Rethinking Sunday

Recently I was hanging out with a mommy friend when the inevitable question of my job came up. It was more along the lines of "what exactly do you do?"

The conversation meandered to swapping faith backgrounds, and she told me that she was Russian Orthodox and her husband was Lutheran. She declared that she didn't like Lutheran church services.

How come, I asked.

She began describing how the services were so distracting because of how much they just talk at you. The long sermons where they just talk and talk and talk. She lamented that there was no time to think, reflect, and talk to God. In Russian Orthodox services, they were conducted in a language she couldn't even understand... and she loved being there to reflect on her week and to pray.

I found her observations so fascinating, and it reminded me how we often interpret experiences through our own lenses. I could imagine many typical Protestants assessing a Russian Orthodox service and criticizing how you couldn't learn anything because you couldn't understand what was being said. Because learning during Sunday service was essential.

But really, who gets to decide what "must be" during a church service? Do services have to involve lengthy sermons? From the few times I've been to mass, I will admit that often the simple message of a 5 minute homily stuck with me throughout the week longer than whatever I learned in a 45 minute sermon.

What if church was just the place you showed up to meet with God?

What if there were fewer pews to sit on and there was all this carpeted space for people to freely move around? Well, one benefit I could think of would be that it would be more conducive to lay prostrate. And wouldn't that be a particularly wonderful position to be in before God on a Sunday morning?



I am what you call it... perturbed, disconcerted, dissatisfied, sad.

Over the last couple of days I have met with 3 new students who are coming from Chinese churches. Being from the same spiritual upbringing, I'm always interested to see the state of their faith when they start college.

Here's what I've learned so far:

Two of them talked about being affected by cliques in their youth groups. Another leader texted me later and said she had the same conversation with another freshman.

One of them told me of being asked to leave leadership and then told he would be helped to find a new church because of his attempt to be authentic and transparent about sin that he was repentant of.

One of them identifies as a Christian... when I asked her what grows her faith she said she likes going to camp and watching people be passionate and raising their hands while singing.

One told me about the discovery of high school youth group leaders getting drunk with other youth, and then many of them being asked to leave leadership... which more or less translated to them leaving the youth group. And then the pastor hearing from God that he was "purging" the group.

I love the Chinese church and at the same time I am saddened by its brokenness. From what I've heard the past few days, it seems youth pastors, etc. are unequipped to help high school students own their faith in this present culture. The extent of Christian expression is mostly through camps with spiritual highs and looking "righteous" on the outside.

I wish...

I wish someone had taught the students how getting drunk can be foolish and regrettable.

I wish someone had thanked the student for his risk in transparency and asked him to testify of God's conviction.

I wish someone had taught them about true hospitality - welcoming the stranger and being kind to those who aren't your friends.

I wish someone made sure that students were interacting with Jesus and not the culture, the people, and the emotions that run through the group.

I wish students could know that following Jesus can be EXHILARATING on a daily basis... not just when you go away to camp and attend an awesome musical concert.

Jesus, have mercy on us...

At the same time... I see God at work...

The student who told me that she was this close to rushing for a sorority and leaving Christianity altogether, but felt like her camp experience made her want to find a fellowship in college.

The student who says that high school was for God to strengthen her identity in him but she wants to be missional now... and role playing with her to invite her roommate to large group.

The student who still wants to know God even after being burned by the church, and praying for the first time in a long time.

Lord, it will always baffle me how in all this messiness you are still showing your redemption at work.

NOTE: I recognize this is all self-reporting from the students and there are two sides to every story. I am mostly disheartened to see this as a theme among the students I've been meeting. And I'm sure the pastors are trying their very best. I just think they are unequipped and often don't make good use of the resources out there.