many of the people who attend I know and love, so why the reluctance? It probably didn’t help that I turned off to buy a cup of coffee (to help the headache) and this made me late.
So walking into the empty foyer, I was, as expected, greeted by the rostered on greeter. It happened to be one of the few male friends at church who not only knows men don’t have enough physical contact, but is also unafraid (like me) of showing it. There was a greeting, a hug, a “how are you?”, a “fine”, a “really?”… and a “no, not really.”
We went out to the courtyard and talked for a little bit. It was quiet, sun-drenched and we were the only ones there. My friend, however, for all his good points, doesn’t have training in any sort of counselling. So after a while, he tentatively explored with me who might be better to talk with me. And he went and got one of the elders.
We had a good talk about my faith, my church, what I see that saddens me about the church in the world, and some of my concerns and problems. It kept him out of the whole service, but that’s okay: he pointed out that we had our own service out in the courtyard. It was a time for me to be ministered to in a one-to-one arrangement because I knew the group-structure wasn’t going to work today.
This is what a church should be doing! People were in the right place for me to answer the right questions honestly and to be open for some quality time. Said elder admitted he had been delighted to learn my name was on his prayer targets.
He also shared with me that his wife had found a quote about being in a crowd and still being lonely. Church often feels like that for me. And I’ve only discovered why in the last few weeks. I am an Introverted person, which means it takes energy for me to be in a large group of people. Small groups are often easier, but recharge happens when I’m on my own. A big noisy church service is an Extrovert’s event. But when I play in the band, I am part of a smaller group, which is why it works for me. And I can more easily put on a mask, of a sorts, however, thin. This is more difficult in the large church service.
We also got to exploring some of my passions. One of the obvious ones is how I feel the church likes to ignore its own history and focus narrowly on the translated scriptures. I think we need much more teaching about what else was happening around the events depicted in the Bible. We also need to be much more aware of the difference between story and historical record because the Bible is definitely the first and pretty much entirely not the second.
Another passion of mine is the brokenness of manliness in our current society. This is the same problems that John Eldredge (and others) writes about. The best way I have of championing this is to write stories about it. Which is a third passion: story-writing.
We had a prayer time of our own at the end. There are stories to write and tell and with God’s help to put the right path before me, I will do this.