Are You Serving Cheese with that Whine?

At a lot of church related meetings, with both clergy and lay people, on the local level but especially when more than one church has gathered, I hear a fair amount of whining: Why don’t people go to church anymore? Why don’t parents bring their kids to church anymore? When will someone do something about sports practices on Sunday mornings? Why does the church get so little respect these days?

Are you serving cheese with that whine?

When the whining begins, I feel like I ought to tape record the ranting, and then play it back, asking, “If this is what you are offering, why would anyone want to join you?” If this is how you talk at church, from the pulpit to fellowship, why would anyone want to be a part of that?

The old Mainline has become the whine-line. And, it simply baffles me that people don’t hear themselves, or those with whom they gather, in such a way that they are inspired to stop. Somehow, they don’t hear the whining. They don’t sense the soul-crushing droning on and on.

When I find myself in the midst of one of these “whine”-fests, and can endure long enough for there to be a break in the action so I can ask the big question, “So, if the only reason people used to go to church was because there was nothing else to do on a Sunday morning, does that really speak well of us?” I find that most people in the conversation look at me like I’m speaking a foreign language.

I know it’s not easy to point the figure back at one’s self or one’s own beloved church, but we – those of us who are still part of the old Mainline – must do so. We must be brave enough to take a close look in the mirror and to see ourselves for what we are, and then to find the grace and courage to change what is not very flattering.

The church cannot be an institution of whiners that simply rests in a comfortable place of complaining about the “good old days,” especially since the “good old days” really were not all that good for us. Just because our pews were filled, doesn’t mean that we were doing God’s work. Being a part of the religion of the Empire, doesn’t mean that we were being faithful to the gospel of Christ.

Clergy, especially, should be mindful of their own whining—and should find ways of stopping themselves from engaging in it. Whining is not transformative. It’s not faithful. It’s not redemptive. It’s not healthy. Did Jesus whine? I don’t think so.

So, stop the whining. Please stop.

About smaxreisert

I'm a United Church of Christ pastor serving the small, faithful Old South Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Hallowell, Maine. I was ordained in Massachusetts in 1995, moved to Maine in 1997 and have served the Hallowell church since 2005.
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