Identity and Church

Identity and Church December 16, 2007

This morning I was supposed to teach at my old home congregation. I woke up dug my car out of a pile of snow and skidded into Ann Arbor where my suspicions were confirmed that church was cancelled. There was however a small remnant there that had come to prepare the morning meal for the Youth Group, which it didn’t look like would have the critical mass present to proceed. This created a bit of a quandary. There were stacks of pancakes and no one to eat them. The early service had NOT been cancelled and so an announcement was made that in the youth wing food would be served to anyone who so desired it.

As the people gathered and began to mingle a sense of family began to emerge. People who would never have spoken to one another in other circumstances began to talk. Generations were mingling. New members began engaging in serious dialogs with elders leaders and others. This was an atmosphere I had not experienced here in a long time.

This church has gone through a lot of heartache over the last few years. I don’t want to get into the details of all the drama, but the life, which once caused the church to grow and flourish, had become dim and the heart of the people has become callused in many ways.

This morning, however, in the unexpected, and uncalculated intervention of the weather it seemed the congregation had been hoodwinked into becoming a family again. And in the after-math of hope I feel I want to give a few reflections on church, life, and high school.

When I first entered high school I remember the feeling of complete inadequacy I felt. Everyone seemed so much cooler and had it more together. I remember how I often shifted friends, style, and look so that I could emulate those who I felt were cooler them me, the peoples whose lives I waned to emulate.

But then I realized the most important lesson of high school. The lesson EVERY high school student discovers. The primary thing high school is there to help you learn.

YOU ARE NOT COOL

No one is. Cool is an illusion. What I also discovered, which was equally important, was who I was. And it turned out I was an amazing person! People liked me. People followed me, and I found that in being who I was somehow the illusion that I was cool was born.

Dear youth leaders, parents, and teachers,
Please stop trying to be cool. It’s sad. No seriously it makes me throw up a little in my mouth every time I see it.

HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS DO NOT LIKE PEOPLE TO TRY TO BE LIKE THEM. THEY LIKE PEOPLE THEY WANT TO TRY TO BE LIKE!

It’s a fact. You know it’s true. STOP LIVING THE LIE!

Dear Pastor, and church leaders,
PEOPLE ARE NOT LOOKING FOR A CHURCH THAT IS TRYING TO BE LIKE ANOTHER CHURCH, OR A MALL, OR A ROCK CONCERT. People want a community they can be a part of.

Don’t get me wrong I respect a job well done. If something shows care in its creation I appreciate it. In fact there are few things that anger me more then a sacrifice of quality for so someone can be lazier or get an extra buck. I like thing that look good. But when aesthetics trumps authenticity all you are putting on is a show.

I love leaders of vision. I long for causes I can fight for. My heart burns for a battle worth fighting, and a cause worth dying for. However in our churches when the congregations Identity is ignored for a single individual or group’s ideas or ideology you will find that when you look back at who is following you no one will be there.

It’s a difficult line to walk. I know I’ve miss-stepped along it so many times! But if we don’t do it we wind up breaking those who get in our way, who don’t fit our aesthetic, or who just don’t believe what we do.

Kire Eleison

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