Sunday, April 26, 2009

Too Many Choices, Shopping, and "We Walk"

What is the relationship between a seminary student from Denmark, a day at a desert indie rock concert, and the American church?

Asking a Question
Something sobering, sad and rather haunting happened to me recently.
I asked a simple question, and received an answer I never anticipated.

We are friends with a young woman who is getting her masters at Fuller Seminary, who grew up in Denmark, and now, in her mid twenties, is studying here in Pasadena. As it turns out, being a Jesus follower in Norway can be quite strange. Norway has a state church, and 91% of the populous is listed as Christian. But, being an earnest Christian in Norway today can get one labeled as a cult member, or more likely just a religious wing-nut. The state church in Norway is essentially dead (read: six old ladies and a worn-out vicar). Our friend has earnestly sought to follow Jesus since she was 15. It has not been easy, and often lonely.

And so, my question. During a lunch meeting of about 20 folks, learning about the graduate programs at Fuller, our Norwegian friend mentioned, almost as an aside, "It has been interesting, getting used to the American church". This caught my attention, and I wanted to know what that comment meant. So I asked "What do you think of the American church? You can be candid, you are among friends." I really wanted to know the honest opinion of someone who is genuinely "outside of our system".

Her answer caught me completely unaware, and changed the mood of the entire awkward silence and reflection...if only for a moment. Our Norwegian friend seemed somewhat surprised by the question, and had to pause for a moment, as tears suddenly welled up in her eyes. Obviously moved, she replied:

"I meet so many people here who seem to be constantly looking for the perfect church, one that meets all their needs. You know, just the right worship, just the right preaching, all the right programs. They are never happy with what they have." She stopped for a moment, to catch her breath, and continued, her voice slightly breaking as she spoke. "I just want to tell them, you have so many churches in which you can serve - please, just pick ONE, and settle in, and serve people, and love them!"
The room was silenced. Here we were, a room full of Americans, likely all with too many choices. Used to a culture that somehow has made us all a bit too picky, and unwilling to "settle in". Dallas Willard has written about some of these ideas, and they have made me think.

So what is our problem, we Americans? We like to shop around, and not commit - its easier that way. And if it does not work out, in life, or church for that matter - we bail, we give up, we walk.

An Illustration - Under the Desert Sun
Last weekend, as I have posted below, I spent time at the Coachella Music Festival. I like to go, as this gives me the chance to see how "the rest of the world" is getting along, in terms of youth culture, and indie music, and things that my daily life life does not see. Basically, its a chance for the Old Dude to see and hear things new.

One of my favorite groups was a British duo called The Ting Tings. They do amazing things with fun lyrics and a great beat. During their hour long act in a tent in the desert, they played a song that had me thinking - I came home and looked up the words.

"We Walk" (song embedding disabled, follow the link) - is a song about disappointment, and making decisions. But really, its a song about bailing, giving up, and walking. We do that a lot here in America, don't we?
You see the changes
In things that come
It's how you deal with it
When switching off
Make a decision
A precondition
We got the choice if
it all goes wrong

We walk, we walk
We walk, we walk
I wonder, what it might be like, if we could just settle, and not just....walk?
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