Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Leaving vs Pursuing

Reading the reminder article posted by Jeff McQ at Losing My Religion: Re-Thinking Church today prompted me to understand something more clearly. Many folks want to know (whether it's the few how actually ask or the apparent many who ask others) what led the Kendall's to leave the church or more commonly "what happened"?

There IS a lot of discussion and exploration about alternative forms of gathering as the body of Christ these days. I'm afraid to say that in many instances some of what's driving folks to explore alternatives is the same thing that has fueled church hopping for decades. Someone get's their feelings hurt and shazaam, it's time to look for another church. It's often couched in all kinds of other surface reasons... we're just not being fed, or folks just never really reached out to us, or something similar. So there appears to be one group who are exploring alternative "church" types due to dissatisfaction with the "church" they were part of before.

Our experience has been very different. We love the friends and "stuff" that was going on at our "church". It was a great place with tons of amazing people and lots of cool events and programs. For us, following Jesus required us to leave the walls of what we had always known as "church" because we could no longer follow Him and stay there. Stuff He showed us about walking with Him and His Way made what we saw going on there in His name a stench to our nose. No one mistreated us. No one was ugly to us. No one chose the wrong color of carpet. We just could no longer stomach what was being done there as really about the Kingdom as much as about a kingdom. Not as much about persons as people. Reversals of parables and stories were showing up all over. The one was left for the 99. The mite was no longer mightier than the millions. The treasure was left covered up in the field so the previous pursuits of so much potential could be pursued. We could no longer stay where we were and pursue Christ because following Him was taking us outside the traditions and established ways of doing "church". Some would say we became disgruntled on some level, but having been in church work for decades this was no disgruntled church member leaving because his or her feelings were hurt. This was, "I'm not so sure 'church' is supposed to be what we've made it" and in order to follow Christ into exploring what He meant we had to remove ourselves from the addicting influence of the show.

The interesting thing is He has not allowed us to pursue another way of doing "church" but instead only Him. Because we are in Colorado, there is every a-typical opportunity for church around us. While we treasure every opportunity we have to gather with other Christ Followers, He has not taken us to a house church, a missional gathering, or any other form of a programmed event where people get together to be a "church". Don't get me wrong. We do purposefully seek out opportunities to be together with other Christ Followers. Dinners at the house seem to be the most common type, but any occasion to hang out with other Christ Followers is at the top of our list of stuff to do.

So, how about you? What led you to that new "church"... Christ or frustration?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Several have asked...

Several have asked and others want to know but don't ask. I'll answer anyway. The question is something like, "Why don't you go to church anymore?" While I won't spend time rehashing the journey that brought me to where I am (read the rest of the MyWalkBlog entries if you are interested in that), I'll instead answer the question for those who will to some degree admit they at least partially agree that "church" as we have always known it does not accomplish the mission that Christ left with His followers, but who would challenge that I should be "inside" applying what God has shown me as a fix for the "church". Today I was catching up on some blog reading and came across the following section of a post titled Is Deconstruction Enough? Wayne, being challenged whether he really wanted to be known as one of the guys who convinced people not to go to church on Sunday morning says as part of his response:
The reason church life grows stale is because we’re looking for institutional solutions, not relational ones. If we equip people to live loved of God and live as lovers of people, the church will spring up all around us. It probably won’t be contained in a specific meeting or building but will grow wild and free and bear fruit in the interconnection, collaboration, cooperation and submission of brothers and sisters who are being changed by Jesus. That can look like a hundred different things. But once I begin to describe some of those things, I know our tendency as humans to prefer replicating a model to following the Head! We love to construct things, not build up people. The New Testament points us to building up people in Christ and seeing what expression that takes. I don’t think it works the other way around. (emphasis mine)

And there you have in a nutshell my answer. I remember several years ago, when following God on my journey brought about some interesting developments in our own group. The church we were attending immediately wanted to find a way to replicate what was going on in our group through months of praying and following by putting together a handbook, having a training session, and watching the Spirit of God take that group exactly where we were headed because we were following God.

One of the key questions I remember the church leader asking after I told him our off-shoot groups followed no curriculum was "but how do we control what goes on in the groups." My response? "If you think you control the groups that meet on campus because they all meet at the same time each week and because you put approved curriculum in the leaders hands your nuts." Do you see it... "But once I begin to describe some of those things, our tendency as humans is to prefer replicating a model to following the Head!"

Other than the simple fact that Jesus, the Head, has not led me back to an institutionalized gathering, I'm confident that any attempt to change the institution, as others have suggested, from the inside out though it would be the result of a small group learning how to walk in intimacy with God, would be subjected to tendencies and efforts to replicate the model and not the following of the Head that truly brought about the change. Besides, ultimately, those who have "gotten it" begin to struggle with being inside the institution themselves and we all know how that "movement" would sit with those who lead the institutions.

Pursuing Christ Outside the Walls!