Monday, April 27, 2009

Church as a Personal Trainer

A few days ago, in The New York Times, I read an article about why normal people likely need a personal trainer to achieve their athletic best. It made me think about how we are a do-it-yourself culture, and how little we like to rely on the expertise of others.

The article points out that most people don't have the foggiest idea of how to go about training on their own. This point made me think about whether or not a similar dynamic is at work for people who claim they are "spiritual, but not religious," or people who just aren't into organized religion.

I'd like to think that our do-it-yourself culture can train itself, but if it's not true for athletics, it's likely not true in other areas. The evidence of people's lack of ability to train themselves is all around us--how many of us are carrying an extra 20+ pounds? Look around--you'll see heavy people at all sides.

I suspect that if we carried our spiritual failings in the same kind of obvious way as we carry our extra pounds, we'd see that most of us are failing to train ourselves spiritually.

Now, yes, I know that bad churches abound--I've been part of them. But most of us live in communities with a plethora of churches. If the church you're attending isn't working, consider changing churches.

I spent many years sticking with a church that wasn't working for me, and I had some good reasons for doing it. You might too--maybe your family likes your current church more than you do. Maybe you really want to stay with a particular denomination, and you'd have to drive too many miles to find an option. Maybe you're hoping that you can be an effective agent for change. Several years ago, I found this post on a blog, and it gave me comfort. Maybe you'll get some comfort too--and some ideas for how to survive a less-than-optimal church.

As in sports, even if we're having a sub-optimal training experience, having some training experience often means we'll achieve more than if we didn't. Just as being part of an exercise group keeps us accountable, being part of a church keeps us accountable and reminds us of our purpose.

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