Faith in Everyday Life

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I was teaching a session of a Kairos course at Luther Seminary yesterday on “Faith and Everyday Life.” I began by telling them, “Faith In Everyday Life is a difficult thing for me to talk about because faith and everyday life isn’t something that we do at Jacob’s Well. [pause] It is the ONLY thing we do at Jacob’s Well. If something doesn’t relate to everyday life, we don’t bother with it. Why would we?”

If nothing else, it got everyone to look up from their screens. We then spent an hour talking about how we do it.

Teaching that class gave me a new way of looking at what I strive to be about. I know this is an ideal we don’t live up to all the time, but nonetheless I believe it is a fundamental commitment of our community [this goes way back, see this entry]. Why devote time, effort, money or staff at something that doesn’t make a difference in people’s lives? Churches get caught up with events, traditions, structures and activities that have achieved ‘sacredness’ other than helping people live their faith. That’s a problem. It happens naturally, but it is our job to continually ask, “Is this event, tradition, structure, event building community, equipping people, opening lives to the presence of God?” And if the answer is no, then it’s time to re-evaluate. 

What helps you connect faith and life? What aspects of “church” make it feel distant and foreign from everyday life?

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5 responses to “Faith in Everyday Life

  1. Things that connect faith and life: the group of women I meet with weekly from Jacob’s Well (and friends of JW!), walking “meditation”/prayer walks along the river, talking about real stuff at JW, worshiping with a group of people who also talk about real stuff with me, prayer – especially in a group setting, singing together, discussing bible passages with others . . .

    Aspects of “church” that feel distant/foreign: When I used to have to recite the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, or any other liturgy or thing we had to read and repeat in a more traditional setting. Never connected with that, ever. Singing old hymns with words like “thee” and “thou” . . . ok, I adore some of the old favorites . . . but otherwise distant and foreign. Listening to an entire bible passage read by a member of the church or the Pastor. I tune out. Half the time, I don’t even understand what is going on, who’s who, where and when it’s happening, why it’s relevant, etc. – unless the preacher eventually does a good job of putting it into modern terms and explaining it somewhere in the message. Those song interludes where the congregation sings a chorus and the choir or Pastor sings another part and back and forth and back and forth. I never catch what that’s about or understand the words half the time. The introduction of communion the SAME WAY EVERY TIME. Feels robotic and not at all special – and often preceded or followed by the SAME SONG EVERY TIME. THAT song, again? What does it even MEAN?! ; ) Ok – I’ll stop now. But YOU asked!

  2. If you don’t have anything to say about it, Erin, you don’t have to comment :). Seriously, thanks for your response. Of course some people do find meaning and connection in those rituals, that’s why they developed in the first place. That said, I think the numbers of people who react like you are growing and are probably in a clear majority. Certainly outside the church, but I suspect inside the church as well. The bigger problem is that for many people those ‘distancing’ experiences are making the gulf between “church” and “life” wider so that people are taking home the lesson that the two aren’t even supposed to connect. Thus the typical gulf between Sunday faith and Monday-Saturday life. That is despite what might be said in a sermon or in the church newsletter; after all, we know that when people hear one message, but are modeled a different message, they will typically walk away with the message that was modeled.

  3. Everything. How could it not? I just got back from my group tonight – it is impossible to name or even count the everyday ways faith is flowing through the lives of just the 9 of us who were there. But a few would be (just from tonight!)…celebrating someone’s job offer she got today after a year of hoping for this, being with people coming out of or living through depression, parenting 3 year olds, hearing how we each kept our “wilderness appointment” this week (whether the one inside us, outside or both!), how we read and experience the bible, how to be respectful and authentic with prayer among people with different faith traditions, physical health support, keeping relationships at the forefront rather than the rules…and I am sure I am missing a bunch. It is truly humbling and amazing to get to be part of. Thank. you. God. And thank you Jacob’s Well.

  4. “Churches get caught up with events, traditions, structures and activities that have achieved ‘sacredness’ other than helping people live their faith.” — interesting because I never reflected that Jacob’s Well avoids that pitfall intentionally. I think that JW flows naturally because it isn’t a place where we put on a church costume in order to show up. People are who they are and are accepted. And yet, it is a place where we feel encouraged by others to be positive about possibilities that God may have for us rather than negative about possibilities that have not occurred. Where there is sadness — that is who we are too — there is also a great hope. So, it flows naturally and yet adds some velocity to the flow of life, and we are still Jacob’s Well on Monday, and that is where it becomes a movement of being who God wants us to be where God wants us to be.

  5. Fun to read other comments! Thanks for bringing some perspective and balance to my original post, Greg. Your points were all swimming in the back of my mind while I composed my post (yes, these traditions exist for a reason; yes, some people connect with them; yes, there’s a place for them, etc.) – BUT – I wanted to answer your question honestly. 😉 Also, I would be doing myself and others a disservice if I didn’t add the following: I’m not sure where I’d be if it wasn’t for my childhood church and its people in my life? I was fortunate to learn from multiple intelligent, compassionate, charismatic, and goofy pastors; to participate in a super fun, adventurous (Hello Christikon, whitewater rafting, Niagara Falls, and Rocky Mountains?!), and life-giving/forming youth group (also led by excellent role models and just good people) and bell choir (Yes, yes, I was in the bell choir and seriously LOVED IT. All the cool kids were! I even found a bell choir to play with in college and borrowed a car to get to practices. Mmmhmm.); and to have much of my upbringing and formative years root from my church life. Even my Dad, not a church go-er himself, would wake up before 6am on Friday mornings to cook us kids breakfast at church (and we would all ALSO get up early, drive the OPPOSITE direction from school, to have breakfast together on Friday mornings before school?! I don’t think you could get me to do that now!!). These things, and more, connected faith and life for me, certainly. The liturgy, archaic, and repetitious stuff? Not so much. But yes, my response to “distancing” experiences is all to common nowadays. Personally, it has taken me a number of years to begin to connect “church” and “life” as an adult – and to begin to shrink the gulf between the two in my own life . . . reason #4,001 I’m thankful for Jacob’s Well and its people in my life and in this community/world! Now, how to continue to share this community and its power to transform with others? God, a little assist, please?! 😉

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