Saturday, January 5, 2013

I Go To Church For My Own Reasons

I have heard that sentence many many times in the past few years in the various churches we have attended, from congregants in wildly differing denominations.

I still can't be comfortable when I hear that, even though I have heard it so often in recent years.  Maybe it is because I don't know what it means to each person who has said it to me.

Call me naive okay, but I guess I spent my life assuming that if someone goes to church regularly it is because they have at least some interest in God, Jesus, discipleship.....some sort of overtly Christian reason.  Maybe I am wrong though.

When someone tells me "I go to church for my own reasons" are they trying to tell me their reasons have nothing to do with a belief in God or the Bible?  Are they saying it so I won't talk about God or Jesus in front of them, or heaven forbid WITH them?  Are they saying it as a way of telling me to mind my own business and put an end to any discussion I might start with them about church or God?  Are they simply saying they are private people who are not comfortable discussing their faith with another Christian person? Are they saying it because they don't really know what they believe or even if they believe in anything spiritual like God and don't want to talk about it with me?  Are they saying it because they don't believe in God or Jesus but come to church because they like the other people who attend, or they enjoy the coffee hour after service, or to keep church going grandma off their case, or because they simply feel an inexplicable pull to be there on Sundays?
I would so dearly love to ask any or all of these people what it is they are actually saying to me, but I don't want to appear nosy or pushy or belligerent.  I don't want to chase them around like some kind of tv evangelist trying to force them to articulate something they don't know how to articulate or just plain don't want to articulate.  

I always assume they say that to me to prevent me from saying anything more about it, but I really don't know.  I would feel badly asking "And what reasons are those?" because if they wanted to tell me they would and not say something so general and so impossible to respond to without prying.  That phrase has never struck me as one calculated to welcome me into a general discussion of spiritual issues with them.

My wish is to come up with a pleasant response that invites more discussion if they would like to talk to me or my husband the priest sometime, but that doesn't make them feel they are going to be exposed or attacked or pushed around and beaten about the ears with a giant Bible if they explain themselves in more detail.

"I go to church for my own reasons."  What on earth does that mean?  I am sorry, but I can't figure this expression out.


Penny said...

it is an interesting challenge. I am going to pray that both you and I are able to find an opening response that allows for a respectful way of understanding their reasons as to this statement.

chris e. said...

How about 'you know, i hear this all the time and no one ever elaborates. Why is that?' To me, that would allow them to give the reasons why they don't elaborate and hopefully it sounds nonconfrontational enough that they might actually tell you some of their reasons for attending.
I attended a church where we were told why we were there: so angels could see us and a whole bunch of other reasons that never made any sense to me. So it might be easier for someone coming out of that kind of place to just say 'for my own reasons' than risk giving the wrong answer.