WHY DO SOME FEEL THAT THEY DON’T BELONG? (By Patrick Burk)
Today is a fine day. In the Western New York area we are getting the break we need between our first major snowfall of the year and our first Nor-Eastern Storm. I enjoy the snow, although it is hard to make your way through it sometimes. I admit I do not shovel it. As it covers and blankets the ground I think there is nothing more beautiful than a White Christmas. I also think that the winter and snow symbolizes renewal and anticipation.
That is what this time of year is for many, a time of renewal. In participating in this format, I too am looking at a time of renewal and hopefully starting a dialogue that will assist all of us to a better understanding of each other. Many people feel like they are floating or just out there with no path and no direction, little faith and not much to look forward to. If you ask them about church or faith, they will tell you “They just don’t feel like they belong.”
We all learn in different ways and we all have our own styles of learning and obtaining the ideas that we want to know. I tend to be the impatient type that goes to the source or I seek out an expert, but as many can tell you, I really have to take the direct route. My plate is often overflowing. With that in mind, a few non-church friends, a few regular church attendees and myself were exactly looking at this issue. Many people feel that they do not belong. An interesting discussion soon evolved.
Let’s look at this question and concern by examining it from an organizational perspective. First there are the people that do belong. They are the joiners and are willing to find comfort in style, message, content and availability of the organization that they are joining. Second are the followers. This group is similar to the first with the exception that they may have some compromises in the areas of style, content and message. They basically believe, but maybe do not hold true to all. Thirdly there are those that find it difficult to belong. This group feels they are not listened to, they feel ignored or in some cases (as stated in previous blog entries) insulted or left behind. Often this is because of a core belief that they just can’t change or compromise. Finally, there are those that feel they will never belong. They are the searchers of truths and ideas that mold only to their liking. They will never compromise on an issue and actually feel better about being left out.
Now remember, these types come from an organization perspective but they can be included in discussing belonging to a specific church or religion. It is the third group that bothers me the most. Why is it difficult? Why do they feel ignored, insulted or left behind. In our group discussion, we found it interesting where we all felt we sat in this scenario. Believe it or not, I feel somewhere between the second and third. I often bristle at rules but I often compromise on issues as well. I am all about compromise, especially if it promotes inclusion and acceptance. Now with faith many will say there is no compromise. Some will even attest to the fact that there is only one way to participate. Do we really believe that? When do we separate the importance of the message of Christ from the delivery of said message.
Look at this example. A friend plays in a rock band and wanted to have a service that was centered around rock music. It was not going to take away from the regular service, it was going to be promoted as exactly what it sounded like. A rock band bringing their special music and type of worship to any that wanted to listen or come. It was bringing worship into another area. Many in the church felt that this was quite an undertaking, but thought that it really was a good idea. In many areas, churches are not overflowing with teens and young people. It was thought that this would be a way to connect or perhaps more importantly invite. Unfortunately, the service never happened. It was decided that rock music was indeed too secular, too motivated to sell and not conducive to the message of that church. The group took their band to a local venue, played their inspiring music and packed the house with young and old. Where I find that this is “raising worship to a new level”, there are those that feel that since it is “new” or “untried” it can’t prove of value to God. I hope I do not offend by saying that I feel that they were wrong.
I realize that this is only one example, but it is perhaps my most profound because I witnessed it…remember I am impatient about learning. I wanted to know everything so I asked the band members what their original intention was. They hoped that twice a month they would be able to perform at this church and have social events after which would allow for discussions about faith and the church. No cost to attend, a special collection taken up for those that could afford and given to a local charity and a place for young people or indeed anyone to discuss faith. It seem liked a win/win situation to me….instead it became a way to be exclusive and a way to reduce interest in that church and faith. Sure they played at a local establishment, but little discussion ensued and the band and its followers left that church and in some cases never joined if they were interested. They felt like they did not belong.
There is a lot to be said about mixing up the messenger while staying on track with the message. Would Christ be a Rock Star? Maybe or maybe not….but I think he at least would have listened to the music. He would have at least looked to see its value in spreading the Word.
NEXT UP…… Money Makes the World Go Round?????