Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Addicted to church stuff?

Are people addicted to church stuff?
I've heard people say they need to get their worship "fix"?
Is this the right reason to go?
How real can people be in a context where there is always an agenda and set structure?
Do people even notice how they are shut down to their own thoughts and problems, and think they are justified by having "participated." Can they even hear the Spirit for themselves?
Do they become addicted to this pattern?
I believe so. I was.

And how are we supposed to share life together?
I think it begins by acknowledging how we've let ourselves be enslaved to merely a system, which Jesus came to free us from.
People don't "think" they are enslaved, and maybe some aren't, but most are and gladly so. The whole thing provides a sense of security, but at what cost...?
And then we wonder why we feel so lonely...? This isn't what real life is about. If we suppress God in us, we suppress God in us to the world and also expect others to follow our path, to feel better about ourselves.
Who's gonna want to be a slave to church, after they have been freed from slavery to the world? Is that the only two options?
I don't think so!
Many people who have left the system, end up going back because they don't realize how addicted they were to the whole thing...and they think it is a better choice than being enslaved to the world, or their own sin.
But slavery is slavery, no matter where you're at.


Sue said...

We'll do anything for a comfortable life, won't we.

Even though he hasn't called us to that. The harsh pain of reality is what we need to wake us up, rather than sitting in some place thinking we're doing God's bidding by being there. Blergh

Manuela said...

yup, "the harsh pain of reality" is good for us all!
I remember being at one church (not my last) where the pastor literally taught that reality and truth are two totally different things!! and everybody bought it.

I know some settings are better than others. It's not honest folks I'm harping against... It's the system that keeps so many trapped; but many willingly serve it more that God! (it's hard not to, I was there)
Plus, with my addictive personality it was a very bad mix. You can be an addict and appear so functional. Sometimes I wonder if everyone in the western world is an addict of one form or other....

Sue said...

"Sometimes I wonder if everyone in the western world is an addict of one form or other...."

I wonder that too. It's so hard to see from the inside of the Matrix the extent of the effect of our world on us. But yep, I reckon you may be right, unfortunately

Erin said...

I was ABSOLUTELY addicted to church. I have said that before, because it was like a FIX, like an addict. I got really upset if I had to miss something...

It's partly why I'm afraid to go back to church...just like a recovering alcoholic who can never go in a bar again.

Sue said...

I was going to be all smartarse and say, "Well, then, Erin, you shouldn't have too much problem resisting that little urge." Because I was thinking that going back in a church sort of place would be like impaling myself up and down on a really spiky pole.

But then of course, that doesn't mean that I'm not really lonely for fellowship, and who's to say that I wouldn't find myself back in that sort of situation?

That's a scary thought

Manuela said...

yeah, I'm not "going back" anymore...I'm trying to move forward, as the Spirit leads.

I think all addicts need serious time to detox, before they really expose themselves to any substance/ activity... (whatever it is...) The temptations will always be there I suppose. They do lessen, though. Until you're in agony and need a fix....Breaking life-long ways of seeing things takes a long time. We take a LONG time to change, I'm seeing.
I really don't want to be part of anything big, contained (packaged) and "official" ever again! I can understand how the loneliness can tempt people to go back to that. I've done it SO many times.
I know there MUST be other options...
I've also heard people say that house churches can be just us controlling and surface (especially if the people in them haven't detoxed!) I guess it all depends on the group of people and the Spirit leading. And I've heard that anytime you have too many people being "shepherded" in one place by a select small minority, for a prolonged time, it's bound to become oppressive/controlling. Plus you add the salary and business style of the Institutional church.... Mainstream churches are run like a business! How is that trusting God?! People aren't commodities!
I think it is just our human nature to try to make something happen, rather than wait it out. Loneliness can be so good for the soul (though not over-excessively prolonged, of course!) I think every recovering addict feels tremendous loneliness and agony for a time... It's not necessarily bad. If the addiction hid the pain and loneliness, then it's only natural to feel it when the substance is removed! And addicts need support, but the right kind!! It took me a while to figure that one out.
I like what you said, Sue, about the harsh pain of reality waking us up... I 'm not settling for lies and control anymore. Not doing it, by God's grace!

Manuela said...

It HAS been quite hard to walk away, but that doesn't mean it's bad... Is it always hard? NO. But I'm still fresh out! Sometimes it's horrible-- I'm like a complete junkie without my heroine-- I'm a wreck! Other times I breath deep and thank God for the new freedom I am tasting!
I'm so glad we have each other, though, for real encouragement! :D

Erin said...

If we think like an addict or alcoholic....for the first three years I was SOOO tempted to go back...back to the old church even, because it was what I knew and seemed so much easier than finding my own way. I just wanted the pain to stop and someone to tell me what to do. I'm very thankful I was angry enough to resist :)

But in most of the last year, the pain has subsided and so has the temptation. Maybe that means I've ended detox...I'm not sure yet. I do hunger for community, though in a way I already have it...because I have a "church if I had a church" place where I have many friends and love the deal there. It's been amazing for me to watch this place over the last almost 3 years, from a distance, and it's kinda like looking in the windows and seeing if something is REALLY safe for me. But they are slowly assimilating me in some ways. I was just realizing it recently, that I have two good friends there and suddenly have several more acquaintances whom I love...so it's funny how that works.

I am putting no parameters on when I might like to go back regularly, because I've done that and been wrong. But I do feel something has changed this last year.

BUUUT, and maybe Sue can respond to this because she's been out longer than me...sometimes I think maybe my resistance to go back is just because then I'll lose my identity as a "church leaver". It's like comforting to me, but also like thumbing my nose at the whole thing, protest...ya know?

It's like if a person is a rock star and then has to go back to a day job? Because this place is pretty awesome, it's comfortable and beautiful and where I've found freedom...and it feels like I'll lose something if I give it up.

And I like whining!

Don't tell anyone I said that :)

Manuela said...

Again, I think, why go back to a system that doesn't really function or resemble what it's really meant to!!
If there are any traces of the real thing within that system, it's definitely in spite of it, not because of it!!
I truly believe God is doing something new and better and I'm holding out for it.

Joel B. said...

Great post, and great comments from everyone!

As I think about the various people who have tried to woo me back into "church" (the system), I think that perhaps many times they've really been trying to tempt me with the various things that they are addicted to.

"The worship was so great last week, Joel, you really should've been there."

Or "The pastor's preaching a really great series on...(you name the subject du jour)."

I even think many pastors are addicted to their (so called) office. They probably don't realize it, but they need people there so their own 'fix' is met.

I don't mean to be negative. :) Just being realistic, I think. Various people, in various ways, are addicted to church stuff, and they don't understand what bondage it really is. And then when people like us do realize what bondage it is, they question our love for God and for the church! Aack.

Erin said...

I totally agree with you, Joel; I hear that all the time.

The other thing that drives me nuts, I was telling Manuela this...when people ask "How are you being fed?" with a look of shock. As if God actually LIVES in the walls of the church and cannot escape to "feed" the wandering "sheep", or that we are only able to get spiritual "food" from a specially trained leader.

Which, I suppose, would go right along with what you said about being addicted to the pastor...although I think for some it's pastors in general, not even a specific person.

I do suspect that church also feeds those who are addicted to approval...I know I was, and so the more I served and the better things I did, the more back-pats I received.

Joel B. said...

Oh yeah... How are you being fed! Erin, I can so relate to having heard that too many times! The whole business of needing to be "fed" by a pastor or within the confines of a church is just so irritating to me. You spoke my thoughts about it well. :)

Manuela said...

hi Joel B! What up?! :)

Good points y'all. I'm a bit brain-fried, I just went on a cleaning frenzy...our house desperately needs it!!

Something that folks also worry about is: kids! They worry that little ones out of church will have no spiritual training and will really miss out and suffer. This one just doesn't make any sense to me...It's like, hello...? Isn't it the parents's priviledge to teach and model their faith to their little ones!! What better way is there?! There are countless opportunities and ways in everyday life...

Sue said...

Erin - LOL. Yeah, maybe you're right. On the "cool" end of the spectrum, thumbing the nose, and then to go back in again???? Yikes!!

I really feel these days like it would have to be a one-off situation. If this particular group of people in this particular bulding and I sensed God was saying, "Go there," then I would, and would disregard the systemic garbage.

But then again, do I think every group of people who meet in buildings are full of the system? Well, maybe some less than others. It really would have to be up to God.

I am missing community and hoping to be able to slot myself in wiht a bunch of people but I have been hoping that for a long time, so who knows??

Erin said...

Yes, the kids are another big one. Because we all know they need felt boards and worksheets to learn about Jesus. :)

Sue, I think for me it comes to a control issue. Not wanting to relinquish control over my own spirituality...because I've been so beaten up by others. I know in theory I don't have to give up control over it to be in church, but I'm so afraid of being in that situation again.

Manuela said...

erin, Please don't use the f word here! (... i was talking about "felt"!)
:D lol

In spite of all my harping, I know there are some great folks in many institutions... it's the system I harp against mostly.
Like today for example, our friend X was over, and he's a very loving, down to earth guy who is also a church goer. His life is not dictacted by what the church is doing.... He hasn't surrendered his spirituality to others' control (as you so aptly put, Erin). Still, I secretly wonder how much longer he will last in the whole thing...?
We respect whatever he's called to and he also respects what we feel called to, because it's about God with him... as it is with us.