Faith, Feelings, Fellowship

The mariner has often commented that the comic strips are the most important part of the newspaper; he reads them first. Often, whether the reader is aware or not, an underlying reflection is triggered in the brain – evading every protective or judgmental barrier – to provoke contemplation.

Mariner has written many articles and posts that often put him at odds with his local congregation and friends. Often, it is the mariner’s use of the term “pew Christians.” It is a term implying that the Lord’s work is needed away from the pew. The term also signifies that the Church doctrine has displaced personal commitment to the works of Jesus with the priorities of managing a building, budget and charitable giving.

The mariner accepts the cultural forces that focus on the physical and personal experience provided by ecclesiastical practices; we all need rejuvenation and the role of the church as a focus on moral and spiritual behavior. But…Jesus never had a church, to oversimplify.

The mariner was provoked to write this post by a comic strip:

Zits-feelings-1

Very few pew Christians are comfortable focusing their faith and works out in the community – especially engaging personally with those in need. Many parishioners belong to their church first to have fellowship and second to feel that they are responsible citizens supporting a higher calling. The idea that the parishioners are called by Jesus to be among the needy, the morally lost, and the forgotten, is not a requisite. Charitable giving from a distance is acceptable but no ‘feelings,’ please – just gifts.

One need not be a biblical scholar; the two great commandments cover the subject. God does not find the parishioner – the parishioner must find God and love that relationship ‘with all one’s heart, mind, and strength.’ Further, the parishioner cannot practice elitism, vanity, prejudice or pride. It has always been difficult to be a Christian.

In this era of significant change to culture, politics, economics, and religion, the local church is under great pressure to modify its practices. There is a barrier to changing the ecclesiastical paradigm; the pew-based worship of the Trinity is the way it has always been. Whole generations have grown up and passed on who were committed to the local church and its role in the sacraments. The fellowship and gratification of belonging still is an important role for the church and will always be so. But it is time to change the manner in which church-goers execute their commitment to the Trinity.

W. Edwards Deming, a renowned economist and an influential writer about change in business and any organization undergoing change, said that a paradigm shift (changing the model of practice) cannot be created within the old paradigm. It requires a new energy, a different approach, and different priorities – to which the old paradigm is incapable of morphing. History has proven Deming correct. This does not bode well for pew-based churches.

The American culture – politics and all – is moving toward a populist ethic. This transition is brought about by the disruption of oligarchic practices which interfere with the ‘American Dream,’ a concept based on the fairness that everyone’s vote is equal, that anyone can be President, and that the profits of the nation are distributed fairly. This means that every institution and organization must move toward populist ethics. For the Christian Church, this means that prejudice, pride, exclusivity, and social obligation, are under pressure to provide a Christian role based on the public, not the pew.

The mariner has had personal experience wrestling with the shifting culture versus ecclesiastical practices that go back hundreds of years. Deming is right: there is no vision for future community-based priorities. Whatever changes are possible, those changes must accommodate the pew model. Somewhere in the community, new parishioners will forge a new role for congregations. In the meantime, pew-based churches face hard times during the transition. The public wants ‘feelings,’ not ritual.

Ancient Mariner

3 thoughts on “Faith, Feelings, Fellowship

  1. True Dat, Bro’ . As we attempt to drag our congregation into the new millennium, we see more and more churches in our conference fold and cease to exist. The key to our church’s survival is it’s ability to attract younger parishoners. If more are dying than joining, the church will obviously cease to exist.
    This is not enough however. In the past, it was expected that members tithe to belong. Nowadays, when a family barely scrapes by with both parents working it is impossible to expect the members to choose between shoes for their children and a hefty collection plate donation.
    For the brick and mortar churches to survive, the spiritual church will need to evolve itself into something that gives future generations what they need, something they crave, something they will seek out. If today’s young people can find what they need spiritually elsewhere, religion as we know it will cease to exist.

  2. Have been giving this post alot of thought and I do believe as well that people are tired of the old paradigm of the brick and mortar, pew based churches and want something much deeper. They indeed want to feel something and be moved, thus the popularity of the mega churches where they are getting that fulfillment to a certain degree. Still not alot of community interaction, but some and maybe a little more awareness of the plight of others, but the action taken seems to be more to save the souls of the down trodden rather than help them with their situation. Many still blame them for their plight as well and all their problems would be
    solved if they just got a job!
    Feel deeply that it is time for us to practice what we have had preached
    to us for so long. It is time to step up and reach out not only to those less
    fortunate, but to each other. We are all pretty nice folks once you get to
    know us! But nobody knows that if we don’t get to know our neighbors. It
    does not have to be much. Smile and say hello, help some one with their
    groceries, let some body with only one item go ahead of you in the check
    out line, or bake some cookies for the community soup kitchen. Then
    notice the feelings you get from doing that. It is usually pretty nice and often leads to more acts of kindness and feeling better about yourself and others. So maybe it is time to get out of the pews once in awhile and actually feel what it is like to be a Christian.

    • Small steps will lead to larger steps. Empathy is a trait that is easily buried under all the other priorities we have. As you suggest, there is reward in an empathetic action. Many have difficulty emoting empathy and do not know the feeling of Grace.
      Ancient Mariner

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