Malinda Davenport-Crisp, PhD, LPC/MHSP 

Licensed Professional Counselor - Mental Health Service Provider  



Toward a Recovered Church

Posted by MalindaDavenport on June 20, 2012 at 8:40 AM

Church ‘should’ be a healing community, at least, that is our hope. But it is a hope that often conflicts with our actual experiences.


We often use ineffective strategies to get our needs met. Some of these strategies take the form of ‘cognitive distortions’ which are exaggerated and irrational thoughts that perpetuate our difficulties. For instance, people criticize religious people and church in many venues, with various motives and agendas. The goal it appears is to cajole church into being something different, better, less, more, etc... such that "church should be ____ (fill in the blank).  But is it really helpful to “should” on an institution like church? Is it even possible for us to “should” on church with a pure agenda? The media surely tries.


Here “should” refers to a psychological term by Clayton Barbeau to describe one type of cognitive distortion of our expectations versus the reality of our experience. But when it involves church, we should be able to “should” on it, right!? Church is that place where we have put so many ideas of our best hopes and largest ideas of virtue on an entity. Church should be fair game, maybe it's slanderous, maybe its scandalous. But for folks who see the issues from the inside, we can often agree with the allegations.


There are two forms of ‘should-ing on church’. First, it can mean what we expect church to be doing. We say the church is supposed to be a special agent in society used by God to meet human need. Are they living up to the mission? We are always asking questions on whether it has fulfilled its special task and calling. Furthermore, each one of us has an opinion of what doing the right thing “looks like” at church despite budgetary, vision statement, personnel, training, time, or even, moral constraints.


The second form of ‘should-ing’ speaks of our own experience. We can easily do the second form of “should-ing” as we repeatedly rehearse the past ills done by church. These forms of ‘should-ing on church’ appear to stem from a patterned need that we have for alleviating guilt, or even a hope that we can gain approval from others who also have come to recognize that something stinks in Scotland. Moreover, there is an urge we often personally channel seen in our wider culture to ‘beat up on’ church because it has had so many great resources and has dropped the ball so egregiously. We hope the 'jackeling' (a habituated pattern of name-calling), attacking, defending, and running away, which alienates us from life and disconnects us from community, will make the church turn from it’s wicked ways and be the way it ‘should be’. That something reflects resentments that we believe in our gut to be what is wrong with the way we “do church.”


I would suggest there is a bigger issue... because of something grimmer... Our concern is ultimately the conundrum in our human condition. We can’t simply “should” or compulsively push our opinions on church in an effort to bully church people into acting better or the way we think they should. If that were possible, it would have already transpired… and probably transpired thousands of years ago! It is our ultimate powerlessness that rivets us. We often express the reality of the powerlessness concerning our broken humanity by reflecting our personal pain onto others, even church. And the more we try to punish church, even with all the ‘shoulds,’ the more we end up furthering our own dysfunction. Part of the issue is that we see “church” as something apart from who we are. We as believers are the church and so it reflects us.


Is it that ‘the church can be a healing place, if people were not so broken’ or is it better stated that ‘the church can be a healing place if we as a people could better accept our common brokenness and embrace that with each other to give space to promote healing? Alas, that is the problem... People make up the church. And People are broken. So we as believers walking in need of, and sometimes in fear of, community, are able to make a recovered church. Well, with God’s help and our willingness, we can.


A church that I can believe in, is one that operates under principles and traditions that are solid, proven strategies of helping broken people seek and find peace with God, serenity within themselves, and connection with others. The only pre-requisite is willingness to walk this out. It is rooted in an admission that we are powerless, really, over that basic level brokenness and that there is a power greater than ourselves that can restore us to sanity. The brokenness that stems from our human condition, is woundedness that only the Great Physician can heal through His spirit and His recovered community, what we call church.


I would like to write in future blogs about the principles which are greater than personalities within the recovered church which make authentic reconciliation to God, ourselves, and others possible.


A final note. The most frequent result of should-ing is procrastination. If we find faults, we just decide to do nothing. Ever see that in church??

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