My previous post made William P. Young, the author of The Shack, grin. Now, all I’m thinking about is “What will make him laugh”? O well, one thing that makes me smile is christians who think they are competent. And of course, when we truly believe we are competent, we do not really understand why others are not as competent as we are. “Shame on them for not being like us.” Furthermore competent people have a tendency to convey something like: “Come on, be like me and God will like you as much as He likes me.” or “You are not neccessary when I’m around. Go and sit and bask my glory.” The church loves competent people. I don’t see this in the life of Jesus, but then again, perhaps Jesus is not the Person the church tries to emulate.

This is a story from Mike Yaconelli and he talks about incompetency in the church. Perhaps this will free us, to really see.

It was time for the Scripture reading, and a young girl shuffled towards the front of the church. What a moment for Connie. She had finally mustered up enough courage to ask the pastor if she could read the Scripture. Without hesitation he said yes. For years Connie had stifled her desire to serve in the church because of her ‘incompetencies’. Reading was extremely difficult for her, and Connie had a terrible time enunciating clearly. But she had been in this church many years, and she was beginning to understand the grace of God. Jesus didn’t just die for our sins, he died so people who couldn’t read or speak could read and speak. Now she could serve the Jesus she loved so much. Now she could express her desire for God in a tangible, visible way.

The time for the Scripture reading had arrived. Connie kept walking. Her steps were laboured: she had one leg shorter than the other, causing her body to teeter from side to side. Finally Connie was standing at the front, looking at the congregation with pride and joy. The congregation was silent. Too silent.

Silence can sometimes be excruciatingly loud. The screaming silence was covering up the congregation’s discomfort. Clearly, most of them were trying to understand what Connie was doing at the front and they were trying not to notice her many incompetencies. Her eyes were too close together and her head twisted back and forth at odd angles while her face wrenched from one distorted grimace to another.

The reading began. Stammering, stuttering, Connie stumbled proudly through the passage in a long continuum of untranslatable sounds, garbled sentences, long torturous pauses and jumbled phrases. Finally, the reading was over and the congregation was exhausted.

Connie didn’t notice the exhaustion. She was ecstatic. Her face seemed no longer distorted, only full of joy. Her cheeks were flushed with pride, her eyes sparkling with the joy of accomplishment, her heart warm with knowing she had served the congregation, participated in her faith. Yes, she would remember this day for a long time. How wonderful it was, she thought, to no longer be a spectator in church – she was the church this morning!

Thank God her mental capacities were limited. Thank God she was not able to discern the faces of the congregation, or she would have crumbled in despair. Thank God she wasn’t able to sense what people were really thinking.

Because almost everyone in the congregation was thinking,’THIS WAS AN OUTRAGE!’ I know this is what they were thinking because the senior pastor, my father, was ordered to attend an emergency church council meeting after the service.

How did this happen?’ they demanded.’ What were you thinking?’
‘Connie wanted to read the Scripture,’ he replied softly.

Well, let her stand at the door and hand out books, or help with the post, but don’t let her read! The girl can’t read or speak, for God’s sake! Her reading took ten minutes!’

‘The church,’ they said, ‘is not a place for incompetence.’ My father believes, as I do, that the church is the place where the incompetent, the unfinished and even the unhealthy are welcome.

I believe Jesus agrees.

I said in the beginning that people who think they are competent make me smile.  Well they also make me cry.  Was Jesus competent when He chose His disciples?  Surely He could do better.  Were the people He chose competent in spiritual matters?  I remember there was this fight on who was the most important one 🙂

Before God, we are all incompetent.  And still He loves us.

What a mystery and a relief it is to come to Him and do not have to perform.


6 thoughts on “Incompetent

  1. Oh, man! Yes, what a relief to not have to perform. To always be trying to achieve the unachievable. True freedom comes from knowing you don’t have to measure up – just be. 🙂

  2. I think part of this is because we “commodify” church, and then we want church to have a nice, slick feel to it. But it is not so – it is the pace where broken sinners come to receive grace, to partake of the Body and the Blood.

  3. Hi Scylding,

    Yip, we try to sell the church to the consumers. To do that, we need to show how wonderful we are. Broken sinners is not part of that equation. It’s not strange really then, that broken sinners feels close to Jesus and not the church. Perhaps, we need Him more than we think.

  4. Thank you,
    I am sitting here with tears rolling down my face, this is how church should look, but…The school shooting was on Thursday, April 24, 2003 I had long before been scheduled to lead my former church’s Sunday School opening on May 9th, 2003 Mother’s Day. Struggling to decide what to say, speaking to the pastor led to “it’s Mother’s Day, you need to give them what they expect. If you can’t do it someone else will.” I led that morning and tried to be honest and sensitive to everyone. I read Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 and briefly talked about how life goes on in spite of pain, illustrating that with a simple Mother’s Day drawing by my 7 year old son. It made people uncomfortable to think about grief and pain, so rather than discussing it anymore I was asked why I couldn’t just move on already and so began my stuffing my feelings down creating the perfect conditions for developing PTSD. Christ’s hope for our world lies in pastors who take risks and act like Mike’s dad.

  5. Hi Kimberley,

    the church has a tendency to go after “what is expected” over “what is real”. When we smile and say “everything is OK”, the church is happy. When we are sad and we hurt, the church tends to be off balance and keeps on muttering “Why are they not smiling? They SHOULD be smiling.”

    When we are at our most vulnerable, we are often alone because there is no easy answers. The church loves the easy answers because that keeps everyone smiling. Christians however, are the only people that do not have to pretend, because Jesus is as real as can be. And He cried with those who were sad.

    Perhaps, one day, the church will learn to cry.

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