Thursday, 28 February 2008

Latest Rant

I imagine that everyone who has gone out of organised religion, for whatever reason, knows what task-orientated relationships are and what it's like when people withdraw from relationship with you because you obey the Lord instead of the rules of men?

It's so weird. Because my husband and I no longer see 'church' the way others do, we were told last night, effectually, that we can no longer be involved with any scouting activities in the scout group (Royal Rangers) which my husband started 7 years ago here, because we no longer see ourselves as 'members' of the free church we were involved with for 17 years. This is because of the rules which govern the organisation, which grew out of the Assemblies of God in the 80's - here in Germany, at least, which say that in order to be a part of the Ranger world, lead a team, or an outpost, you have to be in membership with/ submission to, a 'church'. Most know that the Church is people, but because of the way tradition binds people, many see 'church' as the organisation they're affiliated with.

And because some others have found my husband's strong leadership and pioneering, rather dominant personality too much to handle, they have also found spiritual reasons to ask him not to be involved any more. I think at bottom line, this is because going to the Cross and loving a person no matter what, is too difficult. He's not the easiest person to be around when he's under stress, and I know that others have suffered because of his dominant style and way of talking when he's upset. They have often told me how difficult they find him. But as a way of flattering him and making it easier to accept their decision, he was told that 'because he's a pioneer, and the sort of person who is an 'eye' in the Body', there is no longer a role for him in the outpost; and if he were to stick around, he 'wouldn't be able to fulfil his calling and gifting'; his job is over. 'The Lord has something new for him.' It felt a bit like manipulation, quite honestly. He only wanted to help out on occasion when he had time and when help might be needed. Now he's afraid that his relationships with the teenagers and the other leaders there will fade because he's no longer allowed to be involved.

It is inevitable that because of the busyness of church life, people won't make the time to still be involved with us, (there was little enough time to spend with each other when we were 'in' the group). I have kept in touch with people over the last three years to show that although we don't 'go to church' in the way that others may, our friendships with and interest in the people have not lessened.
But as we say in Germany, 'mitgehangen, mitgefangen' which means in my case, that because I'm married to F., I'm affected by what affects him. I don't resent it and I'm not angry at him; I'm just explaining the situation as it is. He is really sad that I am in this situation because of him.

The saddest thing is that a friend who has herself been kicked around and spiritually abused by her old 'church', someone to whom we had given a spiritual home, support and comfort over the last 2.5 years, has 'sided with' those in the institution, and because of expediency and wanting to be a part of the Rangers, where, because of my husband's leaving, through work pressure, she is now in leadership, has 'joined' our old 'church' and told us that we either stay as members of the church or leave the Rangers altogether. She, as well as the girl who took over the outpost leadership from F. and the others in the 'church' leadership, have put institutional rules above relationships, and I believe that the Holy Spirit is grieved because of it. It is so weird how this religious spirit contaminates people's minds.

Another slant on the situation however, is something which came to me this morning: 'Ishmael' always comes back to bite you. Years ago when F. first started the Ranger work here, I was not convinced that it was the right thing, and I felt that he was doing it, at least partly, because he needed an outlet for his leadership abilities. He had been ousted from leadership in the group we were a part of in 1997-1998, partly because of character issues, and had suffered as a result, although he later saw it as a good thing, because he realised that he had identified himself with the 'job' and got his self-worth from it instead of from the Lord. I felt back then that starting a Rangers outpost was an 'Ishmael thing' and wouldn't get involved for another 5 years, because of this. I only got involved later in September 2005 because F.'s job was so time-consuming, and I wanted to do something as a family – H. and B. were with the Rangers too – before the children eventually left home. Looking back now, I'm so glad that I did; B. (13) left to go to school in England this January and H. (16) will go in September. I had no way of knowing back then, how little time we would all still have together. But the Rangers work was begun.

And now this situation has arisen. Seven years later, Ishmael has turned and 'bitten the hand that led him.' Just as Abraham didn't wait and trust God to bring about an Isaac in His good time, according to God's promise, but went ahead in his own strength and fathered a 'wild donkey of a man with his hand against everyone', so, I believe, this Ranger work has turned out to be, for F., at least. I'm not saying that it hasn't been a blessing for many of the children, or that those who have supported the work and helped to lead it haven't benefited, grown and been blessed by being a part of it, but because it's integrally part of the System and necessarily an organised thing which carries on more or less on its own, regardless of whether the Holy Spirit is there or not, I'm not convinced now that it's God's best. There are some really wonderful and precious people involved in the work with whom we've had close and valuable relationships, but the fact remains that the work of man, with its organised structure and regulations, can bring a heavy load and will eventually be a stumbling block. There are, however, very few who perceive it.

So in some ways I am glad we are out of it at last. Maybe the Lord needs to take us out of everything to show us at last what His work is for us, rather than our own work. Maybe there is still some breaking to do in us both. Maybe we needed to see the extent of institutional thinking and how almost inescapable it is, once you're a part of an organised group. It's just sad that it had to be this way. It's sad that because of fleshly attitudes and a carnal way of seeing church, people have to get hurt all over again. But I know that if we accept this as from the Lord, He will work it into something beautiful in us.

The dilemma now, is where do we go from here?
Jesus is the Way. We just have to keep our eyes on Him.

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