Monday, September 3, 2007

Ed and Edith

I'm not the new kid on the block. My relationship with Christ began in 1966 - 41 years ago, and for all of those 41 years I've been actively involved with churches in various volunteer and vocational roles. So, I've pretty much seen it all when it comes to the behavior patterns of evangelical American Christians who don't get it (but think they do) when it comes to relating to the body of Christ. Here are their prototypes: Evangelical Ed and Edith.

Ed and Edith...
  • Have been born again Christians for most of their lives. The churches (note the plurality of that word) they have been members of have given them a fairly solid grounding of Bible knowledge. There's almost a sense of pride in their perfect attendance pins and tithing record.

  • Love to fellowship with other Christians. If the church has an "eatin' meetin'" they're there with their favorite casserole. Ed's the best horseshoe pitcher at the picnic. Edith's pie takes the prize. Small talk comes so easily for them. But they avoid getting too "personal" in their conversations. All their friends are Christians, and that can't be a bad thing. After all, "iron sharpens iron", right?

  • Are the first to tell the pastor how "powerful" his sermon was they just heard. They feast on good preaching and their notebook is full of Bible tidbits and interesting facts they glean from the messages. Yet they never have brought an unchurched friend to church to see, hear and experience what they say they enjoy so much.

  • Never lead a friend or neighbor to faith in Christ. Or if they ever have, it's been years ago. Their Bible study has convinced them that God hasn't given them the "gift of evangelism", so they're exempt from actually sharing the Gospel with anyone. Yet at the church business meeting they are willing to share questions/criticisms about the budget and the lack of financial growth; or if the membership totals haven't grown they want to know how many hours the staff is putting in each week "knocking on doors".

  • If they ever do invite a friend, it's someone who is disgruntled with their church down the road. They introduce him/her/them to the pastor with a smile, kind of like the cat who drops the dead mouse at your front doorstep to show you he's doing his job.

  • Get real comfortable with the status quo at church. After all, they joined because they liked how things were. But as soon as the status quo is challenged and new methods, styles, outreach, you name it are introduced they begin to get fidgety.

  • Have no problem wondering why the church doesn't do church like their former church. At first they wonder to each other over Sunday dinner. Then they wonder with their small group of close church friends. Rarely do they ever pose those questions to church leadership who can give them a real answer.

  • Have baggage they've brought with them from past church experiences. For a long time they keep those bags hidden in the attic, and try their best to be team players. But something takes them into the attic where they see the bags and can't resist opening them up. The old "church clothes" are brought out and they put them on again. Suddenly they are finding similar faults with their current church that they found with the one they left with unresolved issues.

  • Eventually vanish, sometimes quietly, sometimes with a lot of noise. If they are so kind as to grant an "exit interview" the standard and spiritual answer is, "After considerable prayer, we believe God is leading elsewhere." Wasn't that exactly what they said years ago when they came to join our church? There words were, "We don't know why, but God led us out of that church and has brought us here!" They are nebulous about their reasons for leaving, owing it to "God's will". Maybe God does view us as an army and like in the military loves to moves us around from post to post on His command. I guess that's it.

The American evangelical church is full of Eds and Ediths. In fact, church growth is more commonly due to their moving around than it is to conversions. And we wonder why church health is so hard to obtain and keep.

What do we do about Ed and Edith? Better yet, how do we keep from becoming them?

I guess that'll be next.


daidamo said...

what was wrong with them?
could You tell

Rick Lawrenson said...

I'll share about that in my next entry.

daidamo said...

Thank You

TerryKM said...

That's powerful! And I'm not just saying that because I'm your son-in-law. I'm looking forward to the next part.