Monday, August 17, 2009

Base Camp

The process of moving from one city to another is a tremendous undertaking. Epic in size and scope, it requires many hands of help, and the indomitable volunteerism of faithful friends and relatives to accomplish the daunting task of loading and off-loading the vehicles used for the migration. Relay lines are formed, labor is organized, refreshments are provided, and the work proceeds piece by piece until the mountain of goods are safely either on, or off, the truck. The end result is the clearly of one's possession out of one residence, only to have them deposited in a disorganized cache inside the new residence. Thus, the new residence is the "staging ground" in which everything dedicated to making a new home, knowing the community and acclimating to the new environment must occur. It's "base camp:" the place where the glorious aspect of the adventure begins, because the inglorious labor was perform to reach this place.

I suspect that many are this way. Regardless of how nomadic a lifestyle one has maintained, the notion of having the "base camp" where the personal stuff is kept in reserve while the one new to the area ventures out into the unknown, comforted with the knowledge that they can return to the "base" to relax. Consider the phenomenon is having furniture in hotel rooms with drawers. What is the hotel expecting, that the patron is moving in to stay? Not at all. They realize that for those experiencing an extended stay, the drawers will likely be used. People want to create "base camp," even if it's for a week visit for business or vacation to a distant city or country.

For us, even though there remains a vast amount of work to be done in unpacking boxes, assembling dissembled furniture, beginning home utility services and arranging the living space, it is comforting to know that the question of location has been answered. In addition, the locating of "base camp" has a liberating component, empowering one to explore the surrounding environment, experience its distinctives and identify its benefits and pitfalls. "Base Camp" is a necessary component of exploration, and offers the means for entering new territory safely.

The Church operates in much the same way. If indeed one belongs to a church tradition that is represented in the area you move to, then the question of church family is answered quickly as well. For a historic denomination, that question can be answered before even leaving the past address. In any event, the Church can serve as "base camp," offering the safety to experience the world knowing that warmth and safety are readily available. Many experience the regrettable phenomenon of moving to a new community or city not knowing what church family they will connect with.

This has a couple of causes at its root (this list is by no means exhaustive):

  1. Fickle tastes - the consumerist's curse has fully enveloped the seeker, making their "felt needs" of paramount importance. However, what they often fall short in is critiquing their own "felt needs." Unaware of how flighty these "felt needs," or tastes, can be, they place as primary importance that which cannot be counted on to remain consistent. What they like about church this week will be what they loathe about church next week. The main problem with making one's wants and desires supreme is that they are untrustworthy. Consider the quote from "God" delivered by Morgan Freeman in "Bruce Almighty" when Bruce defended the chaos he had produced by giving people what they want: "Since when does anyone have a clue about what they want." More insightful words are seldom spoken in Hollywood.
  2. Self-centered - Holding one's desires in highest priority also has the intended consequence of leaving most churches simply unable to measure up. It's difficult to become planted in a church when there is little intention of submitting to any of them. Therefore, it is more simple to find a church that will no likely ever require one's submission. Preferably, if it could leave you an anonymous visitor for several years, that would be better. Admittedly, this category has overlap to the previous one, but the seeker is basically saying to themselves, "If I could find a church that fit me, then I could settle down."
Quite foreign to this mentality are the lyrics of Rich Mullins when signing in "Creed," who wrote: "I did not make it. No, it is making me" (emphasis added). Instead of prancing about looking for the church that fits one perfectly, perhaps more attention could be paid to how much the church is supposed to change you.

I did not make it. It is making me.

I suspect this could help one make their choice regarding a church in w new region much more quickly. For us, this helped us to know the church we would attend before even moving. This may seem like the exception to many, but in our opinion, it's how it should go.

Church should not be one of the arenas of risky exploration in a new area. It should be "base camp," that frees you up to have the other full experiences of the community. Base camp provides security, safety and nearby help that liberates the adventurer to fully know the new community. Whether getting established in a new home, or especially landing in a new congregation, the Lord provides "base camp" as a means of securing the explorer as they encounter all the new wonders of a neighborhood, a community or a city.

3 comments:

M. said...

Monk,

Forgive me for this, but if one is supposed to consider the notion that a church is purposed to change him above the notion that a church should 'fit' him, then couldn't a person go to ANY church and call it his base camp?

If it matters less what 'fit' I find than the fact that I should expect to be changed by the church to fit IT, then what difference does it make where I go? I'm going to be 'changed' to fit anyway... I might as well make my selection based on the size of the building or the color of the priest's robe.

This is not meant to be antagonistic, but simply to say that, although I realize spiritual priorities should fall more on the side of God's purpose than our own purpose, I have to wonder where our own subjective tastes actually fall into the mix.

Respectfully submitted,
M.

Monk321 said...

M.

Granted. One could potentially enter the nearest religious-looking building indiscriminately, only to realize later that it is entirely outside their faith tradition or promotes lifestyles that run afield of their own sexual ethics. However, this is not the most common error.

More frequent, and in my view quite disastrous, is the practice of deciding on a church based on lesser tastes such as music style, age and attractiveness of the preacher, children's facilities or parking space. This seems to take far less into account the degree to which the church must change you, as opposed to cater to you.

Submission is not tested in agreement, and loyalty is not refined in consensus.

Assuming the broader questions (the few important ones) about orthodox agreement can be answered prior to even visiting, "base camp" can be identified on the first Sunday. Then it goes to work changing you.

"I did not make it. No, it is making me." - Rich Mullins

Our fleeting whims and tastes are not on par with orthodoxy, so they take a back seat to the weightier matters of historic Christianity. My point was not to indiscriminately wander into any mosque, kingdom hall, synagogue, liturgical church or evangelical worship center without regard for the faith expressed there. I decry the measuring rod most frequently used to choose a church within one's faith group: "It meets my needs," or "it reflects my tastes." Those 1st person personal pronouns sure have a way of reigning supreme.

By God's grace,

Monk

Monk321 said...

M.

As a follow up, I must admit to being influenced toward our church in the new city we've moved to in no small part by a personal connection. Attending a parish in the Reformed Episcopal Church in Dallas, we sought one in Houston. Their are a couple in Houston. Which one should we pick? Well, I had made a personal connection with the Rector a couple of months ago. Therefore, it was my instinct to pursue that connection further.

However, regarding the other factors that used to influence our thinking (distance, kids' programs, music, etc.), we find we have begun approaching the church with more of a mentality toward how we might be useful to meet the church's needs, believing that those needs of ours that the church should or can meet will be revealed later.