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Sticking with the Pokey Little Church

For all of its foibles—lousy preaching, political infighting, self-centered focus, stagnation, a gaggle of special interest groups—the pokey local church…is still the most fertile environment for spiritual development. In fact, there can be no genuine spiritual progress without a long-term attachment to a pokey local church….Disillusionment with one's church, then, is not a reason to leave but a reason to stay and see what God will create in one's life and in the pokey local church. What I perceive to be my needs—"I need a church with a more biblical preacher who uses specific examples from real life"—may not correspond to my true spiritual needs. Often, in fact, I am not attuned to my true spiritual needs.

Thinking that I know my true spiritual needs is arrogant, narcissistic, and so American. Staying put as a life practice allows God's grace to work on the unsanded surfaces of my inner life. Seventeenth-century French Catholic mystic Francois Fenelon wrote, "Slowly you will learn that all the troubles in your life—your job, your health, your inward failings—are really cures to the poison of your old nature."

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