Tuesday, August 15, 2006

[LIF] Sad About the Church Today

Last night a dear friend called me, about 11:45. He was experiencing acute abdominal pain and wanted someone to help him. Sharon was over at her mothers because Billie (my mother-in-law) was in the hospital ER all day so it has been exciting to say the least) and I was home, carless with the kids. This guy has a lot of chronic pain so it is not unusual for him to call us, even at ungodly hours. And as he began describing this pain I knew this was something new and not something he should mess around with. So I was encouraging him to call Ontario Telehealth and see what they said, or if it was unbearable to just call an ambulance. He was hesitant to do both.

Now here is where it gets complicated. I know this guy also goes to two big churches. A well established and respected Pentecostal Assemblies church and a Charismatic church spun out of the merger of Partners in Harvest and the Pentecostals who hang out in Toronto. Both bigger bodies and apparantly more to his liking than our group - he was attending Freedom but left when he realized that a number of us played Dungeons & Dragons. This is one loss I've always been sad about, but his reasons for leaving have never made sense enough to override what we strongly feel God has called us to do. He tends to be a bit on the simple side and is easily caught up in the wind of fear based theology that inhabit the church world he gravitates towards. Anyway we've been walking this out as friends for a year now, it has gotten better. I think the most troubling thing for him is that he sees God in my life.

He must see God in my life because he always calls here when he has a crisis. I suggested he might call someone from the Pentecostal church to help him out, I know really great folks there. But he said he didn't know anyone there well enough to call them this late at night for help??? That made me sad inside. He's been there maybe two years. Worked on their church building (he does wonderful stained glass work). Participated in their worship band practices and even participated in small groups. Yet out of that experience there is no one he can call? I thought maybe he is just shy, but then remembered this is the guy who calls at 4AM if his pain is unbearable. He isn't worried about us rejecting him??? Then again we never have, that is probably why we have continued wrestling with the D&D issue and have never lost our friendship, strained as it might be.

So we keep talking and he spins off into something about "golddust" appearing in times of worship at this new Charismatic church he's been going to. I didn't ask if he'd personally experience it, if I go down that road he sometimes feels attacked so I just told him that sounded neat while grimmacing inside as I wondered what new wackiness is going on these days. He was telling me this was a manifestation of God's glory and so I asked him if there was maybe someone in that church that could drive him to the ER. I was drawing a blank on folks in his end of the town that could do it from our community, most of our folks are in the other end of the city and I'd sooner just pay for his cab myself. But he really needed a person to be there with him. So when I suggested that maybe someone from a church that apparently God is showing up in could help him, he said the same thing. Actually he said, "I don't know anyone that could help me, especially at this time of night." So I asked him to call Telehealth and do what they asked him to do, even if that is get an ambulance to the hospital. Also to call me in the morning if they keep him because at that point I can get a car and come to see him, bring him something to read. I offered to pray, but he has been hesitant about me praying for him, but I was more concerned with him having a rupture of some sort so I told him I'd pray soon as I hung up and he should call just as I instructed him.

As I prayed my heart was heavy, not just for this precious bruised brother who has had more than his fair share of pain. But also for the church. How can we call ourselves a church if people don't feel they can ask us for help when they need it? How can we follow Jesus and think our lives should be ordered and easy? How can we claim to have God in our midst and ignore our neighbours around us in the pews? How can folks as hurting as this guy go to church and not get loved as he should be? It is just not right. I don't care if a manifestation of Jesus rides a Harley up and down your aisles in worship if you miss the poor and the needy it is all just so much religious bullshit.

[EDIT] Just got off the phone with this young man and the hospital did send him back home after some observation.


Tim Kantel said...

Man, what a sad comment that your friend couln't call anyone in the church he felt "drawn to" after leaving yours.

I love what the renewal crowd brings to the mix of the Christian Church. I've spent time on staff at TACF and my years there were formative. I remember though hearing a speaker there once giving people the warning that being in a work of God like that can sometimes be like the proverbial good vs evil football game except that we can easily never make it out of the huddle. A good reminder to us all I think...

One of Freedom said...

I know. For me it is less the renewal aspects and the horrid theology that gets me so upset. This guy is being told just keep coming and praying and it will all work out. So he forces himself to go to prayer meetings and complains about not having enough energy to cook his own meals??? It is so frustrating, the real church would go pray with him at his house. In fact I spent time with him on the phone repeatedly offering different ways to help him help himself and he kept gravitating into the latest renewal manifestation fad including the prerequisite preposterous and unvalidatable stories. Yet he is distinctly a person without real hope. Something is so wrong with that picture.

I love the manifestations, don't get me wrong. But that speaker is right that it isn't about the huddle. When it becomes about the huddle I am concerned that it becomes idolatry at worst and narcissism at best. Great to have you come by Tim! BTW as an update it is likely he is passing stones and the doctors just couldn't locate them. So please at least let us pray for a brother in need.

Len said...

Bad theology, no real connection at the level of personal caring.. sounds more like a congregation than an ekklesia.. Riddle me this, "when is a bunch a church?" (Mike Frost asks..)
I hear your pain.. sometimes its easy to despair..