M*A*S*H

I named it M*A*S*H cause it starts out funny, and ends all serious.

I’ll begin at the top: At softball practice last Thursday (by the way, I had the 1st softball practice for my church co-ed team. Woo Softball. While practicing, I re-injured a pulled right hamstring, and it was really sore the next day.)… Anyway, At softball practice last Thursday, I was approached and addressed as “Hey, Deacon” by 2 guys on the team. I found this odd. Cory, a friend of mine from church, also talked to me a bit about how his experience on church council had helped him out.

Flashback

Right before I left for Europe, Cory had pulled me aside after church and mentioned that council was looking for some candidates for deacon, and my name had come up, and he wanted to know if I was open to talking about it. I said it sounded like something I might be interested in, at least certainly worth considering, and I’d like to talk about it. The next week I left for Europe. While I was gone, Cory left a message on my machine mentioning that he wanted to talk to me about it. When I got back from Europe, I hung out with Cory and Brian Van Hoven (my old Young People’s leader, and current golf partner), after golf one Tuesday, and a quick conversation went something like this:

Ron: Sorry I didn’t return your call. I left for Europe a few days before the message arrived. It was about the Deacon thing, right?
Cory: Yeah, I forgot, you talked about your trip, but it completely slipped my mind.
Ron: So it’s a bit late now.. yeah..
Cory: Don’t worry about it, it’s not a big deal. Not a problem.

I’m paraphrasing, cause I don’t remember the exact conversation. The effect was this: I believed I had waited too long to say yes, so I was off the list. He believed I had said okay, and all was fine, and I was on the list.

Back to last Thursday

“Hello, Deacon”… wait a minute… I hadn’t been at my church that Sunday, as Robb and I had gone to Mars Hill… so.. um.. I might have been elected Deacon, and I didn’t even know about it. Then I was asked if I was interested in teaching Sunday School again this year, and I said I’d have to think about it, as I was kinda looking around at churches and wasn’t sure what all was going on with me. The asker completely understood. (I’ve had conversations with others who share similar concerns about the current situation.

Abstract

For the last year or so, I’ve been less than impressed/pleased with my church, most notably the message. I just haven’t felt like I’ve learned anything, been challenged by anything, or been touched by anything. The messages all seemed like very simplistic ideas that I’d been taught repeatedly in High School [Rarely did they even jump to the college level.] For the past number of months, Id been reading passages out of the Bible during the sermon, tuning in to the message when each new point was introduced. I’d learned fairly well during High School and College how to pay attention to two things at once by doing homework for one class while in another. I seem to do better when doing two things at once. That’s why I work better when I’m also napping, in case you were wondering. Anyway, I was leaving the Church feeling as though I’d gained nothing, and it was very rare that I’d ever felt really touched by something in the service (Though I was frequently hit by things I read. I read through Ecclesiastes a number of times, and read Romans very closely. I’m currently going through Acts.). Add this frustration to the fact that my church is about 30 minutes away, and that there are zero, count them, zero girls (or even guys) my age, and single, that go to my church, and you start to see my reasons for deciding I should perhaps start looking around at other churches to see if there is something else out there that I would be better off going to. (Hence my going to Mars Hill with Robb.)

Flash back to Thursday

Wait a minutes… If I’m a deacon, I’m committed to 3 years at the church. I’m guessing they’d also frown on me visiting other churches every week (You need someone to pass the offering plates around, right?) Hrm.. no sir, this isn’t good. I had planned on writing a letter to the president of church council to voice my concerns about Sunday worship, and the minister, etc.., but had no set time table. If I was indeed elected deacon, I’m going to have to have this talk asap. I resolved to talk to him today [well, Sunday, the 24th.. this prolly won’t get done until tomorrow.].

Flash to Sunday

For the first time in about a year, I showed up for church on time. Way to go me! The service begins, and all is going well. I tear through the bulletin and see the line “Following people are up for the office of Deacon: blah blah blah Ron Veenstra, blah blah blah. Okay, so I haven’t been elected Deacon yet. That’s a start. This wouldn’t be a big deal. I’ll explain where I’m at to the prez, and all will be okay, Then the title of today’s message is put on the screen: Love Your Church. The message likened those who left the church they were a member at in order to find one “more to their liking” to spouses who left their partner in order to be with someone else. Hrm.. This was going to make my conversation a bit more awkward. The sermon went on, and was quite good, I must say. There were a few things I disagreed with, but that’s fine. It was finally something of substance, and it was real. [It’s also hard to ignore the fact that it was exactly what I was currently dealing with. A skeptic could say that we’ve just been losing a lot of members, and so this sermon was inevitable, but I’m quite sure God wanted me to hear this. Not that God’s demanding I stay here, I don’t know for sure what God wants. But God wanted me to think about it, and take the decision seriously. That’s certain. Anyway, the sermon continues, explaining that it is our responsibility to “be the church” in order to make the church what we want it to be, and what we believe it ought to be. Suddenly my “this church isn’t what I need” argument seemed to be losing steam. A small item in the sermon mentioned that Sunday was a day of rest and worship, and certain members of the congregation shouldn’t be bogged down with hundreds of requests and concerns and questions that take away from their worship experience. Those kinds of things can wait until Monday morning. So Crap! I can’t even have the conversation today anyway. The sermon ends, and like I said, I was pleased, because the sermon did touch me, it did challenge me, and it did teach me. It didn’t make up for the past year, but it certainly gave me things to talk about.

Service is over, and we’re meeting in the narthax. I’m talking to Brian, who knows my thoughts, and knew that I was kinda looking around. He mentioned I ought to talk to Cory, cause Cory seemed confused why my name would be on the list if I was planning on leaving… and I was still a little confused (though not so much) why my name was on the list in the first place. I also had to talk to the president of council… even though the sermon said I wasn’t supposed to, I figured it was important. The three of us ended up having long, open discussion on everything. I haven’t had a worthwhile conversation about my spiritual walk since… Probably since I would talk to my Dad when he was driving me to and from Calvin back my Sophomore year. Anyway, I raised my concerns, and they understood me, and understood what I was going through, and shared their concerns as well. We talked for a long while, and I’m not going to get into what all was said, cause it’s none of your business, but essentially, theirs a lot of things I need to figure out, and a lot of things that I have to just leave up to God. That’s particularly hard for me, cause I don’t know how to do that, and I’m never sure what is going to happen. I don’t like not being in control. The only thing I can really remember leaving up to God was my job after college. My “dream job” had vanished, as the company went belly-up (I say dream job, but much of the time, I didn’t like it that much. I recognized that I was getting paid a lot to do some kewl stuff. But at the end of the day, I couldn’t explain why I was bettering the world by my existence.) Anyway, I told my Dad I wanted to work in the church, or ministry somehow. My Dad did some searching, and got me in touch with a number of people. And just randomly, I asked Joel at school once if there were any openings at Gospelcom (Joel had been in my internship class, and so we had shared our experiences at our jobs… me at Everything and him at Gospelcom. ) He got me in touch with JR, and JR called me up a few days later, was super willing to work with my schedule (Something Smiths was completely unwilling to do, so I hung up on them… .the guy on the phone was rude to me too. I don’t care for that.), and everything just seemed to work out perfectly. I look back now and can say “God made this all happen” but I have no clue how I went about “leaving it up to God”… I’ve tried to leave finding my future wife up to God, but I got no clue how to do that.. I just do what I think I should, and when I find what looks perfect, I latch on, until the courts tell me I’m not allowed to be within 500 yards of her anymore. Doesn’t seem to be working thus far.

Aside: I was told that my ex-girlfriend Julie is now engaged, and I feel very strange about the whole thing. I wish her well, I guess, in as much as I don’t wish her any specific harm. But I can’t help but wonder: Why does she get to be engaged? Seems she and I were both just as interested in finding someone and getting married, but here I sit alone, dreaming dreams that may never come true, and she’s engaged. It’s all very frustrating. End of Aside.

So the election is next week, and my name is still on the list. Something that was told to me that made a lot of sense was this: While you’re here, be fully here. Give it your all. If in time you still don’t feel this is where you are supposed to be, then you can deal with it. But not doing anything about it doesn’t solve anything. So I think I might teach Sunday School again this year again. And we’ll see what happens with the whole Deacon election thing. I can’t say for sure if I want to be picked or not. (they pick names out of a hat, I think. It used to be voted on, but for some reason they changed it. I don’t care for the hat picking thing, but whatever.) I think I might start heading off other places for evening services, or finding some bible study or something. I’m going to try to get back into the habit of doing devotions. I’ve fallen out of the habit.. which is pathetic, considering I work on the Bible every day. On of the things for BG3 is going to be a Daily Bible reading… even if it’s just for me, it’s going to be there.

I feel like I’ve just been drifting through a lot of things that last year or so. Church is a major example.. I would show up, and really just look forward to hanging out with the Veldhof’s afterwards. I learned more in Sunday School than I did in the services. It’s time I put more thought into what it is I’m doing, and why I’m doing it. I was given a book by the president of council, and after I read through it, I’m going to write a letter to council, and to the minister, explaining where I’m at, and what I’m looking for at Bethel, what I see currently lacking, (and prolly what I see it doing well), and what things I think I can do, and we as a congregation can do to make it better. I am also going to talk to my Dad, which I should have done a long time ago… but I guess it’s one of those things where you hate to admit you don’t really know what your doing to your parents. You’d like for them to think your doing so well, and have got things pretty well figured out… I dunno. Pride gets in the way of a lot of things I guess.

A lot of words up there… Here’s what’s left for me: I have to accept the fact that some of the problems I have with my current church are not going to be fixed in the next year, or even 5 years. Hordes of single girls are not going to suddenly appear at my church. Groups of people my age, period, aren’t going to show up overnight. My Dad is not going to return to provide the sermons I’ve grown up with and [quite frankly] really, really miss. I’ve got to figure out where I belong, and what I should be doing. When it comes to church stuff, I’ve never done that before. So this is all very new for me, and advice or prayers you might have to give would be most appreciated.


A few unrelated notes:

  • Mandace zinged me this past Saturday so well, and so out of the blue, that I was left speechless for a good 5 minutes. I was impressed, in that “Damnit” kind of way.
  • This week is a wonderful week for nerds everywhere.
  • I’ve written a list of things I must do (i.e. a “Todo list”) before I turn 25. If you can think of something you think ought to be on there, let me know. Items range from “clean my desk” to “read Harry Potter 5” to “Figure out what I’m doing for retirement”.
  • I’ve begun keeping track of my Max and Ermas visits (Date, Cost, Server). This information might be used when I set up my budget (It’s on the list). Or it might just be for fun.

Sleepy time.

9 thoughts on “M*A*S*H

  1. I feel the same way a lot of times. I don’t really like my parent’s church anymore since I feel like everyone still thinks of me as “Jim Tuuk’s son”. There’s also the issue of all the people my age leaving, and Mark doesn’t go all that often either. So I feel like I should(/want?) to find another church, but I don’t want to go by myself. I could try to rope in Adam and/or Joel, but they can’t even commit to go to Van’s most of them time, let alone church.

  2. i’d have to talk to you about it more in-depth, but it seems like your two big issues with Bethel are pretty big. If there’s no one your age to talk to ( or lust after ) *AND* the sermons are bad it’s a bad situation. I think the ideal situation would have been that six months ago you would have written council that letter. Then, if your church shows signs of agreeing with you, or at least your feeling better about things, stay. But if you’re ignored or things continue to get worse, leave. Plus, it is good to switch churches sometimes.

  3. topher -> yeah.. they call it drawing lots too.. but calling it something different doesn’t change that it’s just pulling names from a hat.

    Tuuk -> I know what you mean. Thankfully, I’ve been at my church long enough, and been involved in enough things to establish myself as an idividual, rather than “Rev. Veenstra’s kid” But the older people of the church (admitedly about 45% of the congregation) will never see me as anything but that. Each Sunday, the walk from my seat to the place where I stand to talk to people is accompanied by 4 or 5 “Hi there, Ron! It’s so good that you continue to visit Bethel. How are your parents doing?” [Thank you. I”m a member… and I’ve been going here for 10 years… I’m sure they are doing well. I need to get some juice.] Going to church by yourself does get very old, I’ll admit. Going someplace new by yourself would be even more intimidating. I can understand your problem. My offer still stands.

    Jplant -> Ideally, I’d have been involved in the search committee when my dad left.. But alas, I wasn’t. But at least things seem like they’re pointed in the right direction (well, for me, anyway) I’m taking an active role, and doing my part to try to find out where it is I’m supposed to be and what I ought to be doing. There are certainly plenty of people at my church that really care about me, and what’s going on with me, so I needn’t fear being ignored… Whether that translates to the minister listening to my concerns, or anything improving in that whole realm, I am not sure. We’ll have to see. I remain hopeful but skeptical. The fact remains that all in all I don’t really trust him, and certainly wouldn’t come to him first with a personal issue or problem I was dealing with. This presents some problems just thinking about the future, and the things that may (and damn well better) come up in the next years…

  4. Alan reminded me of one more thing: In talking to the president of council, he said that if I were to be elected deacon, and after a year or whatever, I still didn’t feel that this is where I belonged, we’d be able to work that out and I’d be able to move on to some place else. So I wouldn’t be chained in for 3 years necessarily… though it would make it a lot more difficult/of a hassle to leave, I think.

  5. Tuuk, I’ll go to churches with you. Van’s is different from Church.

    I’m not the biggest fan of my church, either. It’s nothing against my father (who is the pastor), it’s more against the people there. No one my age, no one to talk to, no one to manage to remember my name (“Hey, you! How are you these days?” or “Hey, Danny, how’s work at Prevo’s?”) The only real thing keeping me going to my parents church is my family, and the good lunch that ensues afterwards. I should start church shopping.

    Anyway, I walk a fine line of liking going to church, and talking/interacting with people there say, over cookies and bad coffee, but I don’t like being all that ‘involved’ in the church. I’ve become bitter from my past experience of exceedingly hypocritical people at church. It’s terrible, but then, that’s what happens sometimes.

  6. Hey there ronnie,

    the drawing names out of hat seems to be more common these days. One church I know of will have people vote, then put all the votes in a hat. Then a person with the most votes will have the best chance to be elected. I also found this interesting…I don’t recall the early church casting lots after the Holy Spirit came at Pentacost.

    oh…and having never been to Mars Hill, what was your take on it? as compared to what you where used to under your dad and the current situation at your church.

    You have way too much going on in your life.

  7. I’m a fairly big believer in going to church where you’re the most happy and where you think you can be of service. It sounds like you agree with the latter, but I don’t think you’re focusing enough on the former. Well, you were, but then it sounds like you got guilted into staying. I may be a little off base here, but that sermon you mentioned that compared leaving one church for another to adultery is complete and utter hogwash. If you feel that God is leading you to another church (Mars Hill, for instance) then you need to investigate that. You can’t get guilted into staying somewhere that frankly you don’t want to be at. In all honesty, it’s worse for your church if you stay there grudgingly.

    All in all, it sounds like your primary concern is inconveniencing others. While this is noble, where are you going to get the most from worship? And where will God find your worship most pleasing to him? Where you’re worshiping happily. Just my take.

    I’d also be interested in your thoughts on Mars Hill. My sister-in-law goes there, so I’ve been there a number of times as well. I have some opinions, but I’d like to hear what you think (clearly you like it at least a little bit).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *