Sunday, June 26, 2011

We're all [un]Cool People.

A couple of weeks ago, I came across this blog by Rachel Held Evans, who is a modern apologist and super interesting Christian female blogger.  I follow her on twitter and read as often as I notice that she posts.

This particular blog hit me in all sorts of ways and directions for all sorts of reasons, and maybe not the reasons you'd expect.

First of all, I absolutely think that The Church is the place for everyone.  Period.  I'm not leaving people out here.  I think that if you love Jesus then you need to be accepted into The Body.  Whether you're homeless or toothless or dress differently or don't shower or go barefoot or are a CEO or you work the drive-thru at McDonalds or you play music on the street corner.  Every Christian is blessed with gifts of the Spirit and every human being is blessed with something they can contribute to the Body of Christ.

My issue with this blog is that it talks about mediocrity in a way that seems to hold it up as a standard to which we as The Church should aspire.

This is mostly my issue, I admit, because, according to this blog, I am one of "the cool people".  I find this hilarious, since growing up I was never one of the "cool kids".  I was always struggling to fit in, always struggling to find my place, looking at other people with talent in awe of their abilities and wishing I could just have one ounce of their giftedness.  Now, I'm literally in the band.

I sing pretty well and I play a decent fiddle and I have a pretty good ear.  I enjoy singing and have gotten better at it the more I've worked at it.  I've gotten over that pukey feeling I used to get just before a solo, and I've found that I actually enjoy singing as praise, I enjoy leading others in song.  I enjoy conveying a message through music.

I feel like this blog just might be saying that this is a problem.  That working hard and aspiring to excellence is something that we should put aside.

I feel like it's saying that everyone should be able to get up and play an instrument, even if they are quite horrible at it.

I feel like it might be saying that it doesn't matter that we're praying right now, my kid should be allowed to run screaming through the gathering about Pokemon and playing freeze tag with the people praying at the altar.

I  have issues with this for a few reasons.

The biggest other thing is the mediocrity.

I get that in our current church model the musicians and the speakers and readers are "the cool people" - the people who are "worthy of attention", the people that you should "want to be like if you want to be close to Jesus."  The problem, however, is not that these people exist and are talented and have practiced and worked hard and are now sharing the gifts that God game them.

The problem is that there have to be "cool kids" at all.  Or that we have to categorize any particular gift as "cool".

I believe that we are given gifts at conception.  We all have them.  They are all a little different.  And they are all important.  The person who is gifted at table setting is just as gifted as the person who is gifted at singing.  The issue with The Church is that we have elevated the gift of singing much higher than the table setting gift, so no one wants to be a table setter, even if that's what they were born to be, because no one cares about the table setter.

If all of the gifts were seen as equally important, we wouldn't try to jam so many square pegs into round holes.

When you understand that what your gifts are (huge key, many people have no idea what their gifts and talents are or why in the world they have them) and you know how to use them, there doesn't have to be this worry about mediocrity and coolness.  When all the gifts are equally important, no one is trying to be something they're not.

If everyone was a guitarist and vocalist, then there would be no one to make art or speak or read or help with chairs or help with kids or wash the windows or clean the toilets.

The biggest issue is NOT that there are musicians or speakers who are talented and using gifts.  The issue is that we dismiss the amazing toilet scrubber.  We look at the gift of making a bathroom sparkling clean (a gift I do NOT have) and we think that's not an important gift.  We think that cleaning bathrooms can't be worship.  We think that the person cleaning the bathroom has nothing to give.  But that sort of thinking is junk.

The beautiful thing about Christianity, about Jesus, about Love, is that every gift is totally cool and amazing!  Every gift is beautiful.

Now, I'm certain that at least some of you are now thinking - but what if I have a heart to play the guitar, but I'm not as good as the super cool worship leader who is currently playing the guitar.

My thoughts on that are as follows:

Check your motives - do you want to play guitar because you feel called to play guitar and passionate about playing it, or do you want to play guitar because you want to be cool?  If you want to play because God is calling you and you love playing, then you should play, even if you aren't as good as the worship leader.

Here's how it should work:  There will always be someone better than you at whatever it is that you do.  Every sax player can't be Charlie Parker.  Every composer can't be Mozart.  Every cleaning lady can't be Jean, the lady who cleans at my studio and kicks butt doing it every single day of the week.  But if you have a heart and a calling for whatever it is that you think is your gift, then you should be allowed to share it - but not with a disrespectful heart.

When Cain brought his offering to God, it wasn't because he brought grain and Abel brought a lamb that his offering was rejected.  God loved Cain and God gifted Cain in the way of growing grain.  He was a farmer.  He was probably a pretty good farmer.  The problem with Cain's offering was that he didn't bring God his best stuff.  He just brought some of the harvest.  Not the best stuff, just some of it.  The Bible isn't super clear.  It's possible Cain brought the best but that he slacked off in the field, he didn't put his best into the growing of the crop, and so the first fruits were insulting to The Lord.  What a waste of his gift to you, to not do your best!

So if God gives you the gift of playing guitar, and you want to play, then you should work hard to do the best you can at what you can do.  You don't have to be the best guitarist.  Maybe you can only play one or two chords.  Then play those one or two chords the best you can.  Practice them.  Give your best to God.  Every if you're not all that great at it, but you know it's something you're honestly doing for God, then what you're doing should be accepted.

The issue is that there are a ton of people who want to do things like play guitar or speak or sing because these are the gifts we've deemed "cool".  We haven't equipped people to find their gifts or if we have then we haven't helped them to understand that everything is important.  We give it a lot of lip service, but the practices in our gatherings don't reflect it.  Music is still upheld as the best and most important thing, maybe only next to the giving of the sermon.  We forget the writers and the prophets and the dancers and the visual artists and the clothing designers and the great parents and the mathematicians and the janitors and the bus drivers and the people who are really good at giving hugs and the people who are really good at giving directions.

In the end, it's about heart.  The heart of the person sharing and the heart of The Church.  If you know something isn't your gift, then you have no business doing that something because there is something else that IS your gift that isn't getting done and that's not fair to The Body.  Paul talks about this - not everyone can be the hand or the foot or the mouth - we need the toes and the nails and the eyes and the tongue and the elbows too!  If you know something IS your gift, and you're holding back because you don't feel like you're good enough, then bring your BEST and that should be honored.  If you know something is your gift and you've felt badly because you're pretty good at it, stop it!  God gives gifts for a reason.  We are supposed to use those gifts.  Period.  Purpose is purpose.  People are people.  Gifts are given.

I don't think I articulated this as well as I wanted to.

I've been talking with The Hubby about it for a couple of hours and in the end he said that the issue isn't that the current "cool" people should get "uncool" and stop trying hard and step down so that people who aren't as gifted can be exalted.  It's that everyone needs to be cool - every gift needs to be important.  We're ALL [un]cool.

So to all you butterfly chasers and card senders and prayer warriors and doodlers and movie makers and dog walkers and daydreamers and friend makers and huggers and everyone else I didn't mention who has a gift (and that's everyone), stop thinking you're not as worthy.  And to The Church, stop exalting certain gifts and pushing the others down.  Start teaching those who wish to be taught, start helping people find their places.  Start allowing people to explore and encouraging and loving through everything that we do.

Love is truly the answer.

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