(For the uninitiated, “Theology for Grasshoppers” is my attempt to tell my story of faith to my grandkids. I hope I’m around long enough to tell them personally. But just in case I reach the finish line before I get the opportunity, these letters will be the record of what I believe and why I believe it…in words and stories they can understand.)
Hey there, Farrasprouts!
I’m going to tell you something today that lots of people will probably disagree with, but I’m your Papi and this my letter to you. Not anybody else’s. And you won’t be able to use this information for another 12 or 13 years. And even longer for you, Tatumonster!
There will come a time when your parents will have no influence over your decision to be part of a church family. Most people call this “going to church”, but I’ll explain why I don’t ever call it that some other time. Anyway, it will totally be your choice. 100%. All on you. When your daddies lived at home with me and Mimi…long before they met your mommies…we made the decision about church for them. If we went to church meetings, they went to church meetings. It’s what we did as a family.
They could whine, argue, fake being sick, or negotiate, but in the end, they pretty much did as we told them to. (Even though they sometimes complained about getting up early on Sundays or having to stay late because I was usually the last one to leave, they experienced many of the good things about church life and most often enjoyed being part of it. We only strung them up by their ears, occasionally.)
But once they moved out on their own, they got to do whatever they wanted to do. And that’s the way it should be. And it will be that way for you guys, too.
So I want to tell you something while it’s fresh on my mind. Here’s my advice for choosing a church family: Find a small one. Close to where you live. Don’t get all excited about the things a church provides for you. That totally misses the point of “church”. Be part of something where you can help it to grow strong and healthy. Don’t be part of a church family where you are not truly needed and genuinely noticed.
Make sure it’s a place that poor people feel welcome. There is a special place in God’s heart for people in need. The more people of different races, the better. Oh…and make sure there are old people and young people and they have lots of ways to become friends with each other. Rubbing elbows and lives is the real stuff of church.
Don’t ever be overly impressed with the skills of the person that does most of the preaching. It’s not the important thing. In fact, he’s not really all that important! And I should know… Be impressed with the kinds of conversations people have with each other. Listen carefully to the way they talk about people who are different. Find a place where loving others is not just talked about, but it is what people actually do.
Make sure it’s a group of people who respect and teach the Bible, but they also make room for differing opinions. None of us are smart enough to have the whole Bible figured out. Church people seem to have the tendency to believe they are the only “right ones” and that they have more understanding of “truth” than the other guy. There are always going to be disagreements. People are not always going to see things alike. Be with a group of people who listen carefully and who make room for doubt and questions.
Choose to be with people who respect women. History has not been kind to women, especially in the church. So find one where women stand on equal footing with men and they are challenged to explore and express every bit of their giftedness for the good of others.
And this is especially true for the three of you: Find a church family that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Be with people who love to laugh. Find some people to stand beside and link arms with. Make sure that Jesus is their example.
That’s my advice. I hope it serves you well, someday. There are lots of other important things, but I’m pretty sure you’ll be smart enough to figure them out as you go along. How do I know that? I know where you come from!
Be wise, Grasshoppers.