Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The Unwritten Rules

A couple of friends came over to us the other day. It was really good catching up with them. As we were chatting we discussed the frustrations of the 'unwritten rules' of church.

The more we talked, the more we realised that so much of church life is ordered around these rules. The thing is, these rules are rarely spoken of, so people somehow subconsciously pick them up the longer they spend within the church community. It gets to a point where they are so ingrained if someone asked you what they were, you wouldn't have a cue what they were on about! (Seriously, try and think of them...)

These unwritten rules are destructive.

Here's a few that I can think of (thanks to David's post prompting me to write this post):

- Don't stand up until your told to do so
- Don't pray out-loud for other denominations
- Don't sit there!
- Don't call out during the service
- Never change the seats around
- Never run over time
- Don't tell me what your REAL struggles are
- Don't get up during the sermon
- No mobile phones ringing during the service
- I don't want to know what's really going on in your life...
- (Please add to the list as with your ideas...)

Now I know this is a little pessimistic because there are beautiful things about church, but I suspect people leave church because so often they don't feel like they can be themselves, which is what the unwritten rules stop us from being.

I was speaking to someone who left a large charismatic church and they told me that the culture of the church was one that you could not tell people how you actually felt about faith and life, so you went each week pretending you were someone you weren't. So when they went through fear and doubt they simply hid it all away from the church community.

Now if a community really loves God and loves each other, I mean REALLY loves each other, then surely this kind of thing will happen less and less? Surely......


Sam Norton said...

Immediately after reading that, I read this:

NB we regularly pray for CTIM and other churches ;)

Joe said...


I know my own church is ecumenical and I'm sure believes strongly in working together. I have heard people pray for other churches in mid-week prayer meetings. But it just FEELS a bit of a no-no when we're altogether on a Sunday. Not that people are anti other denominations...I'm not sure what it is really. Maybe its the Baptist history!

Anonymous said...

I can completely relate to the whole 'dont tell me what your real struggles are'

i feel this all the time, but i also think there's an unwritten rule of
'dont tell anyone what your real struggles are'

what i mean is, we always say 'im okay' when actually we are in serious turmoil sometimes! I dont know why we do it!?

Joe said...

I'm not sure why we do it! Maybe it is because we are scared of how people will react to our real lives, even though they experience real struggles just like us...

Again, it is all about our need to really love each other so we can be honest about who we are.