cant keep people happy

its not easy to please everyone, and i often find myself in the position of not being understood or appreciated by certain segments of the church. many of you are in the same position.

the first group that doesnt understand us much is the traditional church. they feel comfortable in their diagnosis that we are philososphically relativist, consumeristic, materialist, out to change their churches for the worse and lead the young people into an unethical way of living. when we show them that they are wrong, that in fact our ethical standards reach into areas previously ignored by them, and that we take a stand against consumerism more than they ever did, when we explain these things to them, they are often disappointed with us. they sometimes wish that we actually WERE all those things rather than have us blow up their stereotypes, forcing them back to the drawing board.
Example – i get criticized for dressing up at conferences (which i like to do) and using grids on web sites (which i like to do) by older people who have been told differently. i end up apologizing to everyone and wondering why i am so apologetic.

the other group that gets disappointed is the newly postmodern, those that have recently left the church, the cool groups on the edge who have an ax to grind and base their identity on their rebellion against the norm. They are frustrated with us because we are not angry like them, or that we are not “edgy”
Example – some bikers at the Wabi Sabi event last year in Austin told me that it was “not edgy”.
. . . well excuuuuuuse me for getting healed!
. . . excuuuuse me for loving the church.
i understand where they are coming from and was probably there for a few years myself. But i and many of my friends feel we have come through all that and and on the other side of that stage.
this is why many of the postmodern labels do not stick to us, upsetting the traditionals that are hurling the criticisms and watching them fall off us, and upsetting the disgruntleds that are so tied up in their new identity as rebels that they are not able to appreciate those further down the tunnel or those who are choosing to rebuild, rather than tear down.
Case in point. At a recent alternative Christian Festival in Germany, a friend came with us. She used to attend the Festival when she was Goth and found wide acceptance. But now that her journey had matured and she dressed with color, she got some flak for not being Goth anymore.
its hard to keep people happy when they wish we would settle in to the sterotypes they create and JUST STAY THERE.
all that to say, that i think it will be important over the next 2 years for those in the same stage i am in to write about their experience, giving definition to where we are and how it is different from what is currently being misunderstood.
i have done some of this in my 3 stages of postmodernity, but not enough.
sorry – i am not making much sense, and dont have time to go over this to make it any more legible. i am in a library and am now getting back to writing my book. hopefully it will be more congruent that what i have just written.
congruent – thats a good word.

Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name “Precious” :-)

18 Comments

  • thanx for your post, andrew, and sorry you’ve continued to experience the exasperation of what i call “the curse of the bell curves.” man, as a recognized paradigm pioneer in whatever this era is that we’re in, you’re there with the whole nine yards – an appropos analogy, since that’s the amount of cloth it took to make a monk’s robe back in the olde days – a metaphor for going the whole way.
    anyway, my personal theory is that anyone at the very top or very bottom of a bell curve in any natural or cultural attribute will succumb to the “vortex of average-osity.” (for example, qualities like intelligence, looks, athletic or artistic ability, freedom in stylin’, etc.)
    the people in the middle want to feel good about themselves, and the unfortunately fallen only way to do that seems to be to ridicule those who are worse off or better off. but we secretly alternate between hating and envying those at the top end of any bell curve quality we don’t have in abundance ourselves. it’s sort of akin to what author Leanne Payne and others have called “cannibalist compulsion” – we just want what they’ve got and the only way to do that is tuh kill ’em off and consume their qualities.
    any time we are “too far ahead of the curve,” we’re going to have people who want to suck us back into the whirlpool at the center where they are. it’s all about their comfortability.
    so much for the supposed freedom in Christ to be and become who God designed us to be, and be creative within the constraints of the inherent physical, mental, emotional, artistic, and other abilities He alone created us to possess, along with the added creativity constraints and empowerment from gifts the Holy Spirit endowed us with as disciples in Christ.
    i’d say welcome to the club, but everyone’s in the club already. i’d rather remind people (myself included) to get rid of our clubs, and learn to celebrate people where they/we are at and for where they/we are going if it’s a righteous trajectory.
    obviously you don’t need anyone’s permission to be the apostolic guy that God’s made you, but want to encourage you to keep in the fray. if we stay stagnant, we petrify or putrify and die. keep moving us forward, best as you can, friend. looking forwad to your book – whenever!

  • Brother you are making perfect sense. Two years ago when we left whatever it was we were a part of all of our lives all we did for almost a year was shout about what we were against. Then the Lord chastised us that we were becoming known for what we were against and not what we were for! He began to show us that it cost nothing to be against something. but if we are FOR SOMETHING it will cost us time,money and our very lives! So what am I for ? I am for finding ways to bridge between forms and expressions of church. I am for releasing and not gathering. I am for the unity of US all of US no matter the form of gathering or type of structure. When this happens the world will sit up and take notice.
    Peace

  • Thanks Andrew. I have been concerned for sometime about the “postmodern Christian” movement’s focus on style over substance and it’s being defined by what it is reacting against. I too am ready and excited about building for the future instead of deconstructing the past all the time. I guess that it is a process though, because when I was in San Francisco in the late ’90’s, I was definitely going through my “church is bad” phase. That eventually wears you out and you want to feel optimistic and hopeful again about what God is doing. Another thing, and I have said this before, is that our focus needs to be on Christ. I don’t hear very much about Jesus either in the postmodern movement. Again, we can more easily focus on the wineskins than the wine because we want to be able to quantify and get our hands on something. Church styles are easier to talk about and understand than a true relationship with God. Hmmm, maybe we’re still more modern than we think. May the Spirit blow life into us and may we be as passionate about Christ as we are about culture. You are a blessing, Andrew. Keep sparking my thoughts.

  • I think it’s just hard for us sometimes when people are different, when they are living a life that is shaped by different values. When we are healthy and plugged into God and have a good sense of who we are, it gives us alot of room for the people around us to be who they are. Our clusters of friends should be like artist pallets with a good smattering of different colors to play around with. The girl who goes back to her goth friends wearing color could be treated with curiosity-where are you going now, what new things are you learning, what are you feeling that makes you want to dress like that? When we left our “what ever it was we were apart of all our life” we found it was difficult for those we had known in that context to continue to relate to us. It just seemed like we had moved to the moon, but we are still in the same town. I think we need to try our best to all get along and keep learning from each other as much as posible. Thank you Andrew for encouraging us to put some of this into words.

  • good stuff andrew – the move from deconstructive to reconstructive, from “stuck in a moment” to ” walk on”. its at the heart of the book im working on – due to the publishers end of april.

  • i feel ya… i totally feel ya. i’ve ALWAYS felt this… and agree… frustrated to be in the those tension of two worlds…but trying to be the faithful bridge… forging forward. thanks for articulating…

  • i feel ya… i totally feel ya. i’ve ALWAYS felt this… and agree… frustrated to be in the those tension of two worlds…but trying to be the faithful bridge… forging forward. thanks for articulating…

  • Yes and thanks. The challenge for many of us, as you aptly put it, is to “give definition to where we are and how it is different from what is currently being misunderstood”.
    One of my hobbies is prayer. Recently, though, I’ve realised that whenever I inject that term into a conversation, what comes attached to it (in other folks’ heads at least) is a whole lot of polluted baggage. So I’ve had to write a short piece on my blog redefining what prayer is, and isn’t, and giving an easy theology of prayer for people to engage with.
    For me, prayer is absolutely not a meeting, a quiet time, a rubber stamp to our initiatives or a quick fix (that never quite works anyway). But prayer is … well you’ll have to read the piece.
    Looking forward to yours and others’ redefinitions of a whole lot of important and wonderful stuff.

  • Andrew,
    I’ve wanted to leave the church. I’m compelled to stay. I’m not a tradionalist, but I’m not edgy postmodern either. I’m somewhere in the middle–asking deeper questions of my church and culture (i.e. the whold individualistic, consumeristic, natiionalistic thing). But where do I fit? I have no place to belong. This is the hardest part–feeling like a homeless outsider. Do I just make my own place to belong? Do I go with the traditional insitutionalised church and try to create some new in something old? Part of staying is that I love to see my kids with their grandparents–such love across generations. I do love the church, even when it’s scewed-up– it is not my church, it is God’s church to begin with. Thanks for your worlds. –JOHN

  • hey Andrew – i don’t know what i am, can’t say i understand all that em-church is on about, never fitted anywhere anytime and have been told that by everyone from parents, pastors, bosses to friends.
    can’t say i understand me half the time much less expect others to and about all i’ve learnt so far is
    1. Dorothy Sayers must have been onto something when she talked about God’s work in us as a process of un-selfing
    2. alien, out of step is how a pilgrim feels
    3. God never misunderstands us
    4. laugh a lot
    i’m a slow learner.
    and simple too.
    random pick usually does it for me 😉
    stay cool mate and don’t stop loving the church

  • Hi Andrew!
    I was really blessed by your insight in this entry. During the many years since we left the traditional way of church and launched on a pilgrimage to “the promised land” we have been through many phases of unlearning and tearing down. But it is much more fulfilling to restoration and reconciliation take place. It is more fulfilling to see young people being released into fulness of life than fighting the old systems.
    By the way, the old systems seem to have a frightning way to survive and even thrive in new settings!

  • An interesting idea- and a very interesting post. I am finding in my walk with God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) that the only thing that matters, the only thing we need to know and trust is that He loves us. So often we are so consumed with trying to figure everything out that we forget that the God of the universe is powerful encough to guide us into His truth. It is a dangerous time in which we live, but also a time of great joy, because we have the opportunity to realize our salvation every day. We have the opportunity to see just how much God loves us.
    It all goes back to the Gospel:
    God LOVES you
    God’s NOT MAD at you
    God will NEVER leave you nor forsake you.
    Amen and amen and Glory to God most high, and Jesus Christ, the lover of our souls! 🙂

  • I too feel stuck in the middle sometimes (that is why I recently asked for your definition of Emergent). If you read my most recent post entitled, “We’re Confused> you might be able to see where I can stuck in the middle. I really would love to hear from you on what you think.

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