Dealing today with a few items that aren’t long enough to rate their own blog entry, but nonetheless deserve mention …
Congregational Journey: The Final Ripoff *
For those of you who were following my interdenominational perambulations (my, what biiiig words you use, Ray …) over the last several months, suffice to say that my Congregational Journey ended not with a bang, but a whimper. My final stop was on April 30, a Wednesday night communal dinner/Bible study that seemed to promise hints of what a first-century church meeting might’ve been like. Or so I hoped. Actually, the dinner was communal but most of the people ignored my presence just as they had when I attended their Sunday service. And the “Bible study” was an expository sermon, delivered by the senior pastor from the pulpit, only with a little allowance for people in the congregation to comment or ask questions. Unsurprisingly, few did.
Looking back, I’m glad God sent me on this journey, if for no other reason than to show me some doors were just plain closed. Based on my previous experiences, I knew how rigid, empty and unscriptural the practices of some congregations could be, but still held out hope that there were some who were “subverting the dominant paradigm” and trying to draw closer as a group to the teachings of the Gospels and Epistles. But after seeing so many traditionally-structured congregations in action, I know that it’s far less likely to happen than I thought. The dream I had on April 24 was the final nail in the coffin of those hopes, and the confirmation that God was calling me out of the institutional-congregation system, rather than to a different outpost of it.
What will come in the future? Well, I’m still searching for “house churches” in the Stockton area; I’d like to see if their practices are any closer to the New Testament model than what I’ve witnessed in the past. (No luck finding any so far — the nearest one I’ve discovered is in Modesto, about 40 miles/65 km away — but I’m gonna keep looking.) I may occasionally drop by a few of the friendlier churches I visited in my travels — God’s Throne Baptist Church, Wesleyan Evangelical Church, and maybe Reality Stockton — but settling in at any of them isn’t in the cards at this point. And I will keep seeking and listening to God, studying His Word and sharing life with His people when opportunities arise. But the Congregational Journey is done, and filed away.
(* The title is just a Monty Python reset, not a veiled insult of any sort. Be cool …)
The bifocals: plain on the nose of my face
Yes, the new eyeglasses that I mentioned back on April 1 finally arrived May 13, and I’ve been spending the last ten days working on getting used to them. Now, it is really nice not to have to slide my specs down to the end of my nose just to hope to read small print! But I have had to adjust to the blurry line running across part of the middle of my vision — alas, my bifocals are not the no-lines type. (When you’re on Medi-Cal, you don’t get to be choosy.)
In practice, that means a little more head tilting (back for reading and close-up work, down for general use and long distances). And driving was a bit more difficult until I learned to sync that blurry line with my wipers — thus giving me separate views for the windshield and the instrument panel. I’m still getting occasional mild headaches from my eyes instinctively thitting the blurry bit and attempting to refocus in order to clear it up. But I suspect that in a couple of months I won’t even know it’s there.
At least if life DOES begin at 40, I’ll begin it with better vision. Just call me “Six Eyes”!
Periodic Pingback: And now, the news … and the church
Last week when I posted a list of potential upcoming blog topics, one of them was “the developing collapse of the newspaper industry.” I was thinking of correlating the shakeout in newspaper publishing — one whose casualties include such venerable fishwraps as the Rocky Mountain News and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer — to the shrinking of the American institutional church, noting that the causes of both, and the adjustments both need to make, are similar …
… only to find that I was two months late. (Hate that.) Jim Lehmer, a Christian brother in Missouri, writes the blog Lord, I Believe; Help My Unbelief (wonderful title!) and has posted an article on that very subject, one that is far smoother and more incisive than what I had in mind. Rather than re-invent the wheel — and what’s worse, an inferior wheel to the one already on the market — I invite you to check out his post. Enjoy … and tell ’em Ray sent ya.