I think I’ve got a new conversation stopper…
Whenever I’ve got a new Christian friend, I’ll just ask them to tell me about their church.
I’ve been in a lot of social situations where someone has asked this very simple question, and the result is usually the same.
For some reason, a lot of people seem to break out into a cold sweat when you ask them about their church. Then they start rambling like Michael Cera. They can’t find a place to stop! They nervously rattle off all kinds of facts that polite chit-chat doesn’t call for. An equivalent social situation would be asking someone, “How are you today,” and they start with, “Fine,” but they can’t stop nervously elaborating on the word “fine” until they’ve told you about their last bowel movement.
I’m the same way. Someone asks me about my church, and I suppress the urge to fidget while I nervously blurt out twenty random facts when just one would do.
But we usually aren’t really boasting about our churches, are we? There’s something much deeper going on.
Choices, Choices, Choices…
People have all kinds of choices to make about how they will spend their time and money.
You wouldn’t get nervous if someone asked you what kind of bread you eat, or what kind of bags you want at the store. White or wheat. Paper or plastic. It’s not a difficult question.
But the more time and money people spend on a product or hobby, the more adamant they become about their choice. That’s why Apple geeks and videogame fanboys can’t shut up about their product of choice. That’s why sports fanatics will cheer for a team that happens to play in their geographical area, even when they suck. Believe me, I know. I live in a town where both our sports teams haven’t done anything in decades.
There’s a difference between bread and baseball teams, and how loyal people are to each.
You Have Chosen Poorly
But it’s not just that fans of Apple or Nintendo or the Lions are adamant about their choices. It’s not just that they are proud to support a team or company.
They’re secretly really insecure.
Because we have a lot of choices. And a lot of people chose not to buy an Apple computer or a Nintendo Wii or cheer for the sucky-suck Lions.
The fact that there are a lot of choices makes people secretly wonder if they made the wrong choice. Why should people in Detroit support the Lions when there are much better choices? Every gadget you have is eventually going to look stupid compared to the competition. There are advantages to other products that you deliberately ignored when you bought a loaf of bread or a phone or a house. The choice you made probably looks stupid to a lot of other people.
And the idea of looking stupid to others makes people nervous. People feel their decisions are being judged by others. Then they get defensive. They try to convince others why their inferior choice is actually the best choice.
One More Question: What Do You Look Like Naked?
That’s why so many people get nervous when an acquaintance asks about their church.
Most of us don’t go to a mega-church with an amazing spectacle every Sunday. We don’t go to the “best” churches. Most of us go to churches that have problems and disadvantages. There are other churches that were surely a better choice than the one we made.
Religion is the most personal part of us. It’s a huge investment of time, effort, energy, and money. So we try to justify to others why we chose what we secretly fear, deep down, is an inferior church. It’s like being asked what we look like naked. We’re going to try to make ourselves sound hot, even though we’re certain that we must certainly have more fat, wrinkles, bags and sags than the person asking.
All churches suck at something, or even a lot of things. Maybe your church is old and crusty, or the sermons are boring or the music is dull, or the lady in the third row smells. No one cares if your church sucks. This isn’t high school where you’re ostracized for not liking the right music.
So, out with it. Tell us one thing that is genuinely bad about a church, or any product you chose, and why you chose it anyway!
I’ll go first. My church is teeny tiny. Like, pathetically small. But everyone knows one another’s names, and when want to get stuff done, it doesn’t have to go through ten committees to do it.