What Jiu Jitsu Teaches me about Church, Part 4

I have been sharing a series of posts about some of the things that I am learning about pastoral ministry while taking Jiu Jitsu classes. If you want to read the other posts, you can go here, here, and here.

I remember the first few Jiu Jitsu classes that I went to earlier this past month. Before my first class I had learned a few techniques and bits of information about Jiu Jitsu, but there were several things that I didn’t know about as a new student. The process of learning these “social mores” of Jiu Jitsu was interesting to me for I found that some of these things were going to be explained to me by the coach and other students and some things I would need to/get to pick up on my own.

For instance, at the gym that I go to, the participants give a short bow at the edge of the mat when entering and exiting the mat area. They also keep their kimonos (uniforms) on a short shelf near the mat where one puts on the uniform after they have entered the mat. After class is over, we take off the uniform before leaving the mat. I’m sure that this is a way to prepare internally for class, to leave everything else off of the mat, and to engage in one activity for the hour.

All of those details were not explained to me. I’m sure that if I would have asked, someone would have told me, but I am learning things about Jiu Jitsu by simply observing, by mimicking and following the lead of others.

I’m going to be honest, I had no idea how to tie a belt for my uniform. Everyone else’s seemed to stay tied throughout the class but mine was always coming undone and it didn’t look as official as the others. I’m sure that the other guys were going, “Dude, this guy needs someone to show him how to tie a belt!”

I know that I could have asked someone for help, but I decided to search the internet for a tutorial on how to tie a belt. It sounds lame, but with my own search, I know how to tie a super knot, one that does not come undone during class.

Watching, Asking, Searching

All of this to say that as we engage church life, we must enter into a tension of three different rhythms. First, we need to do better at watching what others are doing and learning from others. At the heart of Christianity is the desire to embrace a brand new way of life. There are some things that we can be taught, but many things are caught in our faith. We catch by watching the practice of others.

Next, it is fair to expect to have to ask someone explicit “what is going on?” I’ve found most Christian people eager to help one another out with how to navigate our church cultures. So, ask and be prepared to listen.

Finally, it is also fair for us to expect to go out on our own and study for ourselves. A brilliant way to learn is to allow curiosity and frustration to complete its work within us, to allow ourselves the opportunity to find out the answers to our own questions, not always solely relying on someone else’s ideas.

Engaging in Church life is like many other new communities we experience. There are actions, words, expectations that we will not know natively. Instead of being frustrated and embarrassed, give yourself and others a break and take your time. Each of the rest of us were brand new at one point, as well.


Published by joeskillen

I'm a husband, dad of 2, Pastor at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Wichita, KS.

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