I fear that the only reason I think churches I'm drawn to now are different than the one I've left is that I've removed myself from certain conversations and can therefore pretend they don't exist. You know, conversations about mission statements and core values (what do we want to be known for?) and the like. When I hear how pervasively this conversation has spread through the American church it makes me so sad. We have this book with many letters to churches that we claim are divinely inspired, so why isn't anyone asking why none of the churches were admonished to work on their mission statements, or to make sure their entire community can flawlessly recreate their core values? The American Business Model and Practices should stand in direct conflict with the way life works in God's Kingdom, but instead of setting ourselves apart we are molding ourselves in its image instead of Christ's. Why aren't we bothered by this?
If you have a group of people who are learning about the presence of God and how to be present to Christ in the people around them, such people have no need for lessons in how to act friendly by sharing their pews or learning a stranger's name. Teaching actions disconnected from who people are being (distracted, self-absorbed, weary, etc.) is inauthentic, a distraction from the real issue and a complete waste of time. I sat through one such conversation yesterday, and I kept thinking about how differently I would create the conversation, were I the moderator. But then I would remember that it's not my place now, and may never be again. The saddest part for me was that a place that has been really sacred to me felt just a little bit defiled.