By Jonathan Ho
Recently, I attended a Christian camp for international students mostly from China and Taiwan. While there, I witnessed a few things I haven’t seen in a long time. Here are just a few:
1. Asian snacks – there was lots of ramen, but aside from that, we also had Pocky sticks, “Want Want”s (little rice crackers with melted sugar on them), along with all sorts of twisty shaped baked snacks, and tea eggs.
2. Comfort with being the same – Almost everyone wore the same bright red hoodie handed out to all attendees for the entire conference.
3. Long attention spans – one session ran for four hours and there were two sessions each day plus workshops. Yet, almost everyone kept focused and engaged on the speakers and I didn’t hear one person complain about the length of the sessions.
4. Extra attentiveness to others – without fail, if someone sneezed, someone else would grab a tissue; when getting up, people would offer to take others’ dishes; and people noticed when someone was missing from the small group.
In all this, I noticed how everyone was comfortable being a member of a group. It was less about individuality than it was about working as a cohesive whole. Recently, I’ve been around more Western culture where the focus is on who I am, and what passions I have. It was refreshing to be in a situation where everyone was fine doing what everyone else was doing. Sometimes I wish everyone was just like the people I grew up with, with just one culture to learn and live in.
As human beings, we often want to think our way is the best way. We often ask questions and answer them not with a focus on who God is, but who we are. Should I go to a church service where they sing more contemporary songs or more hymns? Should I go to a family-oriented church service or young adult one? Should I go to a small church group or a large one? Where do I feel comfortable? Unfortunately, I believe we have often asked our questions from the wrong point of view and have slowly settled, like footsteps in drying cement, into bad patterns.
In this issue, I’ve asked my friends to write on a belief that many in the Church have settled on which needs shaking. Are we too comfortable with violence and battles as our spiritual metaphors? Are we more focused on the rules than on the “play”? Have we truly tried entering into the world of other believers or have we kept to ourselves? Is corporate worship only worship when we feel close to God?
These are questions which I pray will shake our typical understandings enough so that we will seek God to see the way he sees and join him in his work, in his ways. There’s been a lot of work put into our services and gatherings, work I greatly appreciate, but I believe as the Church, we must be careful to examine what materials we use to build on the foundation of Christ. Materials such as metal and rare stones often are not the materials we find closest to us, but materials which require hard work to track down, gather, process, and then use. May we work not only with the ideas and understandings around us, but also take the time to explore, gather, process, and build using the ideas and understandings found in others who are different from us.
P.S. As always, we’d love to hear from you. Have a thought or response to one of the articles? Are there other understandings you think need shaking? We’d love to hear your story. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any stories, feedback, thoughts, and questions you might have.