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About jonbirch

animator, illustrator, character designer, graphic designer. music producer/recording musician. co-owner of PROOST. proost.co.uk
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62 Responses to 592

  1. Steve Lancaster says:

    The value of your investment may go down as well as up.

  2. MikeB says:

    Failure to keep up attendance ended in emails/phonecalls/bumping into people in the corridor and getting asked awkward questions!

    Not the most fun thing in the world when you’d decided you didn’t agree with the direction the group was headed in but couldn’t really tell them!

  3. Carole says:

    It’s probably the looks of patronising concern which accompany, “we haven’t seen you in church for a while…” which get me most.

    I am a confusing creature, though. I don’t know whether to tell them to mind their own business or complain that I might have been dead but they didn’t bother to find out if I was OK. I don’t know if I am a very private person or an out and out attention seeker! I don’t even understand myself. Perhaps I need to learn to love people a bit more. :(

    But I’ve always wondered why so much emphasis is placed on the hour’s duty on Sunday.

  4. dennis says:

    What about when no-one notices that your gone?

    I have a friend (in inverted comma’s) and NO-one contacted them at all, they were leaders too! And NO contact whatsoever.

  5. Sophie says:

    For me I’ve had a really positive experience of this. I’m away a lot at weekends, so don’t get to church very regularly – also, it’s on teh other side of town at 9.30am which is sometimes just too early! When I do make it, people are really friendly and not sneery or judgemental.

    I think I put myself under more pressure by expecting myself to attend more regularly than I do, so sometimes if I haven’t been for a while I feel nervy about going. But I’m never scorned for not getting there often, only ever welcomed.

    So there you are – church isn’t always bad!

  6. Kim says:

    But the value of ‘you’ doesn’t go up or down – its set at the highest it can possibly be, and no amount of Sunday avoidance can change that or take away your salvation!!

  7. Carlo says:

    i agree with carole – it’s those all-knowing “you’re in the right place now” type looks that are slightly concerning.

    the minute we start seeing church attendance in the same ways as a school register, we’re in trouble…

  8. marcus says:

    This is a real live issue for us at present – we have just sent letters (following visits wherever possible) to “members” who have not been an active part (or even attended any activities) of our fellowship for anything ranging from 1 to 3+ years. Some moved away over 3 years ago. We are asking them to consider the validity of their being in membership with us as a local fellowship. We are certainly not questioning their salvation – but even then people are upset at the very fact that we have asked them to consider this?! What’s a Pastor to do?

  9. Nick says:

    Of course how do you get the balance between showing genuine love to people who might be struggling, by seeing how they are and why they may have missed church, and harrasing people who have decided to move on for genuine reasons…

    I’ve heard people say they have left church (and even quit the faith) because people didn’t notice when they missed church…

  10. jaybrams says:

    this has nothing to do with anything, but i’ve noticed most of your church depiction people are alway skinny.

    where are the fat people? are their no fat people in england? or perhaps in church.

    this reminds me, it sure is interesting that most (real life) backup female singers at church are not only skinny, but dang hot. Even though the slightly chunky female three rows back obviously sings better than the ones on stage…. hmmm….

    (p.s. – i’m on the med-to-large side of life, so i can say these sorts of things)

  11. Becky says:

    5. Sophie – I agree. One sign I’m in a “healthy” church is when I’ve been gone for a bit, I come back and people way “we missed you” and they mean it. I decided to stop attending a church where I was going to on and off for a few years when I was away for a few months – went back and not a single person acted like it mattered that I was there.

    I remember attending a church once for about a year – I called the prayer line and asked if people could pray for my grandfather who was dying. (He was my last living direct descendent and I lived with them for years, so this was a biggie). I didn’t receive a phone call, so I decided this church wasn’t for me so I started going elsewhere. I then got a bill for the rest of my stewardship pledge which I threw in the trash. Never got the phone call.

  12. Caroline Too says:

    Good question Jaybrams (#10)

    I remember visiting a trendy church in London, where a lot of
    media types go.

    we sand, a song “beautiful one, I love you”… not a bad tune,
    doubtful theology, anyway

    I looked around and noticed that nearly everyone else was young and
    attractive. “huh, so here I am, in a beautiful church with
    beautiful people singing to a beautiful god. Where do us ugly
    ones fit in?”

    so I went away a wrote “the ugly song”… and worked out that a
    lamb who’s been slain isn’t quite so attractive after all!

    So, Jon, could we have some fat people being thoughtful, fat
    people being engergetic, fat people being grumpy and just as
    silly/great as all you thin people

  13. Sophie says:

    I went to a ‘beautiful’ church for a while once. It was a vineyard one, and it was mostly full of 20s and 30s some with kids, mostly not. All very well turned out, glam even, and only one older couple. V odd just having such a little slice of society. On the up side there were donuts before and after!

  14. Kim says:

    I’ve noticed that Vineyard phenomenon too, and feel I would never fit in there as I’m not blonde and skinny and middle class(Oops, I am so prejudiced, sorry!)

    Is there some religious equivalent of the Stepford wives going on do you think?? Go on Jon, do a cartoon of it!!

  15. ED... says:

    The vicar’s offering the left hand of fellowship there…

    And every church does have an ugly person in it. If you look around and everyone is beautiful, it’s you.

  16. The Millers says:

    Jaybrams-

    I think, sadly, the people who aren’t as confident physically are less likely to want to be up there in front of the whole church. That’s my mom’s problem. She has a beautiful voice. Like an angel. And she’s beautiful physically too. But she’s a little bigger than most, and wont get up there, because she doesn’t want people to think she’s proud of the way she looks, likes she’s getting up there to flaunt. The weight stereotypes are awful over here in the U.S., don’t know how bad they are in the U.K., but when overweight people are confident, they are almost resented for it, so the heavier people that aren’t confident don’t want to look like they are by gettin’ up in front of people, dressing nice, going to the gym or whatever.

    Emily

  17. jody says:

    yes, the stepford wives are definitely a cartoon possibility jon.

    in my church we have all sorts in our worship team, it’s really great, sorry, that’s not a boast, it just made me smile actually :-D

  18. jen }i{ says:

    I went to a church and was sure that the “Stepford Wives” was based on it. My husband and I were ousted from the get-go because we blended much better with the teens we mentored than the adults. I was reprimanded once, as the teens usually were, for taking free leader food without paying. I had to tell the woman that I was 25 AND a leader.

    Thankfully, my current church doesn’t honor “memberships”. Anyone who enters through the doors is a “member”. Common sense to me. I once attended a church where you couldn’t “vote” on a pastoral choice unless you had a “giving statement” from the previous year. Yikes!

    When will barcodes and implanted microchips become the norm with church memberships?

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  20. Caroline Too says:

    the ugly song to be sung by all us lumpy, wobbly, gangly, shuffling, sitting-unnoticed-near-the-back types:

    http://celtic_difference.typepad.com/a_difference_that_makes_a/2005/05/celebration_of_.html

  21. subo says:

    why does church foster all that sneering and tutting, it’s almost like a side affect, or an infection, as though if you go to church for long enough you’ll develop a good ‘sneer’

    maybe that was whats meant in Mt16:6 “Watch out!” Jesus warned them. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

  22. Rich says:

    On the other hand, failure to attend may result in loosing touch with the community of believers and a sense of lostness…

    Still ‘attendance’ is not the issue anyway. Belonging is.

    Is it possible to find a church to belong to?

  23. Laura says:

    What about internet churches. Do you guys think those are viable alternatives or is it essential to be physically located in the same place.

  24. drew says:

    Laura,

    I guess if the place you interact and share things is on the net then thats as good as anyone could hope for. Plenty of folk who attend a church would love to have those thing s and do not get them.
    It must be said that you cannot get a mug of tea or a hug online yet though! For these things proximity is helpful.

  25. Joe says:

    I always thought “More of you and less of me” was a good worship phrase for us large types.

    Anyway, I’m a big man and a worship leader (though I am in my 20’s and play guitar… oops) and I’m thankful that we’re not the best looking group in the world.

    “Stepford Church” is frightening. I worked at a church that was fond of “Soccer Mom Sunday” (not sure if it translates to you UK’ers, so let me know) where we’d get a bunch of reasonably attractive 30-something moms to line up in the front and sing praise choruses. It was kinda painful…

  26. Chris F says:

    8 Marcus – the trouble with sending letters is, no matter how careful you are with the words, they are very very vulnerable to misunderstanding – no tone of voice, facial expression, body language, instant clarification or reassurance when needed

    I know it’s difficult to chase people face to face; but letters are best avoided in all circumstances as they almost always make things worse!

  27. JF says:

    May contain nuts.

  28. jonbirch says:

    i wish i’d thought of that jf! :-)

    i think i’ve done a stepford church cartoon, somewhere in the past… no idea what number. at times like this i wish i’d kept a log or kept a tab on categories or something… but i haven’t and never seem to have time to catch up. if anyone wants a job! :-)

  29. Hazel says:

    I wish the church I attend actually noticed when I wasn’t there!!

  30. subo says:

    “failure to attend may result in loosing touch with the community of believers and a sense of lostness…” good point Rich, though I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds the pain of regularly turning up to church and finding oneself viewed as a freak, painful and isolating.

    I have a friend who is into ‘spirituality’, and discuss the value of empathy, love, trust and connecting, at length. talking to her, I feel as though the church lost it’s treasures, chasing after opportunities in leadership, ministry and planing ‘amazing’ services instead, whilst people outside the church are finding out how to freely love others.

    church leaves me feeling tired, empty, excluded and silenced, and I’m ashamed to say, with no love left for the people who’ve ‘talked at me’ for what I’d hoped might be a meaningful encounter – I’m working on it, and I need you badly Jesus.

  31. subo says:

    ooops, sorry, after grumbling about the isolating feeling of going to church, I went to a house church service last week, where woman stood up and talked about being in the middle of the most horrendous situation, being let down by the services she’d gone to for help, and not having any resources to change things, still finding herself, just trusting God. Her honesty and humanness did leave me feeling part of things, belonging, loveable – and praying love and blessings for her

  32. Laura says:

    Hey Jon…I’d be honored to put together an index like that. I have some time on my hands right now and would be happy to help.

    Just shoot me an email about what you want it too look like etc. and I’ll get on it.

    Seriously!

  33. jonbirch says:

    wow! you’re a gem laura!!! i’ll have a think about what needs to be done and buzz you an email in the next day or so. thank you! :-)

  34. Forrest says:

    Subo, you’ve hit the bullseye there – it’s our honesty and humanness which God desires. Jesus Christ was/is honest and human; therefore, becoming “Christ-like” is to be becoming that.

    Toomuch committee planning and service multimedia production often overpowers humanity.

    It’s the small group and individual interactions where honesty and humanity are grown and nurtured.
    And where you are noticed and cared for – loved, even.

    I’d rather be cared for on the net than be a membership data in person.
    Even if it hasn’t figured out how to do ‘net hugs!

    That said, there is a great source of in-person hugs from a great Believer here from Kathy, even if our marriage is a bit shaky and we live in seperate places at this time.

    Neither of us much attends church at this time although occasionally do make prayer and praise sunday night at little church two blocks up road from here.

    We also have several people, of different churches, as friends and neighbors that we share and care with.
    That is more important that what comes from any one singular place with a name on a sign out front

  35. ah, so you’ve been to most of the churches I’ve been part of then?

  36. jonbirch says:

    forrest… i could not agree more.
    btw. i hope you and kathy are able to work things through. much love to you both. x

    subo… i hear you.

    bk… i’ve experienced both sorts. i try to make it clear these days what people can expect from me. that way they’re hopefully less surprised when i don’t meet their expectations.
    i don’t know whether this is true, or just my experience, or even my own blinkered interpretation of my experience… but it does seem that the more fervent/evangelical/charismatic the church the higher the guilt factor. maybe that’s too much of a generalisation to be true, i don’t know.

  37. Laura says:

    Sounds good jon.

  38. Nick says:

    @Laura (23):

    One of my friends at college wrote his dissertation on exactly that subject. Check out his website: http://davegroberts.wordpress.com/

  39. Nick says:

    Its funny I’ve been to two churches which are well known for supposedly being ‘beautiful/trendy’ churches. One in Yorkshire and one in London.

    My experience of the Yorkshire one was that it was really clicky and I felt I didn’t fit in because I’m a scruffy, not particularly good looking or confident.

    However at the London church I have felt really welcomed and have already made some good friends having been there 3 months. On the surface it does seem to be mostly beautiful/trendy/wealthy 20 somethings, but then once you start getting familiar you start to see the broken people, the homeless, the ex-offenders, the ‘less visible’ who are also welcomed, supported and comfortable there. I guess you just need to scratch the surface sometimes, a lesson I’ve started to learn…

  40. subo says:

    hi Forrest, keep hanging on in there, I believe there is a sacramental power in marriage, that we can build good thing into our lives, and that love and hope are worth working towards.

    I went through a difficult time recently, and ended up feeling traumatised, with all the edginess that goes with that. I have had to really try to put myself into a place of trust in God, in order to reconnect with the people I care about, it was as though while I was jumping about with fear I couldn’t be open to the love and care people wanted to give me. Margaret Guenther’s meditative book “My Soul in Silence Waits: Meditations on Psalm 62” (Cloister books) proved really helpful

  41. gilly says:

    …and under the trendy/beautiful /wealth can be just as much heartache/homebreak/imprisoned sadness as on the streets of any town at 2am.
    Just as much.

  42. subo says:

    “trendy/beautiful /wealth can be just as much heartache/homebreak/imprisoned sadness”

    yep, very much so

  43. subo says:

    “the more fervent/evangelical/charismatic the church the higher the guilt factor”, I appreciate your thoughtfulness in putting this so kindly.

    maybe there’s something vibrant about ASBO, in that nothing seems out of bounds to discuss, there’s room to genuinly air your feelings, and a lot of love for each other and for God

  44. beckyw says:

    We got told recently that we’d left the church we’ve been part of for 10 years because we decided to take a break from services for a while (we are still involved in various community activities and a small group). Was a bit disappointing but then I tried to think what I might have thought of someone 5 years ago who said that to me and maybe I wouldn’t have been that accommodating either! We’ve journeyed a long way recently in terms of church and I guess we need to try and explain our journey when others don’t get it (obviously they won’t all listen but I guess we’ll have to live with that). I wonder what our churches would make of Jesus if he turned up…what would he say about services???

  45. gilly says:

    he’d be in the carpark I think, knocking a football around

  46. Kim says:

    subo (31) I agree there is a lot of benefit for us all when we can be just human, honest, vulnerable. It transcends the boundaries of church and man made rules and connects us to each other as folks in a wider fellowship sense.

    I think these dialogues and friendships here are as real a church as any I’ve found and that Jesus is hanging out here all the time – just don’t tell his probation officer as his ASBO probably doesn’t allow it.

    (sorry, cheesy joke I know!!)

  47. subo says:

    sure Kim, there’s a lot of warmth and thoughtfulness on this blog, people talk about situations with out implying they’ve been able to resolve it, and am constantly moved by the depth at which people are prepared to share
    and top jokes

  48. beatthedrum says:

    Lack of attendance my lead to people who love you praying that God bless you or help you through your circumstances.

    Or lead to people looking out for you as they love you

    Or having stern words with you as they dont want to see you slipping into lukewarmness

    http://www.beatthedrum.wordpress.com

  49. dennis says:

    Has anyone seen the Starbucks Church video? there is a link to it on my blog http://www.idennis.co.uk

    Its good to laugh at ourselves sometimes but God are we really like this.

  50. matybigfro says:

    you know people don’t worship as much if there aren’t enough hotties on stage

    not that i’m wanting to bash churches full of the pretty people, but do find it discouraging when all those in leadership/places of privalage or seenness are groomed imaculatly and model style looks (it does give a certain idea of what it takes to succeed in these places). I’m very close to someone who was part of the worship team at a pretty high profile church who never felt they were good looking enough compared to others in the chuch. They played on a live worship CD that was put out by the church but the only picture of them on the cover of said cd is blurred, the hang up left over from that enviroment is huge.

    Also have you ever noticed that most successfull worship leaders from the uk over the last ten years have mostly been good looking young men with short dark hair, wearing white trainers, jeans (not to tight not to baggy) and a range of indescripte shirts and jumpers although commonly black or white.

    I used to lead worship (back in the day i did that sort of thing) bare foot and in huuuuuuuuuge bright shorts just put people off.

  51. subo says:

    wish I’d got to see you in the Bright shorts matybigfro

  52. subo says:

    is our culture impinging on our church? – have we let our minds become contaminated with false values?

    have we swallowed this cruel critical and isolating idol, and let ourselves become separated from the warmth our our humanity?

    I guess it’s impossible not to, we are surrounded by the false claims of glossed up photos and multiple unsubstantiated offers of ‘success, love and happiness’. This mirage denounces Gods goodness and trumps it’s own reality! Hold on, the truth is out there – “I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love.” John 15:9 the message

  53. jonbirch says:

    nice subo. can’t get the image of a worship leader with bright shorts out of my head though! :-)

  54. jonbirch says:

    good clip dennis. :-)

  55. commutertheology says:

    amen.
    i swear i should be a catholic with the amount of guilt i live under on a daily basis!

    brilliant comic as ever, jon :)

  56. jonbirch says:

    thanks commutertheology. :-) i tried guilt… i didn’t like it! the world is full of people who’ll have you feel guilty for all sorts… and we’re very good at heaping it on ourselves as well. i hope you soon get to experience life with less guilt. perhaps it’s time to see yourself in a positive light… write a list of things you like about yourself and meditate on them for a change. we spend nowhere near enough time loving ourselves and far too much time criticizing ourselves. just spend a few moments telling yourself you don’t need to feel guilt all the time… maybe even make this a daily ritual. write a list of the great things about you and stick them on your bedroom mirror. you never know, it could help.
    sorry if i’ve just been a bit insensitive and noisy… i just can’t stand to think of people living lives of guilt, whatever their past. thanks for the lovely comment and lots of love to you mate! :-)

  57. Mike says:

    That membership/church thing does seem a bit exclusive.

  58. Kim says:

    Jon – I don’t know who on the planet could accuse you of being insensitive and noisy??!! you are a lovely soul as far as I can tell, an amazing facilitator for the love that flows around here ands a brilliant stimulator of thought and conversation. Thanks!

  59. jonbirch says:

    wow. thank you kim. thank you. :-)

  60. theseoldshades says:

    I haven’t been to Church for maybe 6 weeks now but all the messages I’ve had commenting on my absence have been really loving. Just people checking I was ok, did I want to go for coffee, take my time etc. I went yesterday and kind of wish I hadn’t since the sermon was partly on ‘wives submit to your husbands’ and I wasn’t in the kind of place or mood where I could be receptive to that passage. Is it bad to find the Bible really annoying sometimes? :(

    But it was nice to see people, and of course, to be fed the amazing Sunday lunch someone at church always cooks for the hoards of hungry students!

  61. jonbirch says:

    ‘Is it bad to find the Bible really annoying sometimes?’ i don’t think it is, no. especially the way it can be mispreached… that is REALLY annoying. in our wedding vows, clare and i decided we’d both ‘obey’… don’t know whether we have in full, but it was a good promise to make.

  62. so often people don’t even notice if you don’t attend – that’s awful too

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