Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Touching Base! Part 30


Mark’s note: this week’s post is by Carmen Gauvin-O’Donnell, Church Administrator

Honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15)

Anyone who's known me for any length of time will know that I do not speak "Christianese" well, that "inside language" that some Christians use, as in "my newspaper came five minutes early today and I knew it was a BLESSING from GOD!" But they also know that, even more, I have a hard time with those who do (except under certain circumstances and in certain contexts), because of what I call the external "freak factor". Let me explain why in (yet another) case-in-point that happened to me just the other day.

I was attending a conference on behalf of Bethel whose aim was to update us on the legal issues affecting charities today. Because it was for charities in general though, the attendees were a mix of churches and secular charities (yes, that’s underlined for a reason!)

So at lunchtime I start chatting with two lovely women, by first asking who they represent (so I know who's "church" and who isn't necessarily "church"):

- the first is a young lady, an accounting student who, as part of her accounting training, is on a placement in the office of a (secular) distress centre

- the second is a lady who's attending on behalf of her church because she's the Church Treasurer.

I ask the young lady about the aims of the centre she works for and we have a general conversation (which goes just fine) about how busy such centres have become. I mention to her that in our church one of the things we encourage is the development of small groups, a group of people you see weekly for Bible study and fellowship, which becomes an extended family for you. We believe that people who know they are truly loved and cared for don't generally need to call a distress centre for help since they'll turn to their "family", which can only help their centres be less busy.

Now, at this point in the conversation, the young woman is nodding her agreement, understanding perfectly what I mean and agreeing with it. Great!

Then my fellow Christian lady asks her if the centre ever refers people to churches for help. That's innocuous enough and would be okay if it had been left at that... a "just-out-of-curiosity" question.

Now let the "fun" begin (and believe me when I tell you I say that firmly tongue-in-cheek): the young lady reiterates that she personally has no idea since she's just working in the office and is not a volunteer herself. My Christian sister then jumps in with the following, right at the young lady (this isn't word for word, but you'll get the idea):

"Because you know the WORD OF GOD heals EVERYONE!
His word is a LAMP unto my FEET and a LIGHT unto my PATH…!”

WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP .... that’s the sound of the klaxon going off in my head as she said it.

Why? Because the poor young lady did everything but step back in shock... this was the look on her face:

And what was my reaction? (I kept this one inside, but only just, believe me!):

"OH NO!..., I thought, ... let's steer this one in another direction... NOW."

So I jump in and ask my fellow Christian, "Er... SO... what about YOU…? Are you a paid treasurer at your church, or is it a volunteer position...?"

And she says...

"Oh NO, it's PAID! You see we are a NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH (Carmen's thought: is there another kind? ) and we believe that THE LABOURER IS WORTHY OF HIS WAGES..."

And on and on and on. So much for my finely-crafted plan.

Well at this point, our young colleague leaves us, ostensibly to go get some dessert, but you know what? I guarantee all she was thinking was "OH-MY-GOSH... I have GOT to GET OUT of HERE!" And what's more, what kind of conversation do you think went on at her office the following morning?

"Hey, how was the conference...?"

"Great, but I met another one of those religious freaks! She went on and on about God being a lamp or something... and how I guess they're different than other churches because they're a new testament church... whatever that means..."

Now, before my name is submitted to my church's Board of Elders for immediate dismissal and crucifixion, let me get some things straight with y'all:

- do I believe that the Word of God heals, and that it is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path? ABSOLUTELY.

- do I believe in a church with a paid staff, and that they are labourers who are worthy of their wages? ABSOLUTELY. After all, I’m one of them!

- do I believe that God "blesses me richly" all day long? YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT!

BUT, here’s the Tip-of-the-Day and the point behind my posting:

If you are a Christian who tends to speak "Christianese",
think of the context you are in before you do it!

Our job as Christians is to be a light in the world because our lives look different, not BIZARRE!

In other words, had that been a Church conference full of believers, my colleague could have "Christianesed" to her heart's content!

But by not thinking of the context she was in, I think she unwittingly may have done more to keep our young colleague away from the Gospel of Grace than to bring her closer to it.

And it has got to stop.



Christian H said...


Jeannie said...

That's a great reflection, Carmen. (That song doesn't say "They'll know we are Christians because we talk really, really weird.")

Thanks for sharing -- oops, I mean, thanks for telling us!