In our fast track world, people like instant gratification, or at least quick results. Disappointments can occur if your expectations are too high. You can become disenchanted with people, places and things. This can happen even in the place you go to for rest, renewal and refuge - your place of worship. For simplification of terms, I will call it a church.
As part of a faith-sharing group, I listened to multi-denominations share their expectations and disappointments regarding their Saturday, Sunday or any day of worship.
1} Many of the group did not like the emphasis of the church asking for money. Some of them complained that it was an on-going practice. We all know that worship establishments have bills like the rest of us. They pay electricity, heating and air conditioning, cleaning, taxes, salaries, etc. Usually the church offers a balance sheet of where the money is going. If not, offer to be part of the Finance Committee. You will see where it goes and have a voice in how it is distributed. If you are not asked to join, most Finance Committees have an open door policy whereby you can sit in and listen to where the money is going. If they don’t, initiate one by addressing it to the building or church administrator.
2} Closely related to regular collections is the matter of tithing. How much treasure do you tithe? Tithing is explained in Deuteronomy 14:22 “You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year." The definition of the tithe was very simple and plainly laid out for Israel. They were to gather their harvest and count the tithe out from what they’ve gathered. For instance, if you had 100 apples, you must count them out from one-to-ten, and the tenth one you set aside for the Lord – Leviticus 27:32. Today, many denominations pay heed to the 10% of income for church tithing. And many people complain that they cannot afford that. I am not here to argue church’s expectations of tithes or what you should give. I believe that it is an individual choice - some give more; some give less and it should be a personal, private choice and not made public. What you give is between you and God no matter how much or how many times you are asked.
3} Some of the group complained of their leader, minister, pastor or priest. They simply did not like him or her. They did not feel (s)he was leading the congregation correctly, said improper things, was insensitive, and many other things. In other words, (s)he was imperfect. We all are imperfect. Even church leaders. It is a difficult life for many of these leaders; it is a solitary life, especially if they don’t have partners to share stress with. And there is a lot of work and stress. Besides juggling the church’s expenses, administration, activities and worship programs, the church leader also give counsel, oversees funerals, weddings, christenings, baptisms, etc. etc. They are very busy people and churches are usually short-handed. If you don’t like the leader's mode of operation, volunteer to do some of the leg work he or she does routinely. We have ministry programs to give communion to hospital or shut-ins, bereavement committees help with funerals; there are countless things you can do to help an overworked religious leader. And they LOVE home-cooked meals AND the company - invite them to dinner; you may see another side of them.
4} Everyone complained about children and small babies at church. Especially the fidgety and wailing variety. I admit that I use to complain about this, too. Religious leaders always welcome children to church - some churches have separate glassed rooms for young ones to prevent disrupting the congregation. My feeling is that children who attend church with their parents from an early age quickly adjust and become part of the church family/community easily and lovingly. It is natural for them to be there with family and most likely will duplicate this faith with their own families someday in the same way.
5} Some of the group complained they did not like the people in their church community; they were too high class, too low-class, too gossipy, and the beat goes on. We don’t go to church for the people - we go to church for God.
They lament they will go to another church. There are people all around us we may not care for - maybe even in our own families, but we don’t go look for another family. Many times, the dislikes you feel are cosmetic; you may not really know the other people and let’s face it, you don’t have to socialize with them. You attend church with them, same as attending college or any social gathering. Focus on why you are in church; and don’t focus on the people. You can be friendly and sincere, but you don’t have to live with them. Even Jesus had altercations with his twelve disciples. Peter and James wanted the honor of being on His right and left side in heaven to the consternation of the other ten. Another time, ’An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest." Jesus didn’t replace them; and he didn’t go to another town looking for 12 different disciples. There will always be church members in ANY church you may not see eye to eye with, but you are there to worship and they are part of the community. Maybe they harbor similar feelings about you. Bloom where you are planted and try to grow in faith with everyone, especially those who are different from you. You are there to worship; not judge your brothers and sisters.
© Marie Coppola Revised February 2015
Ref: McDonald Road Sermons converted to HTML and last updated 4/21/04 by Bob Beckett English: