THE SUFFOCATING CHURCH CALENDAR
Having grown up in church, I think the most dangerous manifestation of this locked-in syndrome is the way that church life can often be structured. Too often, the church calendar can be organized so as to dominate the lives of its participants completely.
It reminds me of my attitude to training within my student rugby club. At university, that club was a big part of my life. In my third year it became an even bigger part, as I was voted in as the secretary of the club. At the same time, I was getting involved in church and really becoming passionate about my faith again. Both were great ways to spend my time, but what I noticed while working with the rugby club and investing heavily in the church concerned me.
The rugby club, by its nature, is an inwardly focused community. The purpose of the rugby club is to produce the best-quality team it can, so that they win as many trophies at as high a standard as possible. The church, by its own mission statement, is supposed to be an outwardly focused venture: the church exists to ‘make disciples of all nations’. But what I noticed was that the daily life of the church looked remarkably similar to the daily life of the rugby club.
The rugby club had a few main events every week: match days on Wednesday and Saturday, training on Mondays and Thursdays, often with a number of rugby club members doing something social on a Friday. Through this weekly calendar, the rugby club dominates the lives of club members – at university I could easily find myself doing rugby events every day if I allowed it. And so, especially during my first couple of years, the rugby club took up the vast majority of my free time. Now, for an inwardly focused club, which finds its mission in growing the best team it pos- sibly can from within the club community, that isn’t the biggest issue.
But compare it to the church. We have our match days (Sunday services), training sessions (home groups) and, just like the rugby club, we also have social commitments with our friends from within the church. Unless we are very careful, we can easily manage to fill our weeks with church events: prayer meetings, Alpha courses to help on, youth and student groups to run and participate in, parenting or marriage courses, worship band practice, child protection training sessions . . . the list goes on.
Just as the rugby club – an admittedly inwardly focused institution – can dominate the life of its participants, so can the church. But unlike the rugby club, the church is supposed to exist for the benefit of its non-members. As we get more involved in the church, we may find that we spend all of our energy participating in events that focus on the church community – inwardly focused events – even though our whole mission statement is supposed to steer our vision upwards and outwards.
June 15th, 2017 - Posted & Written by Laura White