Mind Games

I have realized the way I think does not produce much happiness.  And a lot of it has to do with the fact that I am not good at playing mind games.  I’d say apart from ameliorating physical suffering mind games play the most important part in one’s well-being.  Below I’ve outlined some of them:

Have a fortuitous relationship with the placebo response.
Putting a charm on your door to ward away evil spirits may sound stupid to a western mind but I imagine it works and the placebo effect is the thing doing the heavy lifting.  The ability to pray in faith successfully requires expertise in navigating the intricacies of the placebo response because you have to believe you’ll going to get what you ask for while not expecting it—all while not letting successive disappointments get you questioning the mechanics of your belief.

This applies for the prayer example above because you are effectively cordoning off parts of yourself (not doubting) to keep your beliefs going.  One cannot be a Christian (at least not an Evangelical) without compartmentalizing.  Without compartmentalizing one would be devastated over the eternal torture that awaits most in the afterlife.  Without compartmentalizing one cannot believe cats and pigs should be treated differently just by respect of their location.  Also you have the ability to check your brain at the door before entering a room (be it a church, a board room, a bar, etc..) this will do wonders for you  partly because then you won’t be so bothered with the things those in power in these contexts are presenting.

Your soul is a structure, cordon every room off with firewalls
Today’s world asks too much of us emotionally.  The only way one can survive without losing their sanity is sandboxing all their relationships (this is a computer science term that in this context basically means holding your soul at arm’s length).  Having faith is not something one wills like ordering pancakes.  It is something that happens naturally behind one’s back.  And by the time one realizes that they had faith in someone or something it is usually far to late to salvage anything (this usually happens when said faith has been broken).  I’m not advocating not trusting anyone, just guarding your heart and not letting anybody get too close and monitoring your thoughts of someone for signs of having too much faith in them.

All three of these come into play and help with perhaps the worst problem one can have with their faith, having faith that God will do something and then being totally devastated when he doesn’t act (to the person’s credit, said devastation seems to prove they had a lot of faith).

Uncomfortable Growth

Before thinking about church growth you should ask yourself, who do we really want to attract?  Not in the hypothetical sense but in the very existential sense where one looks at what they are already doing to ascertain who they’re really trying to attract.  There are scads of books on church growth.  Read one.  Those books will almost always tell you how to get the people who you’re comfortable with and who will make you feel comfortable.  On the other hand I have uncomfortable suggestions.

Put $20 in the commissary account of every freshly incarcerated inmate in your local city jail.  The way it works (at least in Grand Rapids) is inmates are not given basic toiletries like toothpaste and deodorant and instead must buy them from the commissary.  Dental hygiene is important, particularly for these people who usually are poor and generally do not have access to dental care.  There is also the more existential issue here, just a Snickers bar can cheer someone in a desperate situation up the way it wouldn’t if it were just purchased at a local gas station.

Pay unemployed members of the congregation to drive the working poor (who generally have poorly working autos) to their jobs and other places.  This serves a great need but it also gets poor people (who tend to be demoralized and isolated) interacting with each other.  The ride program may be facilitated with an off-the-shelf smartphone app such as Life360.

Read what people write, particularly people who are not of privilege.  People do not realize that the real world is far from a level playing field for discourse.  As an individual with a disability who has social anxiety (or maybe just hypersensitivity to being snubbed) I have experienced this again and again.  For me and many others the pen levels things out some.  On the internet people do not see my disability and judge me for the content of my words alone.  Of course the same holds true for a person of color or of a different sexual orientation.

Every week right before the church service hear a report from a representative of each minority in your congregation.  This may be a African American, a Latina, a liberated woman, an L/G/B/T member, or an individual with a disability.  A lot of the time the reports may have trivial details (like the Lions losing again) but the point is to prime the pump for when something deathly serious does happen (like the Zimmerman verdict, the oppression gays are receiving in Russia, or the plug being pulled on Terri Schiavo).  The point of having it before the service starts is so the core members of the church (who generally come earlier) will hear it and if something of great weight happens the service will be postponed until the event has been let out.