We return with considerable excitement but also with a fair amount of trepidation. There are the usual fears: making a living, starting over, surviving transition, fitting back in.
We’ve been changed in our four years in Turkey and we know it.
We think differently. Our priorities have evolved. Our hopes and dreams face a new direction on life’s compass.
I was reading an article today that reflects one of our concerns in returning. In I’m Ready To Quit Church, Andy Traub asks some big questions about how we can see something new, something more alive and meaningful in our church experience.
I won’t go into my concerns today, but I want to begin a dialogue about rural faith, one of the topics I feel drawn to talk about and explore and examine. For some reason, rural faith – faith walked out in small towns across the U.S. – seems different in nature than that of our urban cousins.
There are a host of reasons why and they present both positive advantages as well as some real challenges for those desiring to grow in that faith in the rural environment. It is a topic I desire to explore with others who claim Christ as savior in rural America.
In it all I am reminded of the words of Erwin McMannus, written both for me and for our churches:
We are all hypocrites in transition. I am not who I want to be, but I am on the journey there, and thankfully I am not whom I used to be.
My desire is to walk out this conversation in an attitude of gracious love. In no way to I want to be the ‘critic’. I’ve been reading Oswald Chambers lately and he has given me plenty to think about in regards to a critical spirit.
In the spiritual domain, criticism is love gone sour. There is no room for criticism in a wholesome spiritual life. Whenever you are in the critical temper, it is impossible to enter into communion with God. Criticism makes you hard and vindictive and cruel, and leaves you with the nattering unction that you are a superior person.
So I want to be careful. I want to walk in grace and love and avoid being critical. It is a delicate line to walk of course.
A dentist can tell you that you haven’t been taking care of your teeth, that you need to brush more, that there are cavities and do it all without being critical – it’s her job. She is making an assessment so that she can help you change your behavior in order to have healthier teeth. But she is not condemning you and you don’t feel condemned.*
We all – individuals and church alike – are in transition, are being changed, are growing and, if we allow His work in us and look to learn from one another, will continue to become the people and Church that God intended.
If you are interested in thinking more about “church” as you know it, Andy recommends a couple of books in his post that may well be worth looking into. Stop By Now.*The dentist analogy is borrowed from Dallas Willard’s book Divine Conspiracy. image