In a theology class (I think) in college the professor talked about “isms.” There are tons of words that this particular ending of ism gets attached to, though at the moment my brain isn’t producing a lot of them. But he talked about those three letters as being the basis for someone’s center, their frame of reference. “What is your ism?” he would ask. Then he turned it into an acronym:
An ism is where someone finds their identity, security, and meaning. The ism is the attempt to answer the great question, “why are we here?” I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.
God’s been challenging my isms through this process. I think I’ve had pastor’s wife-ism, and church-ism, and a few other isms including some related to my deep need to be intelligent in the eyes of others. And while I’ve been confronted with some isms from those that I love which have shaken me to the core, at the same time, I’ve had to realize that the only isms I’m supposed to change are my own. If my identity, security, and meaning are not found in Jesus Christ, then there is no point. He is the only source of life, the reason I am here.
Yes, I believe I am called to be a pastor’s wife, but more importantly, I am called to be Travis’ wife. Therefore, I am called to be the wife to him in his calling. And I still believe he is called to be a pastor. But my calling as wife to him in his calling is secondary. Does that make sense? Let me take this another way.
First, I am called to be a child of God. That is my central relationship in life. Redeemed, I live out a life of sanctification daily through my other relationships. The first of those relationships is the one I have with Travis. After that, the relationships fall into place much better. But whether or not we are involved in the life of a congregation is not central to our relationship. It is God who is central.
It’s hard – it’s Sunday morning and we aren’t at church. I wish I could say that I understand better where those who don’t go to church are coming from, but I am still learning. And I can’t say that I know better how to help people want to attend church. I get it – going isn’t always easy or fun. For me, it’s easier to compare it to going to a health club. I know I should exercise. I know that in a class I tend to do better and keep going longer than I would on my own. I feel better once I go. But I get intimidated by those who have the steps down, whose workout clothes are clearly much nicer, whose bodies show that they have been at this for some time. And I get lazy about all of the stuff involved in getting ready to go – pack bag, drive over, take ID card and lock, changing in front of strangers, swimming in a crowded pool, showering, etc. Heck, if I’ve already showered I often talk myself out of going just because I don’t want the hassle or dry skin from showering twice. And don’t get me started about the cost involved.
I imagine for those not accustomed to attending church it can feel like that. From clothing to comfort to money, besides the all-too-easy “I just don’t feel like going,” many who would otherwise go just don’t want to. And so many of our churches are set up to “feed” those who have always come. Why aren’t we feeding those who need it most? If you’ve been a Christian your whole life, why do you think you “deserve” to have church a certain way – and I don’t just mean traditional worship. There are plenty of advocates for contemporary worship who want it that way because they enjoy it. But if we focus on making worship the way the people in the pews want it to be, we’re missing the boat. How is every aspect of worship engaging those present with their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? What are we doing to bring others into fellowship with us as Christians and through us, with God? If it’s not about that, then why are we gathering each week?
I sometimes do wonder if we asked people why they go to church, if they would have an answer. How many others out there are in the midst of Attending-Church-ism? What if we started practicing Christ-ism?