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Regrets of Dying People

The other day I saw the picture above on the Facebook.

What I find really interesting in that these 5 regrets are not only true about human beings who are dying, but also of those of the church.

I want to work through these, but why don’t we go backwards:

5.) I wish that I had let myself be happier

What if the church was a happier place?

When people walk into a church for the first time, are the people happy?  And I mean genuinely happy.

What if the church focused on a mission that lead it’s congregation to be genuinely happier people?

People are getting angry at each other within the church, they get pissed at each other in board meetings, at how someone is dressed, at the music director (of which I am mega guilty), and so on.

The church is not a place of efficiency but a place where people are invited to live out what God calls them to!

4.)  I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

According to a report by Mission Insite, the Quadrennium report: 35% of  people who are non-active in the church but who consider themselves to be a part of the church do not participate because they are not invited!

We spend so much time worried about the ever present “UNCHURCHED,” but we need to remember those who we have inside of our church that we are looking over!

Sooner or later you won’t see them any more!

3.)  I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

The church lets other people express its feelings for them!

If I have one more non-Christian tell me what the church believes, I might go throw the roof!

I understand their pain from being hurt, or seeing through all the crap, but their experience isn’t THE SOLE CHRISTIAN FEELING!

If the church expressed itself honestly, by listening to the words and teachings of Jesus, and not the teachings of the consumerist culture, I think the church would be more vibrant!

Peter Rollins calls that “The Sell Church” in The Idolatry of God.

2.)  I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

This one is tricky.

The church doesn’t work hard enough, so maybe it should be “I wish I had worked harder!”

Maybe the church could work harder at being the body of Christ, that performs miracles, that changes lives, that does charity, that does justice.

But the more I think about, I wish I hadn’t worked so hard might be accurate.

The church works really hard at being exclusive.

The church works really hard at discriminating.

The church works really hard at burning out its elders and deacons, and laity, and pastors.

The church structures and polity set us up for this!

So yeah, I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

and finally:

1.) I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

The church simply does not live a life that is true to itself, and allows others expectations to define it and rule it.

Churches feel the need to do the same thing that the church down the road is doing.

“We need to do a VBS by Group publishing, because the church down the street is.”

NO!  That is the worst reason!

Do something that is unique for your congregation!

What is it that your congregation does the best that no other congregation does?

What if instead of protesting abortion clinics, rock concerts, or whatever;  why won’t the church protest itself, for being a den of thieves!

Be true to yourself, not to what the baptist church is doing down the street, or the evangelical, or the presbyterian church is doing.

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The church needs to hear these five regrets and turn them into shameless, life giving “hallelujah’s!”

1.) A church that is unique and contextual, that is doing things because God is calling them to things not because the other churches are.

2.) A church that works hard at being compassionate, spreading unconditional love, and bringing about justice.

3.)  A church that was courageous enough to express its true feelings!

4.)  A church that concerns itself not only with the unchurched but with the members of the congregation!

5.)  And a church that was actually creating an energy and environment of rejoicing!

Then maybe the church wouldn’t have regrets, because then maybe the church wouldn’t be dying.

Hugs

As a seminary student I have to take several classes that I get excited to take when I see them on paper. But then as I go through the semester I may begin to dread one of the classes. This semester, that class is Pastoral Care and Counseling.

Now, the reason I am no longer thrilled about this class is not necessarily that I do not think I have anything left to learn in this subject, because I do. It is because our class is taught by one of my seminary’s counseling program’s teacher, not our practical theology professor.

One issue that comes with this distinction is that she teaches the class as though we were going to be counselors. We learn things that would be illegal for us to perform, things that are simply not “pastoral care.” And I get where she is coming from, she is a therapist, that is what she does. Alright, so enough of things that might not be interesting to you.

So, within that issue lies a particular situation with what is being taught in that class. Our teacher told us during our discussion this week that under no circumstance should we ever give a hug.

It took all my energy not to pull the Costanza walk out.

But I was at a loss of words. Students were writing this down as though they were actually going to follow this ridiculous teaching. I understand her position as a therapist; she should never hug a client. That is a different relationship. But to tell a class of Masters of Divinity students to not give hugs to their congregants is simply out of touch.

Her advice was to give a hand shake.

I’ll wait for you to pick your jaw off the ground.

Okay, good. Now that we have composed ourselves.

When I went to Facebook with this “news,” it spurred a great conversation. But one of my friends, Tim Graves, had something very interesting to say. Tim (http://beingtim.wordpress.com/) said this:

OK, I continued to think about this while popping dinner in the oven & folding the clothes… A blanket one-size-fits-all no hug rule comes out of a theology of fear. It comes from fear of accusations of sexual impropriety, it comes from fear that we must have emotional boundaries with our parishioners, and it comes from a misguided modernist solve-every-problem with a rule mindset. Not every situation calls for a hug but many do. We are whole human beings created to find comfort in (appropriate) physical touch. If we turn to the scriptures we find a Savior who used touch to heal on a fairly regular basis. (I think there was only one who he healed from a distance.) I choose to follow Jesus.

A theology of fear.

This is where the church is now. We fear. And not in the way that the Puritans feared God. But in a way that churches have not feared before.

Churches have protection policies. Churches have to perform background checks on adult volunteers (which I think is a good idea).

But the church assumes the worst in people. The church assumes that all people are inherently evil. And yes, many pastors and lay leaders have broken ethical, sexual, and emotional boundaries.

But imagine with me. Imagine a church that does not live with a theology of fear. Imagine a church that lives with a theology of hope. That encourages it members to be close with each other and their pastor(s). Imagine a congregation where people do not have to be afraid of getting a hug from someone, even if that someone has a past that is less than appealing.

Imagine a church that has enough hope in it’s people that they would never break those boundaries.

I can imagine that. That is the kind of church that I hope for.

Even though Jesus never talked about what would become his Church, I think this is the kind of Church Jesus would want for us.

After all, Jesus did healing ministry by touching others, and by others reaching out and touching him.

Jesus washed feet, something that breaks many people’s comfort zones today.

Jesus touched the sinners, touched the sick. He crossed many boundaries.

He had hope that his touch would be healing for them.

Jesus was kissed by Judas, and he didn’t push Judas away.

Jesus gave and received kisses.

Jesus calls us to reach out to others. To give a hug when someone needs it.

Because sometimes, I just need a hug.

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