All posts by Ron Amundson

Standing Around All Day Doing Nothing

So today’s Gospel reading was on the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Basically, a dude hired some folks to work for him early in the day, and then through out the day kept going back to hire more and more folks with the last hire being at 5PM. Now, when evening came, the dude paid… and the early birds, rather than getting the worm, got ticked off that the last folks got paid the same that they did for working the whole day.

Alas, there is lots of ponder with this…  despite having heard it over and over a kazillion times.

Jesus states

‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

What struck me with this, is that it seems the early birds are envious not so much against the latest folks landfall, but towards the hiring dude… I guess I can sort of see this, but its interesting where the focus is. In today’s world, I think the focus would be that someone got a better deal, not so much the deal maker. I wonder what that says about contemporary society?

Another bit is that the dude had been out hiring people all day long, going back for more folks every few hours… it seems:

1. The hiring guy had no clue how many resources he really needed,
2. He hired some folks with really low productivity early in the day, I’ve seen that play out far too often when folks try to work in the wrong chronotype.
3. He has in a cash flow crunch and could only hire as many folks as he had enough cash on hand to work with. Perhaps he Maybe he got a windfall towards the end f the day and was feeling really generous with respect to payment.
4. He knew unemployment was hideous, and wanted to give as many people a shot as possible, thus was continuously monitoring his needs for labor, and responding the best he could justify from a productivity standpoint. Ie, too many cook in the kitchen rings very true across a multitude of sectors, from cooking to software or even construction.

Alas, how the hiring guy’s situation correlates to heaven is an unknown, and is more likely than not an issue with scope drift. Rather the focus or the parable seems to be on the last being first, the first being last, and secondly how this inversion plays out with respect to the attitude of the first.

 

Ears itching for the 1950’s

As I was shaking my head over the Nashville Statement, a friend linked me to Pastor Nadia’s counter to it, the Denver Statement. In reading the comments, a couple scriptures were posted, and I thought wow, that’s pretty cool.

The 2 scriptures posted were:

Romans 16:11

2 Tim 4:3

And in isolation, I’m going yes, cool I get this… and then I think, wow, I bet some could flip those scriptures upside down around and get things totally wrong. I remember one of the things the late Rich Mullins had to say.

“And this is what I have come to think: That if I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, whom I claim to be my Savior and Lord the best way that I can do that is to identify with the poor. This I know will go against the teachings of all the popular evangelical preachers. But they’re just wrong. They’re not bad, they’re just wrong. Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken.”

And the thing is, there seems to be a fairly loud group of folks who see Christianity as the secure little niche in the world thing just for them and people like them. Consider the errant 4 spiritual law thing, the prosperity gospel thing, and a whole lot of other things which take a few cherry picked scriptures in isolation and create a belief system of sand with the labels Biblical Worldview out of them… and folks fall for it, as after all, it is derived from the scriptures.

But what about the lives of early Christians being thrown to the lions?

 

 

 

 

 

And what can we gather about scriptural cherry picking when we consider the temptation of Christ.

 

Or a hundred plus years ago, what about the churches who embraced slavery as a Biblical Worldview thing, to the point of breaking churches apart, to the point of each side using less than kind language to disparage the others interpretation of the scriptures as I wrote about back in 2009.

I think about well meaning Christians looking for the security of an 1950’s Christianity…  I looked up some of my home church records from that era… multiple services, hundreds of people in worship, massive numbers in Sunday school, and youth groups that had enough scale to actually go out and make a substantial difference in the community. That’s some really cool stuff…

Alas, for poor folks, for folks in biracial marriages, for folks of color, women, and lgbtq folks, egads, the 50’s were anything but kind. And yet as an old white straight guy, it is very easy to be blind to their struggles… especially so with that siren song of 1950’s security and privilege.

St Augustine warns us of the dangers of self deception, and the 2 Tim 3:4 trap is an easy one to fall into, perhaps even easier when groups of folks start to self align with it. It seems it goes from ear tickling to the point of ego building pretty fast… and left unchecked long enough resulted in great evils on the part of the church.

Who thought it wise not to condemn racism in a hard core way for fear of upsetting the financial coffers and membership roles during #Charlottesville?

Who thought it a wise thing to release the Nashville statement post Charlotteville and in the midst of #HurricaneHarvey?

Who thinks it a wise thing to encourage suicides and the tearing apart of families as the result of such so called Biblical worldviews?

And while an element of agree to disagree to keep the peace can be prudent over some matters, like worship styles, clothing in church, and other minutia etc… when errant beliefs such as the Nashville statement end up driving kids to suicide, or allowing racism to fester unchecked in the church, agreeing to disagree should no longer be an option.

And this is where it gets hard… some of those signers of the Nashville thing have accomplished great things for the church. Some of their sermons are rock solid out of the park… but just because a individual is a Christian, a great pastor, or  seminary professor doesn’t mean they are perfect. In a lot of ways, there are parallels to the church leaders advocating slavery a hundred plus years ago… some of their actions in isolation, were very bad, but this doesn’t transcend to making them as people or Christians bad, it just makes them wrong.

Alas, how to unwind this….

Astrophotometer, Spurgeon on Kepler

For my undergrad senior design project a multitude of years ago, where today’s FPGA, and mixed signal chips might have saved me hundreds of hours of wirewrapping, I used a massive number of digital logic gates, vacuum tubes, and an Apple IIe to build a computer controlled photometer. My adviser said I probably held the record for the most time invested in a senior design project under his tenure.

Algol AB captured by the CHARA interferometer.

In a nutshell, the purpose of the device was to capture data on binary stars, ideally ones which could not be identified visually. This would be accomplished by analyzing a given star systems color data over a period of time. Ie, a hot star revolving around a cooler star will show rather substantial difference in colors vs time. While one could do this manually with a photometer, filter sets, and a paper tablet… its really really hard to do with a binary star with a very short period as you can’t consistently copy down data at a high enough rate. Its also hard to do for stars with a longer period, being instruments drift over time, and one slip up in calibration, and all bets are off. Thus the idea that if we could automate the data capture, even if we violated the sampling theorem a bit, enough samples over a long period of time could provide meaningful results. Alas, like a lot of undergrad projects, it was hard enough just to prove out the hardware… it would have taken another semester to capture data and run some analysis to prove this out, and grad school was calling.

So folks would ask, what am I working on… and my reply would be, some gear which hooks up a computer to a telescope, and pretty much leave it at that. The big deal part, which was automated undersampling, of U, V, and B spectral data on binary stars is just too far away from the average Joes, or even astronomy hobbyist of the times experience. It wouldn’t make much sense to them… but computerized telescopes, sure, most everyone could see that such might be a cool thing.

One of the things which is very helpful in the binary star phenomena or pretty much anything which orbits is Kepler’s laws. Granted in 1600, it would be a couple hundred years before double stars were determined to orbit one another, so Kepler’s focus was on planets… but his law was found to apply to these was well.

Keplers third law

 

Keplers Laws:

1. The Law of Orbits: All planets move in elliptical orbits, with the sun at one focus.

2. The Law of Areas: A line that connects a planet to the sun sweeps out equal areas in equal times.

3. The Law of Periods: The square of the period of any planet is proportional to the cube of the semimajor axis of its orbit.

Today, such is not terribly difficult to understand, and well within the domain of an interested high school student. However in 1600, even an interested person would likely run into trouble with it due to a lack of mathematical background.

Kepler states the following:

But if there be any man who is too dull to receive this science I advise that leaving the school of astronomy he follow his own path and desist from this wandering through the universe and lifting up his natural eyes with which he alone can see pour himself out in his own heart in praise of God the Creator being certain that he gives no less worship to God than the astronomer to whom God has given to see more clearly with his inward eye and who for what he has himself discovered both can and will glorify God.

Spurgeon provides commentary on this

That is I think a very beautiful illustration of what you may say to any poor illiterate man in your congregation Well my friend if you cannot comprehend this system of theology which I have explained to you if these doctrines seem to you to be utterly incomprehensible if you cannot follow me in my criticism upon the Greek text if you cannot quite catch the poetical idea that I tried to give you just now which is so charming to my own mind nevertheless if you know no more than that your Bible is true that you yourself are a sinner and that Jesus Christ is your Saviour go on your way and worship and adore and think of God as you are able to do Never mind about the astronomers and the telescopes and the stars and the sun and the moon worship the Lord in your own fashion Altogether apart from my theological knowledge and my explanation of the doctrines revealed in the Scriptures the Bible itself and the precious truth you have received into your own soul through the teaching of the Holy Spirit will be quite enough to make you an acceptable worshipper of the Most High God.

From Page 148 of Spurgeons “The Art of Illustration

My initial thought on both was like egads, what sort of elitists were you guys. I totally understand that some theology gets crazy complicated and hard to understand. An evening with one of Wolfhart Pannenberg‘s books will do that fast, or even one of Robert Jenson’s texts (other than the one to his granddaughter)… and the same can be said about Spurgeon, when he stepped aside from the pulpit… but over time I think I see where they are coming from. Its not that they are elitist as much as they want to keep the main thing the main thing. Its really easy to get wrapped up in the weeds, so much so that one starts missing the point… and left unchecked, the simple news of the Gospel ends up getting left aside.

As I stated earlier on a friends facebook page…

Sure, the average Christian will say we are justified by faith and not be works… but then in actions will pretty much preach that works are where its at. I saw this a lot in teens especially after a moral failure of one type or another… they can say Eph 2:8-9 in Sunday school, but by the afternoon, they will doubt God loves them, or that they now need to do a bunch of good works to get to heaven.

Do Unto Others What You Do Not Want Them To Do To You

Yep, the golden rule, as shouted out with great excitement in a cross gen Bible study by a 6 year old some years back. And while the youngster got tongue tied and flipped Matthew 7:12 upside down, we all knew what he was referring to. In fact I’d go so far that pretty much every Christian, and even many non-Christians would understand what the six year old was trying to say.

Unlike the golden rule, where in the scriptures are well known, and pretty clear, vast multitudes of the scriptures are far from being that explicit and many can be pretty obscure, add in cultural lenses, and all bets are off.

A few weeks back, a fellow posted William Barclay’s commentary on the book of James.

“One of the great mysteries of social thought is how religion, at least the Christian religion, ever came to be regarded as ‘the opiate of the people,’ or how it ever came to seem an other-wordly affair, which neglected this world to concentrate on some world to come. There is no book in any literature with such a burning social passion as the Bible. There is no book which speaks so explosively and dynamically of social wrongs and social injustice. There is no book so burningly conscious that the great gap between riches and poverty is an active and terrible transgression of the law of God and the will of God. There is no book which has, in fact, proved so powerful a social dynamic as the Bible has. The Bible does not condemn wealth as such, but there is no book which more strenuously insists on the responsibility of wealth, and on the perils which surround a person who is abundantly blessed with this world’s goods.”

Another fellow responded to the tune of…

Honestly, I just can’t imagine how anyone can honestly read it and make those assertions. I’d be fine if that’s what it was, but I’d have to pretend that it said stuff that it doesn’t and it didn’t say stuff that it does.

I’m not saying that there is nothing good in it, but I just can’t even see how one can conclude that unless the conclusion was determined beforehand.

I bring this up leaving things anonymous, as I’ve heard similar things and and off for years from prosperity gospel leaning folks. And while James 5 and Matthew 25 are pretty explicit to me, cultural lenses plus the bit about us seeing things dimly may make it much less clear to others.

We can look at a whole multitude of arenas in a similar vein, where in one segment of Christianity sees the scriptures abundantly clear in support of A, but totally absent in the aspect of B, usually with respect to social issues, just as justice, racism, abortion, gay marriage, etc. Such divisions also occur in the theological arena, with Arminians on one side and Calvinists in the other. Things even break apart from the get go in Genesis with creationists on one side, and evolutionists on the other. We can even look at the scriptures and note splits in methods of interpretation, with different means of interpretation, and in some cases even the canon itself.

Its just crazy how divisive things are….

And yet, considering the disaster in Houston and SE Texas, there were no religious tests, there were no political tests, there were people in need, and lots of individuals in boats on a mission to rescue them… up to and including bunnies.

Heroes You Should Know: Brave Texas Teens Save Over 50 People In Small Fishing Boat

The Church, Hatred, and The Man in the Mirror

I came across a most fascinating, albeit sarcastic comment on FB today, and thought, wow, how telling.

The church should do only that which makes her feel good. Namely, that is to beat the part of the Law that she thinks she keeps into the church’s parishioners. If the church steps outside of those bounds and reminds her that she is also accountable to God for the Law she fails to keep, the church should be punished and silenced.

The thing is, we have lots of theological theories and models that make it pretty easy to have selective vision and do just as the quote suggests. This is not to say the theories and models are in error, but more so, that they are just models and shouldn’t stand in isolation.

Consider the following:

Luther’s two kingdoms model sounds great, and as a way of sorting out theology, its means of satisfying man’s desire for logical reasoning within the scriptures makes it an exceedingly powerful concept to latch on to. One of its dangers is that it can lead to a form of dualism… where in a second god is created that runs the world and dishes out its assorted evils. The two kingdoms model is also appealing to the old adam, being it can absolve individual Christian’s of the need to engage with the mud and muck of worldly issues. It can also lead too an out of site, out of mind mentality… being the heavenly aspect takes up the entire mind space, as there is little need for earthly concern, short of the needs of ones immediate tribe.

And yet, one doesn’t have to be a full blown dualist to fall into this trap. I think of numerous discussions in my younger days, where in some were so hard core about praying and getting Bibles into folks hands, they considered said folks physical needs to be of minimal importance. It almost seemed that said Bibles got printed without the second chapter of James, at least from the theology of the delivery folks.  In a related vein as to the scriptures,  what about the bit about pulling down folks in positions of power and privilege, sending the rich away empty, and filling the poor and elevating the meek and humble. Is such to be dismissed as the social justice rantings of a naive teenage girl?

The law and Gospel model is pretty well tried and true for bringing about life changes… but if dots get left unconnected, it can easily morph into a matter for the mind exclusively, rather than both the heart and mind. I remember a pastor friend who worried he might have gone too far in connecting the dots after loosing a huge chunk of powerful and wealthy parishioners from his congregation after a rather intense sermon.

And while connecting too many dots is a rare thing, its pretty common thing in some sectors to do the reverse and ignore the dots entirely, or barely connect them at all. Consider a few churches known for pounding sexual matters into the ground. Being such is an easy way to engage folks around a common rally point with only a minimal chance of negative financial or membership declines, it’s an easy temptation to proceed in such a direction. In addition, the emotions triggered are likely to make folks feel like such will making a huge difference in society at large when the sexual sins of folks outside the church are brought to light.

And yet, in matters of justice and power, far too often there are crickets rather than a path of dots.  After all, there are no dishonest or greedy folks in ones congregation… And being the  US economy depends upon year over year growth rates, which requires coveting by great masses of people… moving the dots even a bit could well be playing with fire.

I think a similar parallel can be made with respect to racism, xenophobia, or even hatred with respect to being a subject where crickets exist. In general, folks don’t blatantly display such behaviors, thus making a head in the sand approach, a safe one for the pulpit, or at least safe for the pulpit and the powerful within the immediate local fellowship.

After all, who knows who might be convicted / offended if such were to be connected. Sadly, the implications for potential financial as well as membership declines if the dots ring too close to home could be a driving factor… but what does this silence really say to the victims of such? What does it say about the local church, what does it say when visitors enter in and find said crickets?

This is where another model enters in, the priesthood of all believers. Ie, just because a given pastor chooses to play it safe, does this mean the local church, as well as the individual gets a free pass? If one truly ascribes to this model, then all of a sudden, it comes right back to you and me. The Man in the Mirror

Lyrics from Man in the Mirror

I saw Neal Mccoy perform on Saturday night, where in even he brought up what happened at Charlottesville just a few hours beforehand…  (I wish I would have recorded my own video, but found the above from a few years back on youtube ).

Christian Universities and the Pursuit of Truth

A university can choose to support the pursuit of truth which means many sides of a given idea need to be engaged with, no matter how painful they may be, or it can ignore the pursuit of truth in favor of an ideology. This is a difficult thing to do in general, but for Christian universities especially so as 1: truth and ideology do intermix, 2: time and money are limited, and 3: outcomes are not guaranteed.

Truth and ideology do intermix especially so in the faith arena, and sorting that out can be a good thing… but being time and money are limited, not everything is worth the investment to explore. And at the same time, it can be too politically incorrect within a given faith environment to go very far off ones ideological path. This is where things get tricky. Consider atonement theories for example. Some churches teach only one, and censor out all the others, even the historical theology which led up to their chosen theory. A university should pursue truth in this, and cover every single one of them, such that students can defend what they truly believe in, by testing their beliefs.

However the pursuit of truth presents unknowns outcome wise. Christian universities who pursue truth occasionally produce atheists, much to the chagrin of their supporters. It can also mean a conservative university might end up producing Marxists or Keynesians rather than Hayaks or Randians if the pursuit of truth rather than ideology is their goal.

Alas, one of the huge advantages of pursuing truth vs ideology, is that, those who survive it will be much much stronger and much more prepared to defend their beliefs, as contrasted with those students sheltered in bubble wrap… but what about the students whose faith gets shredded in the process? What about students who are ill-prepared for hard core engagement with their beliefs?

One can argue this sort of thing both ways with respect to stumbling blocks. On the one hand, if a student ventures out into the world with only an ideology and no exposure whatsoever to various means of scriptural interpretation, sooner or later they will hit a brick wall… and then without the requisite support infrastructure, they are likely to fall. On the other hand, a firehose of historical critical methodologies thrown at a 18 year old who has only been exposed to a narrow ideology could easily bring about a faith crisis.

 
In the secular arena, if a university decides to pursue truth, some of it can be very painful, and even damaging. I think of vet’s with PTSD… truth seeking may well serve as a trigger. Sure, an individual class can probably be worked through, but what if you have a schedule which puts hard core discussions on PTSD triggering situations back to back for an entire semester? That may well be too much for a vet to handle, even with a support group backing them up. 
 
And then you have folks other than vets who have suffered serious trauma. Some of whom are suffering severe PTSD and under the care of a psychologist. If truth seeking is the telos of a given university, what about these students? Perhaps this is likely where the trigger warning stuff spun out of. Universities have a need to pursue truth,  and yet, they don’t want to harm their students, but they aren’t mental health facilities either.
Conflict is Not Abuse

 

And then you have the folks who view a mere difference of opinion as abusive. Sure, truth seeking may make them anxious and very uncomfortable, but rather than engaging with it, they run from it, often shouting abuse along the path of their retreat in hoping to squash the discussion. And maybe they do succeed in silencing the discussion… which gives them immediate relief in the short term.  Alas the lack of voice often leads to a form of truth which is lacking, a severe loss of agency on the part of folks holding to said views, and perhaps even a loss of credibility on their parts, no matter where the truth may actually lie.

Outcome wise, when one voice is silenced, the status quo generally remains, as there is nothing  to counter it. Sadly, such also potentially means solutions to prevent such problems often end up being left off the table as the idea has only been partially explored. It may also lead to a very shallow set of beliefs, being said beliefs have not been put through the fire and tested. And when beliefs are shallow, the door is open for the worst case scenario. Namely where paternal and maternal outsiders are free to step in with their own sets of truth and force the issue, perhaps even in a counter productive direction. Such sets the stage for errant decision making such as Canada’s criminalization of HIV.

And yet, there are situations where truth is nowhere to be found in the short term, or maybe even ever. For the injured in such situations, maybe the best thing they can do for their own mental health is just to avoid engagement, even if it means outsiders may screw stuff up, or that the status quo will continue to adversely affect them and related groups. The hope of course is that eventually a few people from the injured side of things will stand up and engage with the idea… but this isn’t something all are capable of doing.

Jonathan Haidt presents a number of examples where conservative ideology is silenced, and the requisite dangers of doing so.  (its about an hour long, but well worth it… and realistically, it applies both ways.

And despite the above arguments for a universities telos of truth, its not cool to cast care to the wind either… there has to be a balance point.

A Lamp in the Dark, The Untold History of the Bible

Earlier this week I watched “A Lamp in the Dark, The Untold History of the Bible”. Its available for free on youtube, and is pretty fascinating. Alas, it is not without serious problems.

The biggest issue is the overwhelming anti-Catholic bias and selective one sided cherry picking against them, all the while completely failing to mention similar issues on the protestant side.

With respect to Constantine, “If Constantine were a true believer, how could he turn and persecute other Christians?” and all the while Calvin’s murders of fellow Christians was strangely absent in the presentation.

The video also states that the crusades began, not as an assault upon witches, or upon Muslims, but upon Bible believing Christians, namely the Albigenses.

Now, this is where things really go off the rails…

If Albigenses are Bible believing Christians, then the Bible must ascribe not to a trinitarian God, but rather two different gods, namely the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and a second god of evil. Likewise, it must hold to Jesus as being a good moral example, and not part of the trinity.

Those are really severe errors… and while the Albigenses did address a number of issues where the Catholic church was running off the rails, the film only focuses on the parts they got right, not the fact that they were far from orthodox Christianity in basic beliefs.

And this is where things are super strange. The Waldensians, earlier peers of the Albigenses did hold to orthox Christianity, and in most ways, one could say they were Bible believers. The problem is one of chronology screwing up the anti-catholic narrative surrounding the inquisition, or in giving the documentary writers the benefit of a doubt, a truly massive fail at fact checking.

And that is what is so sad about this… this could have been a really great documentary, but when such obvious errors are made, everything becomes suspect, some of it hilariously so. Things like the emergent church being a catholic conspiracy are crazy making, or in a similar vein being upset that the American Bible Society presented Pope Benedict with a polyglot Bible.

 

OCC Ride FaithFest Winona MN August 26, 2017 (updated)

FaithFest Winona MN 2017 Aug 26

Schedule



 


 

Motorcycle Raffle

The multiple award winning paint work of the RIZEN bike will be at FAITHFEST!
Come see it ride in the OCC Rode, and then be on site in the afternoon at FAITHFEST


Musical acts at FaithFest

Marissa and Mariah
FB https://www.facebook.com/Marissa-Mariah-1643466782606755/


Knights of Levi
Stuart, FL
https://www.facebook.com/knightsoflevi/


 


Breakthrough
Northfield, MN
https://www.breakthroughrocks.com/
https://www.breakthroughrocks.com/epk
FB https://www.facebook.com/Breakthroughrocks/?fref=mentions


Michael Reed Band
Waterloo, IA
http://www.michaelreedband.com/
FB https://www.facebook.com/michaelreedband/?fref=mentions

 


Ignescent
Chicago, IL
http://www.ignescentmusic.com/
http://www.ignescentmusic.com/listen/
FB https://www.facebook.com/ignescentmusic/


In The Verse
Wisconsin


https://www.facebook.com/pg/INTHEVERSEBAND/



Light45

Rochester, MN
www.light45.com
https://www.facebook.com/Light45Music/?fref=mentions


Remedy Drive
Nashville, TN
http://remedydrive.com/
https://www.facebook.com/remedydrive/
http://remedydrive.com/album/405818


Directions

 

Spurgeon on Faith in the Sun

It takes about eight minutes for light to reach us from the sun may judge of the pace at which that light comes when we reflect a cannon ball rushing with the swiftest possible velocity would seven years to get there and that a train travelling at the of thirty miles an hour and never stopping for refreshments require more than three hundred and fifty years before it reach the terminus You may thus form some slight idea of distance that we are from the sun and this I think furnishes with a good illustration of faith There is no man who can except by faith that the sun exists That he did exist eight ago I know for here is a ray of light that has just come him and told me that but I cannot be sure that he is existing at this moment There are some of the fixed stars that are at a vast distance from the earth that a ray of light from them hundreds of years to reach us and for aught we know they have been extinct long ago Yet we still put them down in chart of the heavens and we can only keep them there by for as through faith we understand that the worlds were by the word of God so it is only by faith that we can that any of them now exist. When we come to examine the matter closely we find that our eyesight and all our faculties and senses are not sufficient to give us positive conviction with regard to these heavenly bodies and therefore we still have to exercise faith so is it to a high degree in spiritual affairs we walk by faith not by sight

Defending Coffee Bars, Trend Setting Sermon Series, and Couches

A recent widow writes in response to contemporary church culture with respect to coffee bars, sermon series, and couches. “When church leaders sit around and discuss how they can reach people, I don’t think they have the widow in mind. I don’t think they have the cancer patient in mind. I don’t think they have the children who are growing up without a parent in mind. I am not paying attention to the church décor when I walk through the doors. I don’t want to smell fresh brewed coffee in the lobby. I don’t want to see a trendy pastor on the platform. I don’t care about the graphics or the props on the platform. I am hurting in a way that is almost indescribable.”

And I get that, totally massively get that…

The thing is, dealing with such grief is far outside the domain of the church. I mean I totally get the expectation of such that maybe the church should be there, after all it does funerals, and pastors can and do provide wise council in times of grief. In addition, when one consider Galatians 6:2 in isolation… bear one another burdens seems an entirely reasonable expectation for the church with respect to grief matters, that is until said verse is read in context.

Bottom line, grief ministry is beyond the scope of practice for most churches. Sure, they will have a trained pastor with a few units of clinical pastoral education. Maybe a few might have a Stephen ministry… but the average person in the pew is not equipped for such, and this is where one often runs into a jam really fast.

Consider that there are hundreds of things believers can say to a grieving person, and nearly every one of them, short of a few, is ill advised, Such includes badly chosen prayer verbiage… more than a few times, I thought, are you really going there??? Its really easy to get frustrated by such when it happens over and over and over… and yes, knowing that said folks have the best of intent helps mitigate some of the harm, it is still is a very sucky place to be in when you sort of wish you could rain down fire instead.

 
Personally, I leaned on friends of all faiths, and found lone rangering in the church environment to be the most helpful. I worshiped corporately, but outside of coming in late and leaving early, I kept my distance. I’ve heard similar stories from other widowers. Jesus is the answer… but his followers, not so much.
 
That being said, grieving is an individual thing… for some, they really need the close and upfront support of a community of faith… but then they will have to figure out other ways to deal with the counterproductive approaches of church folks. I don’t know how one would go about this. The other side of the coin, is that maybe the church needs to do a better job of equipping its members to approach widows and widowers, but it seems the only way to truly learn it is trial by fire, and that’s not so great either.
 
And while the coffee bar, dimmed lights, sermon series,  or even a trendy couch on a stage likely won’t bring folks to Jesus, the probability of them going counterproductive is exceedingly low. I wish I had a better answer.