Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Hungry for more than cake...

I wanted to share something that I've been reflecting on for a while, but I'm somewhat apprehensive that I'll be misunderstood as I say this. So please, bear with me, and hear my heart.

I am pondering the place of "fun" in the Christian life (there, I've said it).

This has come up several times recently, as I keep hearing people advertise various church events or programs as "so fun!" "the funnest thing ever!" and "proof that Christians can have fun too!". I know that they are trying to share their positive experience with others, but I have to admit, there's something about that that really turns me off. Honestly, it makes me not want to go.

You see, the times in my life that have been the most important, memorable, and transforming, are not times that I would necessarily describe as fun. The most significant moments or events in my life have been meaningful.

Times that I feel the presence of God so intensely my breath is taken away... times when the chatter of the world drops away and I can hear His still small voice, bringing clarity or peace to specific situations... sunsets so beautiful tears come to my eyes... times when God powerfully speaks through me to encourage another person... these are the moments I live for, the times when everything comes together, my senses sharpen, life makes sense, and I feel that I understand and am living my purpose on this earth.

There's no fun in the world that can compare with that!

Hold on... those things are fun, in a way. They're not UN-fun. They're not boring. But if I were to be seeking a fun time, I would be missing the point.

You see, the church has something the world doesn't. And that is a sweet, personal, meaningful relationship with a powerful, amazing God. The world already has this thing called fun. They're experts at it. But there's something better, an intangible, transcendent purpose to our lives - when you do what you were made to do, when you "live your glory"... this is what I long for, yearn for, strive for, what I need.

So why do Christians feel the compulsion to appeal to the shallow, the selfish fun-seeking nature, when there is something greater to be found?

I realize this sounds anti-fun. That's not it. I'm anti-FOCUSING on fun, if that makes any sense.

The best example I've thought of is this:

Imagine, if you will, that you have a friend going to a wedding. Your friend says,

"I am so excited about this wedding! I can't stop thinking about the wedding cake we're going to eat. Five layers, fresh buttercream frosting, raspberry filling, mmm, it's the best cake I'm going to eat all year! You know what? You should come with me, and you can get some of this cake too! I know you would love it!"

What would you say? What would you think?

Yes, the cake will be delicious. It will be the best cake you taste this year. But, that's not the point. The cake should not be the reason you go to the wedding!

I think it's the same way with the Christian life. If you gather with friends to come into the presence of the living God, you will have a great time. But if entertainment is your main goal, I believe you're missing the point.

So, there you have it.

Do you agree? Disagree? Does anyone else out there share this hunger for the truly significant? If so, I want to hear from you...


Bethany said...

I think you hit it on the head. So many churches are trying to reach out to young people by either entertaining them or making church 'fun'. It doesn't help that many young people will probably tell you the reason that they don't go to church is because it is boring.. But, if you look at what people truly need, whether they know it or not, it's that meaningful relationship that you describe. I agree that people are already getting 'fun' from the world. The problem is that they are searching for something and they aren't finding it, but they don't know where they will find it. We need to share with them that God sized hole in their hearts is what is making that ache and that we can help them find the way to filling it.

caljoy said...

You've given me much to think about. I am leaving for southern well, central california but I will ponder and get back to you.

Hi Bethany!

Bonnie Arnwine said...

Well personally I enjoy fun. As a matter of fact when things are fun and I am feeling happy it is a preferred state for me. With that said when all we have is fun "events" then things become a mile wide and an inch deep. The first time I was on staff at a church we had incredible growth. The group went from around 15 to over 80 we had lots of fun. However, as soon as I stepped down the group fell apart. Everyone soon moved on to the next best thing. Several of my enthusiastic friends to this day are not walking with the Lord.

The more I learn about Jesus, I see him as this relational guy, who was an awesome, engaging story teller who was often funny. We can have fun being together, sharing stories and rejoicing with our victories. The most fun for me is being with a group of people who know me so well they just "get" me and my humor. We have inside jokes that one look or word will evoke laughter. There is nothing better than having fun with a group like that.

So... nothing would make me happier than to see my son become a part of a youth group where he has fun being with people who "get" him. Does that me extreme whip cream wrestling, bungee jumping of the Benicia Bridge, or going to a stadium filled w/ bands and famous speakers for a whole weekend... probably not.

Bonus said...

I'm actually leaving a church with a pastor that I love because they have made it too much "fun" in an attempt to win over young adults. To me, it feels more like a rock concert or a theatre production and I just don't feel right being there any more. I want strong, deep, uplifting relationships with God and other people and I know I won't get that at this church.

Katherine said...

Great comments, everyone. I've really enjoyed all your feedback.

Bethany - As someone who works with youth, I share the trepidation that an entertainment-focused ministry builds the selfish expectation that it's "all about me". Conversely, the time that Gary and I took our JH group to Tijuana for a week, focusing on helping the poor, was so much more powerful, bonding, and spiritually enriching than any other activity we'd done with them.

Joy - I eagerly await your return from central Cali, that I might partake of the fruit of your ponderances!

Bonnie - Alas, let it not be perceived that I don't enjoy fun! (My twister escapades should be enough evidence of that...) I've enjoyed our conversations on this topic, and hope to continue them. Which reminds me, I should blog some of these stories of the most cherished times of my life.

Bonus - I've experienced those "theatrical productions" and while they can be impressive, I always leave feeling a bit unsettled. There seems to be an inverse relationship between a slick production value and authenticity... what's up with that? I pray that God will lead you to the right church, where you can fellowship and worship with other Christ-focused young people! Keep seeking!

J. R. Miller said...

Hi, I came to your site because the title of your post is the title of my blog "More Than Cake".

I agree with the sentiment of your post and think there is much the church should reconsider in how we promote the cross of Christ.

Katherine said...

Hi J.R.

Thanks for coming to check out my blog. I'd love your insights on how you think the church can promote Christ without watering down the gospel or pandering to people's desire to be entertained.

God Bless,

Katherine =)