OKAY, I ADMIT IT: I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH 'CHURCH SOCIALS'!!
WHAT DO I THINK OF THE TYPICAL 'CHURCH SOCIAL'? YUK!
QUESTION: WHAT IS THE RITUAL WHICH CHURCH CONGREGATIONS GO THROUGH ANYTHING FROM 3-12 TIMES PER YEAR WHICH MAKES STRONG MEN QUIVER AND TREMBLE??
ANSWER: THE CHURCH SOCIAL!!
Men who never took a step backwards in Korea, Vietnam, the Falklands or the Gulf dread the onset of 'the church social' season. Why? Well, I guess it's always been a sort of 'church joke' hasn't it? Ladies love church socials and they are usually very good at them - loving the organisation of 'pot luck meals', the organisation (or, disorganisation) of the children, and the 'children and family'-based chatter which is so often the order of the day on such occasions. But we men are far less enthusiastic about them. Perhaps we have a stressful job during the week and it is hard to unwind, or perhaps – by our very chemistry – we men are not always naturally great conversation makers (unless a topic comes up that we are passionate about, then try to stop us!!) But, for whatever reason, I have noticed over many years of congregational attendance that the majority of men either try their hardest to keep away from church socials (they almost never succeed because most wives are determined to drag them along), or they do indeed (apparently) cheerfully go along yet cannot wait for the whole thing to finish!
Okay, its time to come clean: What are my personal 'beefs' about church socials and why is it that I now (confession time!) often try to avoid them?
The Conversational Problem
On more than one occasion I went (okay, I admit it, sometimes got dragged) to church socials with some burning issues on my mind which I really wanted to discuss and longed to discuss with my brothers and sisters in Christ; issues concerning our country, liberalism and the Holy Bible, issues concerning life and death and the gospel. I really hoped that we could all get into some spiritual discussions, after all, surely one should expect such discussions when Christians meet socially? - but, for some reason, it hardly ever proved possible. I am not talking about the 'Bible-basher who cannot keep quiet' scenario at all, I am talking about a situation in which most would want to contribute and not feel intimidated. But I found that there was almost a conspiracy to keep all talk and chatter on quite a superficial level; holidays, home improvements, how Mary is doing at college, which supermarket offers the best shopping, the new dresses Sandra has just bought for the twins..... these seemed to be the preferred topics! This always disappointed me. Should not the conversation of Christians be markedly different to the world? (As an aside, I was also often saddened at the tendency for the 'marrieds' to ignore shy single people).
The Reason for Church Socials.
I have always been puzzled by the
justification for church socials offered by the ministry. The
most common reason for having socials is usually expressed in a manner something like this 'So we can
all get to know and love each other a whole lot better!' - yet the
reality was that one always seemed to rub shoulders with
exactly the same group of people whom one already knew
rather well. In the mega church we attended, we only seemed to be
encouraged to meet socially with the group of people who lived
closest to us, a group we already knew quite well, yet, to be
frank, many of us were not perfect 'soul-mates.' Yes, we were
always encouraged to invite non church members along to such
Bible Studies and socials but I cannot honestly say that this was
productive, nor can I recall a single occasion when a non-Christian
neighbour or friend joined us.
Sometimes an unhealthy and unspiritual competition seems to develop among church ladies regarding who can best host these sort of socials/gatherings. In one place I was told of, the lady hostess would present the main meal and the intention was always to 'outdo' the last church social host! So, as these socials moved from home to home, real competition developed to produce the best meal and the most sparkling conversation. One e mailer told me that his wife would have spasms of nausea the two or three days leading up to any social they were hosting because of her stress and tension! Finally he insisted that he and his wife withdrew from hosting any socials. The pastor, apparently, never spoke to him again!!
Is There a Better Way?
Do we Christians make some
mistake when we socialize in this rather forced and contrived
manner with other Christians? In most cases, do we really need to
get to know each other any better? Or is there something else
we should be doing? Jesus said,
'.....”When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14, NIV).
Should Christians be part of a mutual appreciation society or a mutual congratulation club? Should we regularly have these exclusivist meals attended by other well-to-do Christians?
I know a lady who has put the words of Jesus into practise. She hires church halls and invites the sick, the unemployed, drug-takers and alcoholics. They are given a fine meal, after which the gospel is preached to them. I believe I am right in saying that she has encountered opposition from fellow Christians. She is a fine example and a brave and bold lady.
Shouldn't we all be doing this? Wouldn't this be a better and more Godly use of our resources?
Please let us all give serious thought to this! It is risky but aren't there risks involved in anything which is worth accomplishing??
Robin A. Brace, 2005.
MUSELTOF COUNTERCULT AND APOLOGETICS