i think it is hard to live in this world without a critical spirit.
lisa and i went to a worship service yesterday. we had received a couple of flyers in the mail the past couple of weeks. full color deals. the flyer was encouraging us to attend the “grand opening” of ______ Church in a community near us. since we are planting a congregation we thought it would be good to see what others are up to. i thought maybe i could offer a word of encouragement to the pastor. i thought they could probably use a couple of extra warm bodies, even if we didn’t plan on attending regularly. usually that is what is needed.
well, we got there and over a 100 cars were in the school parking lot! i thought that this planter really did the homework. we were a little late but welcomed at the door. inside the auditorium over 150 were gathered. but something felt amiss. the critical spirit was kicking in…
the language being used up front was very “churchy” even though one of the core values was reaching “unchurched” people. the information flyer i picked up on the way talked about “small groups forming on April 15th”…and another date in April for another activity…they actually have been meeting for quite some time. a nursery worker was introduced and a comment was made that people have said their children really love “our church” as opposed to other churches they have been to…the message was…well, i will stop.
it became quite clear to us that it wasn’t a “first service” or any kind of “grand opening” we have been to. it was a congregation that had been meeting for some time and in my opinion had already developed a language and culture that really wasn’t very friendly to first time guests. we left pretty empty. unfulfilled. and had a lot to say in the car.
i am very aware of my critical spirit when i go to a worship gathering. i work at staying engaged, and listening for what God might be speaking to me. i almost always leave with something good. at least one thing. but there is so much of the other that pervades my thinking. i think it is in our nature.
we don’t get what we want, or expect or hope for so we criticize. we don’t see or hear or understand so we criticize. we disagree so we criticize. every time this happens, we contribute to the growing critical spirit within.
i think grace is one antidote to this critical spirit. Grace gives others a break. A second chance. grace reminds us that we are not perfect either. grace takes into account where they have been, what they have done, how they think…rather than making it all about ME.
i see criticism all over. political ads, facebook, workplaces, congregations…i think i will use them as a reminder of grace…God’s grace…that has been poured into my life that i might be less critical of the world and those around me. i trust that will enable me to better “bless and not curse” those persons and things that are seeking to live out the practical nature of the Good News of Jesus.