Ok, so it’s not a physical deep end, but it feels that way.
You throw a kid into the water unexpectedly, on the theory that they will figure out how to swim based on the sudden need. And yes, most manage. Very technically, the shock of the abrupt force got them over one hurdle.
But how many of those ever want to willingly be in the water again?
The ones who would supposedly be cured of their timidness, and who were the most timid, are the ones who will probably have much greater timidness to now overcome on their own terms. Larger hurdles than the one you tried to help by throwing them over it in the first place.
I don’t think this realization has ever occured to my pastor.
You want people more involved and praying for each other… a good objective.
But when you have a large majority who aren’t yet, and roughly half the congregation who only barely are pulled into the whole “greet your neighbor” time beyond just a name and handshake… I think its a fair guess that there is some timidness and discomfort.
Suddenly putting direct pressure on them to pray (out loud) for another person, right now, replacing the handshake they already weren’t comfortable with, may work for right this moment.
But how many are dreading even more the next round? Rather than feeling encouraged that we survived this round without drowning, how many are clinging all the more tightly to side and all the more reluctant to repeat? How many are coughing up water of how much they fumbled and messed up rather than feeling like they achieved anything?
Yes, its a good purpose. Yes, the end goal is needed. And yes, sometimes breaking comfort zones is needed to move forward.
But shoving people into situations they feel as high pressure, rather than allowing them to approach the goal on their own terms… seems to me like it does a lot more damage than good.
My pastor has directly done this twice now… one during the monthly prayer meeting, and one during the sunday service. And today, basically made the statement that it will be happening at the prayer meeting again this Saturday.
I will not be going. Because of this.
Last month I wrote it off as just discomfort with changes in leaders… I don’t know exactly why, but the other leader wasn’t there. His old style was very much internal reflection… change to out loud as you felt lead, and without pressure to do so… very much a depth connection.
The main pastor lead last time, and it was different. Much more directed. Much more objectively guided in the way of specific focus suggestions. And much more pressured.
You are wanting the group to pray for the world in general… but only a few verbalize their prayers… so you launch into “forgive us for being so callused that we aren’t even in touch enough to be able to pray for the world because we aren’t in touch with any issues”. As if the lack of open sharing as to what the people were praying must mean that they aren’t… or even can’t.
Then later we got to the pray (again, verbally) for the random person you are paired up with that you have never met before.
I am a very strong introvert. This entire situation falls pretty firmly into worst nightmare territory.
Praying verbally is very something I rarely do… not because of being shy in front of other people, its just not my style, even in personal prayer. Sometimes my prayer is in standard form of being words and even sentences.. sometimes it goes on loops on various words… sometimes it goes to focus on a particular thing without it really having mental words attached to it.. and frequently it turns into a sort of hold tight mode that I’m not sure I can really explain with words if I had to. Most of this does not translate verbally at all, and so when I end up trying to make it verbal, I feel like its shallow.. sort of crippled by having the restrictions put on it.
So, I’m not a fan of the style in the first place. But then you add in that I’m not at all a people person, and particularly when its some random person you’ve abruptly dropped in front of me and dumped pressure on to pray for in my much less favored manor.. and I’m really not a big fan.
Had you just asked me to talk to the random person to get to know them a bit and then pray for them… more as an information gathering mission to be followed up on my own terms, rather than “pray, verbally, right now, for this”… you might have actually gotten a prayer with some depth and point rather than a jumbled, mixed up, christianese mess making us both feel like idiots.
Its the difference between the teacher calling on someone for an instant answer in class vs allowing them to write a 2 page essay in class. One response is 50% surprise, 40% discomfort, and 10% knowledge…. the other has a chance for the surprise to regroup and turn into something 80% actual reflection of knowledge and 10% lost each to surprise and discomfort.
But I don’t really feel like I can disagree on this without being taken wrong.
I don’t really feel like I can be unhappy about what feels to me like a complete and total change in the monthly gathering without it just sounding like I’m one of those church folk who never want anything to change. Without just seeming like I don’t want to grow.
Rather than agreeing with the objective of getting people praying for each other, while hating the currently chosen method of forcing a particular style of abrupt verbal prayer for strangers on everyone while knowing most aren’t going to be comfortable with it.
Its not discomfort with going into deeper water, its discomfort of being thrown into the deep end rather than being allowed to approach the goal with some freedom to use my own methods of getting there.
Do I need to pray for people more? Yes. Do I need to get to know people’s needs more? Yes. Do I need to work on being better at switching into situations where my prayer needs to be more verbal? Yes.
Does this help that happen?
But only for exactly as long as it takes for me to survive the experience and get a nice death grip on the edge of the pool.