Friday, April 16, 2004

my dilemma (well, one of many)

several times over the last couple of weeks i have found myself trying to answer some version of the question "tell me about your church". (which i know is not a question really, but pretend that there is a question mark at the end of it and move on) one of a couple of things has happened as i have tried to answer it. 1) i have stammered around like an idiot trying to explain as briefly as possible who we are, how we do some of what we do, and why we exist. i learned that i can't do that quickly so i have moved on to option 2 -- the longer explanation. what i'm learning here though is that people's eyes glaze over in a pretty big hurry when i try to actually get into a conversation or explanation about it. it's almost like the ministry version of asking "how are you?" - no one really wants to know, they just feel obligated to ask. now i think the people who asked me recently really were interested, i just caused them to glaze over by my lack of ability to quickly explain our community. so all of this to say i have developed a couple of questions about this whole thing of me explaining our church. feel free to ignore all of this, i need to ramble to think.

1. why do i suck at describing / explaining jacob's well? back in the leaving chbc days, it seemed a whole lot easier to explain (o postmodernity, where art thou?). of course, that's before it actually existed so that may have been part of the ease of it. explaining a concept in this case seems easier than explaining reality. hmm. i had the 30 second "quick hit" answer, the 10 minute "let's talk about it" answer and the 3 hour "here it all is" answer. there is no more quick hit, and the 10 minute version has gotten too complicated to do in 10 minutes.
i think the problem is that what we are can't be explained in 1 or 10 or 120 minutes. we don't fit in a box and so i can't just say "well, we're a ________ church" or "we're like ____________". i think that's a good thing. i hope it is. i find myself telling people that the best way to understand what and who we are is to come and experience us. and then i realize that one expeirence of us will still probably not be enough. sigh. that brings us all the way back to where we always start and end anyway -- it's all about being friends with people. friends will come with me to something that i can't describe, most people i just kind of know aren't going to trust me that far. ok, moving on.

2. why has so much of christianity been reduced to a sound bite anyway? here i am frustrated that i don't have a quick statement of jacob's well. why do i need one? Jesus didn't operate in sound bites. (not that i'm anything like Jesus, but if he is the role model...) he had conversations. a lot of what he said has been turned into sound bites (the whole sermon on the mount just won't fit on a keychain, bookmark, bracelet, cross-stitch plaque, etc.), but he didn't talk that way. and the people who met him had trouble explaining him in sound bites. the woman at the well had to tell her village "come and see" (John 4:39-42), the man born blind after all of the questioning said "all i know is i used to be blind, now i'm not" (john 9). they talked of experience and knowing - no quick hits.
i guess we have learned to go short because of the national attention span being lowered to 1.7 seconds. if you can't state it all in one breath (25 words or less, right pdc folks?), or put it in 4 letters on a bracelet (what WOULD Jesus do indeed?) no one wants to hear it. or maybe we do that so we don't have to spend too much time talking about it. maybe it isn't for "them" so much as it is for "us". could it be that the Church has gone to slogans because we don't have that much to talk about anymore? that would be tragic.

well, that doesn't help my dilemma any. i still don't know how to quickly tell people what our community is. i don't feel like i want to, i just feel like for the sake of those who are stuck listening, i should be better at it.

obviously i can't say anything quickly.


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