Archives for September 2012

Missional Vs. Attractional

I’ve been writing lately about what I see as the problem with the liberal/mainline/progressive church. I’ve talked about Liberal Vs. Progressive, why we’re not growing, and said that I think Mark Driscoll is right. Then I shifted a bit and raised the question “Why Christianity?” and offered my reasons as to “Why I Am A Christian.”. My next question was about a “Salvation Moment” and my answer. Then I asked What does a Christian Look Like? and gave my answer. I asked about Discipleship and Accountability and then gave my answer. Then I asked Why do we have church? And who should the church be for?And gave my answer. Then we got into the church nitty gritty and I gave my answer of Tradition Vs. Ritual. I want to continue in that vein of raising a question and then offering my answer on a variety of different topics. I’m not trying to provide definitive answers, but rather to raise what I see as the provocative and/or essential questions that the church needs to be able to have answer for (even if that answer is to say that this isn’t an idea we need).

 

Yesterday I raised the question of Missional vs. Attractional, or, more specifically, who/what is the worship service for. Here are my thoughts:

 

On the one hand, I believe church services should be attractional. They should be appealing to the people who come. I think most of us have had the experience of walking into a new church and being completely confused. We don’t know when to stand up or sit down. We don’t know where to find things (like the hymnals or the bathrooms). We have no one to talk to. It’s incredibly alienating and uncomfortable. I think we’ve probably also had the experience of being in a worship service that was painfully boring; not contemplative and quiet but just boring. This is a problem. If someone were to wander into our worship service, they need to be able to figure out what is going on (clear instructions in the bulletin or on the screen) and they need to be able to find the bathrooms (and have bathrooms that are gender neutral and safe)! 

 

On the other hand, I believe worship is a bit of an insider experience. A worship service should not be the place where people are learning about Jesus for the first time. It should not be the “face” of our community. It shouldn’t be what all our energy is centered around, nor do I think it should be the “thing” we invite people to. On this front I think the missional church people have it right: we should be out there, in the community, making a difference.

 

I see the act of having a worship service serving a very specific function in a community. That service is the place where people are strengthened for the journey and where they mark ritual and sacrament together. The service is not the primary place for outreach, for education, or even for teaching (although a bit of that happens). Instead the service is the community coming together to worship God and to gain strength. Which means that worship service cannot be the only thing a church does.

 

I believe that following in the way of Jesus means resisting the things the world tells us are important. Which means that following in the way of Jesus is exhausting. It’s counter cultural. It’s an attempt to do something that you are constantly told is silly, or futile, or wrong. You need to be able to gather with other people who are on the same journey to encourage one another.

 

At the same time, I think the Christian life is something that is so exciting, so worthwhile that it draws people in. My favorite scene in the first “Sister Act” movie is the one where Whoopi Goldberg’s character has taken over the choir. Watch the scene below:

 

 

People are so drawn by the music that they wander in off the street. The Sisters take a very traditional hymn but make it accessible to people who aren’t from the church. But it’s not just about the music and the worship because the very next scene shows the Sisters leaving their cloister to go be a part of the neighborhood. It’s this push/pull of accessibility and getting out of our cloisters.

 

It’s also about understanding that the worship service is such a small part of what the church is about (even though an important one). How many churches, though, spend so much time and resources on the worship service? On having a building to have a worship service in? On that once a week meeting? And so we pour energy into making that once a week meeting really interesting but the odds are the people won’t walk in off the street simply because our music is so good. They will, however, be drawn by our lives in the community.

 

I realize that it sounds as if I am contradicting myself in this post, and honestly I am. That’s the tension. Worship is for insiders, but should be accessible. Worship shouldn’t be our focus, but should be done with great care. These are paradoxes, I know. I’m okay with the tension. What I’m not okay with is boring worship services combined with churches who never leave their buildings (and who don’t let anyone else come into their buildings). I’m not okay with resources (time, money, talents) being poured into a once a week gathering without the church coming together any other time (and board meetings/committee meetings don’t count as coming together). I’m not okay with telling people to come to our worship services when we refuse to go out and be a part of the community.

 

I see church as a non-residential intentional community. It's a group of people who are committed, not only to one another, but also to following in the way of Jesus in a specific community and location. Worship is like the community meeting. A place where people can share their struggles and triumphs with one another, a place where sacred time is marked, a place where the community can support one another and pray for one another. It's the place where people gather around rituals of Eucharist and song and pray and gain strength for the work. If someone wanders into the intentional meeting they should be welcomed with overwhelming hospitality and invited to join the feast. But they should never be left with the impression that Worship is the only thing or the most important thing a community does.


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Out or In?

I’ve been writing lately about what I see as the problem with the liberal/mainline/progressive church. I’ve talked about Liberal Vs. Progressive, why we’re not growing, and said that I think Mark Driscoll is right. Then I shifted a bit and raised the question “Why Christianity?” and offered my reasons as to “Why I Am A Christian.”. My next question was about a “Salvation Moment” and my answer. Then I asked What does a Christian Look Like? and gave my answer. I asked about Discipleship and Accountability and then gave my answer. Then I asked Why do we have church? And who should the church be for?And gave my answer. Then we got into the church nitty gritty and I gave my answer of Tradition Vs. Ritual. I want to continue in that vein of raising a question and then offering my answer on a variety of different topics. I’m not trying to provide definitive answers, but rather to raise what I see as the provocative and/or essential questions that the church needs to be able to have answer for (even if that answer is to say that this isn’t an idea we need).

 

I follow a lot of churchy folks on twitter, read a lot of church books, and try to keep up on the current trends and “buzzwords”. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of talk about “missional” church as opposed to “attractional” churches. Words that anyone outside of the church world would think are made up. At it most basic (in my understanding), “attractional” means worship that attracts people to come into your church building for worship while “missional” means your church people go out into the community to be a witness.

 

This brings us back to something we started hinting at a couple weeks ago. Who is the church for? And what is worship about?

 

Those who pull for attractional churches say that our worship should be comfortable for people: they shouldn’t have to feel like they are walking into a foreign land when they enter into worship. Our worship should be accessible and meaningful to people who are outside of the church (or who have been hurt by the church).

 

Those who pull for missional churches say that we should be salt and light out in the world: we should be going to where the people are, that “church” should be a lifestyle.

 

Should we be trying to get people to come to our worship services? How “seeker sensitive” (to use an old church growth buzzword) should our services be? Who is the worship service for?

 

Should we put less emphasis on our worship services and instead focus on outreach to the community? Maybe work more on social justice and less on Sunday (or whenever you worship)?

 

Should we use words like “missional” and “attractional” if no one outside of churchy folk know what they even mean? Does this kind of language lead to some kind of insider culture?

 

Is “missional” simply a post-evangelical evangelism bait and switch? Is it still a quest to just “win souls” or does it point to an actual shift in thought?

 

What do you think?


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Camp Osiris

Last year I put out a call for a Queer Theology Synchroblog. In August the synchroblog happened and it was awesome! So we're gonna do it again! Here is the official call for this year’s synchroblog!

 

As we approach the synchroblog I've been doing a bit of writing about Queer Theology (and will continue to) until the new synchroblog goes live. I've written a Quick and Dirty Intro. to Queer Theology, a post on Why Queer Theology Matters , and a post on Bodies.

 

Today I want to talk about a project that I am working on that means a ton to me. A couple of years ago, my friend Caidin and I started talking about starting a camp for young adults that would help them to reclaim their Christianity and equip them to change their communities. We started Camp Osiris.

Thanks to Rebecca Dallin for the graphic design.

 

Steam has slowly been building at the camp as we have continued to explore what types of programs are most needed and we have recently shifted some of our focus and rolled out some really exciting new stuff. Yesterday we rolled out a completely redesigned website and announced some of our new programming. We've also been creating a community on our page on Facebook; sharing good news stories from around the country. Here is more of what’s happening and some of the thinking behind it:

 

I have experienced the power of learning to read the Bible with a queer eye and I am passionate about helping other people to do the same. To be able to reengage with a text that has often been used as a weapon against our community and instead to learn to read it in a way so that it speaks to our current experience and provides comfort, hope, and challenge. I am convinced, too, that queer theology is not just for queer folks: that engaging with queer theology can deepen the faith and the experience of straight and cisgender people as well.

 

At Camp Osiris we wanted to create a program that would help people to uncover the revolutionary queer power of the Bible, that would encourage them to reclaim their own Christian tradition, but that wouldn’t stop there. We want people to identity the changes they want to see happen in their home communities (church, school, neighborhood) and we want to help equip them to go back home from Camp and make those changes. This camp is about more than just dealing with the clobber passages or learning to defend ourselves against Biblical attacks. It's about reclaiming our sacred text. It's about uncovering the connections between various forms of injustice and realizing that queer people can work for the freedom and empowerment of people from all communities; that our liberation is intertwined.

 

We realized that it’s not just young adults who are interested in our programs. So many queer and/or trans* folks never really got to have the “summer camp” experience in a safe place where they could be themselves, so we have added programming for adults.

 

We have also heard from allies that they want a place to come and learn more about what it means to be a better ally to their friends, to the people they work with and for, and for the people in their church communities. They want resources, but even more than that they want a safe place to ask questions and to be in community with other people who are trying to work in solidarity with the queer and/or trans* community. So now we have one retreat that will have a special ally track programming to equip allies to do this work in their own lives and their communities.

 

We have also heard from folks who want a queer and/or trans* only space to talk about what it means to be a queer and/or trans* Christian, to grapple with texts, to learn from our own history about being an activist and so one of our camps will be queer and/or trans* identified people only.

 

When you come to one of our retreats you experience a weekend of great conversation, a lot of laughs, and a powerful community. And when you go back home the connection doesn’t stop. We work hard to stay in touch with campers, to continue to support them in the work they are doing in their home communities, to get them the resources they need and connect them to folks locally (when we can). We want folks to be confident to make change in the communities that they love.

 

If you want to know more about how to be a part of this great community, please let me know. Make sure to check out the Programs page for more detail about the upcoming retreats (we are still finalizing locations and once we have that information, registration forms and costs will be available).

 

We would love to partner with churches and other non-profits to both get the word out about the camp and also to see how we can support one another. Caidin and I have done several workshops for non-profits about trans* issues, the needs of queer youth, queer theology, and more. We’re also going to be doing a series of workshops in the new year about community building, grassroots activism, and rural queer issues. We would love to share these experiences with you if they could be of help in your organization.

 

We would also love for folks to join us financially in being able to offer scholarships to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to come. At this point, this work is a labor of love for both Caidin and I. We’ve been running the camp without getting paid, and often by paying for things ourselves (although we have had help from some generous donors). We want to be able to offer these experiences to anyone who wants to come without money being a barrier and we need help to be able to do that. More information about that is on the website, but you can also talk to me about that if you or your church/organization is interested.

 

Please keep us in prayer as we move forward and thank you for your support thus far.

Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?

Ask the AR: Queer Theologizing

Ask the Anarchist Reverend is a weekly feature here on the site. If you have a question you’d like to ask, you can send me an email (anarchistreverend at gmail), find me on twitter, or submit your question using formspring. The queue is getting a little low, so if you've got a question it'd be great if you could submit it soon!

 

I'd love to hear more theologizing/sermonizing through a trans* lens. The stuff you did around crucifixion and resurrection from a particularly trans perspective was mind-blowing and awesome. What else you got??

 

Thanks for this. I’m glad to hear that the Trans* Passion Narrative is resonating with folks.

 

I have only a half answer for this question, a bit of thinking out loud. I am currently in a place where I don’t preach very often, and so I find myself not really writing sermons. However I do quite a bit of teaching and lately I have been reading a lot about how the message of Jesus would have been heard and understood in the time in which it was written.

 

I’ve been appreciating the work of John Dominic Crossan, Ched Myers, Richard Horsley, Warren Carter, and others who really try to flesh out the political situation of Rome and Palestine.

 

I’ve been thinking about the connections between the resistance of the early Christian community to the rule of Ceasar and the resistance of the Queer movement (especially in the organizing the community did around AIDS). I have written about this yet, but this is the direction I am going in.

 

How can radical queerness deepen our faith and our resistance again the Ceasars of today? How can radical queerness be an example to others about what it means to resist?

 

I plan on writing more about some of these thoughts in the coming weeks, but I’d love to turn the question back on folks reading this: Does this resonate with you at all? Do you see any parallels?

 


Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?

Tradition Vs. Ritual

I’ve been writing lately about what I see as the problem with the liberal/mainline/progressive church. I’ve talked about Liberal Vs. Progressive, why we’re not growing, and said that I think Mark Driscoll is right. Then I shifted a bit and raised the question “Why Christianity?” and offered my reasons as to “Why I Am A Christian.”. My next question was about a “Salvation Moment” and my answer. Then I asked What does a Christian Look Like? and gave my answer. I asked about Discipleship and Accountability and then gave my answer. Then I asked Why do we have church? And who should the church be for?And gave my answer. I want to continue in that vein of raising a question and then offering my answer on a variety of different topics. I’m not trying to provide definitive answers, but rather to raise what I see as the provocative and/or essential questions that the church needs to be able to have answer for (even if that answer is to say that this isn’t an idea we need).

 

Yesterday I asked us to start getting into the nitty gritty of church. Over the next couple of weeks I want to tackle some of the things that I have been feeling are the most pressing for me as I consider starting a new church in Minneapolis. As I start this conversation I am going to take a couple things as givens: I believe that public gatherings of people who are trying to follow in the way of Jesus are vital to the lives of those believers. I believe that churches are important. I believe that our worship services are not really for those who don’t consider themselves Christians (not that they aren’t welcome, but that they aren’t the focus). And also, I’m talking, right now, specifically about how we come together in our worship services. (Later on I’ll get more into other programs of church life.)
 

I have been a part of all sorts of churches stylistically. I grew up in a fairly traditional evangelical church (hymns, organ, and piano) that morphed into a church with both a “traditional” and a “contemporary” service by the time I was in high school. In college I sang in a rock band at a service aimed toward Generation X. I’ve been in churches that are all about the organ, classical music, and the choir and wouldn’t DREAM of playing any kind of contemporary worship song and those who don’t really sing any of the old hymns. I’ve been in churches that make space for silence, that are creative with screens and art, that are centered around a sermon, that are high on liturgy or that use no liturgy at all.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about tradition vs. ritual.

 

First a quick comparison to show how I am defining these terms: Ritual is the act of gathering at the table on Thanksgiving, the way the family gathers, maybe even some of the food that is eaten. Tradition is saying that only this food can be eaten at Thanksgiving forever and ever amen. Ritual is the meaning behind the acts, the reason for the gathering, the space that is made and the love that is shown. Tradition is about doing it a certain way.

 

I’ll show my hand up front: I am drawn to fusion. I love the old hymns, but I prefer them set in modern arrangements. I like rock music, but if it has an undertone of chant that would be better. I want the organ and the electric guitar. I want lots of space for silence and a high liturgy. I want candles and screens. I want to read out of a “real” Bible and maybe be encouraged to tweet during the service. I want a space that feels both comfortable culturally, but that also moves me toward transcendence.

 

Here’s what I don’t want: I don’t want to be told “but this is how we’ve always done it”. I don’t want us to get so caught up in style that we miss out on why it is we’re gathering. I don’t want to feel uncomfortable (unless that discomfort has a liturgical meaning). I don’t want to be bored (this doesn’t mean I want to be entertained, but it does mean that I want to be engaged with the service). I don’t want people to look at me as if I am being disrespectful if I pull out my phone to tweet something that has resonated with me (as that is part of how I worship).

 

I want ritual, but not tradition. I want ritual because it makes space for worship, because it marks time, because it connects me to the past; to the great cloud of witnesses. I don’t want tradition which says “this is the only way to do things and we can never change.” This is why I am drawn to the Catholic Mass. There is a rigid form, but there is stylistic things you can do within the form (take David Crowder Band’s newest album “Give Us Rest” as an example). I appreciate the history, the beauty of the language, the bodily movement it requires. I also appreciate that it can work with visual art, that it can include candles, and other things that engage the senses. I appreciate that it is a communal liturgy. I want that fusion of the ancient and the new.

 

I realize that this isn’t for everyone. The question then becomes: How can we make space for ritual without getting stuck in tradition? And if you’re into super contemporary stuff, how can we make space for silence and for the transcendent in the midst of the driving guitars and drums? How can we open ourselves up to the holy in the midst of the style of the service?

Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?

Church Nitty Gritty

I’ve been writing lately about what I see as the problem with the liberal/mainline/progressive church. I’ve talked about Liberal Vs. Progressive, why we’re not growing, and said that I think Mark Driscoll is right. Then I shifted a bit and raised the question “Why Christianity?” and offered my reasons as to “Why I Am A Christian.”. My next question was about a “Salvation Moment” and my answer. Then I asked What does a Christian Look Like? and gave my answer. I asked about Discipleship and Accountability and then gave my answer. Then I asked Why do we have church? And who should the church be for?And gave my answer. I want to continue in that vein of raising a question and then offering my answer on a variety of different topics. I’m not trying to provide definitive answers, but rather to raise what I see as the provocative and/or essential questions that the church needs to be able to have answer for (even if that answer is to say that this isn’t an idea we need).
This week we continue the conversation about the church. I want to start getting down into a bit more of the nitty gritty and ask: What could the church look like? Let’s start to hash it out. Should the church be any of the current buzzwords? Missional or Attractional? Traditional or Emergent? Contemporary? Or should the church transcend such categories and labels?

 

Are denominations worthwhile or are they troublesome? 

 

Realizing that lots of things about the church are contextual, are there certain things that carry across traditions and styles? Are there certain elements or programs that a church must have?

 

How should the church be using its money? Should churches be committed to starting new communities? Should churches be a certain size? Is there such a thing as a “too small” or “too large” church?

 

Does it matter what kind of form the leadership of the church takes? Pastoral team? Solo pastor? No pastor at all?

 

I’m asking these questions because I think they tell us a lot about what we think the church is about and who it’s for. I think we all have our preferences around style and structure, but I also think there are certain forms of church that maybe aren’t working as well (or at all). As we look to the future of the church these questions become guiding principles to help us think through the issues we face.

 

Are there any questions here that really resonate with you? If you could dream up a church to attend (or to serve) what would that church look like?


Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?

Bodies

Last year I put out a call for a Queer Theology Synchroblog. In August the synchroblog happened and it was awesome! So we're gonna do it again! Here is the official call for this year’s synchroblog!

As we approach the synchroblog I've been doing a bit of writing about Queer Theology (and will continue to) until the new synchroblog goes live. I've written a Quick and Dirty Intro. to Queer Theology and a post on Why Queer Theology Matters.

Today let’s talk about bodies! We all have them. Some of us love our bodies and some of us don’t. Some of us have complicated relationships with our bodies that change over the course of the day or the hour.

 

We are told by society what to do with our bodies. How they should look, how they should dress, how they should act, and who we should love with them. This isn’t just queer people, this is all people. Queer theology opens up a space for all of us, queer, straight, cisgender, trans*, to talk about bodies.

 

Christianity, when it is at its best, is a religion about bodies. It’s about eating together and drinking together. It’s about caring for one another in a very physical way. It’s about liberation from the oppression of poverty and violence and greed. It’s about bodies that are fed and touched and loved.

It is easy for me to get caught up in the intellectual, to get wrapped up in the words and the theories and forget to live into my body. But when I can remember to pray (the motion of kneeling and of crossing myself), when I can get to Eucharist (the tactile, sensual act of eating bread and drinking wine), when I can remember that Jesus walked dusty roads, touched lepers, ate grain, then I can remember to be in my body.

 

For me, queer theology is a reminder of my body. My complicated relationship with it. The ways that I have hated it and loved it. Queer theology reminds me that bodies matter. That physical safety matters. That the way we live and love and move through the world as bodied people matters. It calls us back to remembering that our bodies are holy even as they are complicated. They are holy even when we need to change them. They are holy even when society condemns them.

 

And if we can reclaim our bodies as holy, that is the most revolutionary act of all.


Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?

Ask the AR: Practical Christian Anarchy

Ask the Anarchist Reverend is a weekly feature here on the site. If you have a question you’d like to ask, you can send me an email (anarchistreverend at gmail), find me on twitter, or submit your question using formspring.

 

What does (or can) Christian anarchism look like in a practical, daily sort of way? I can imagine a theoretical future Christian anarchist uptopia but I'm not sure how I might begin to live into that reality now in a way that is also sustainable and helps move us toward that future goal.  

 

I really love this question! It was challenging to write this because I realize all of the ways that I don't live up to my own ideals. This journey of being a Christian anarchist is never complete. I am always in process, always learning (failing) trying to be and do better. But that challenge is a healthy one. It reminds me of the areas I can work on. For me, I think about practical Christian anarchy in two ways: Where are the places you can drop out? Where are the places you can rebuild?

 

Where are the places you can drop out? Where is resistance possible? I think about where are the ways I can show resistance to imperial living: I can refuse to say the pledge of allegiance or sing the National Anthem. I can spend my money in places that are committed to fair labor practices and sustainable goods (or better yet I can barter for things; trade labor, skillshare). You could have a yard (or larger) garden (or window boxes). You could make your own clothing, or only buy second hand. It's all about not propping up the system that is broken. Get your money out of big banks if you can, buy local or direct from the source, etc. You could refuse to pay taxes, refuse to register to vote, or refuse to register for the draft. You could teach your children at home.

 

Where are the places you can rebuild? Christian anarchy is about living in the shadow of the Empire. How can we build communities that show another way is possible? I think the early Christian community was anarchist in nature. They all took care of one another. They adopted abandoned children, they cared for the sick and the elderly, they ate together and worshipped together. All of this was revolutionary. What if we formed ourselves into small enough communities where we could make sure that everyone was cared for? That those who were sick got what they needed, that everyone had enough to eat.

 

If we practiced these radical acts, I think we begin to show the world what is possible. We begin to help people rethink the ways they relate to one another. It definitely won't be easy, but change never is.

 

Even more than behaviour, though, is freeing our minds to think in new ways. To dream together what is possible. To erase "But I just could never..." from our vocabularies. All of us who have any modicum of privilege are imbued with the mentality of the Empire. We have been taught that this is the way it is and this is the way it has to be. But it doesn't have to be this way. We need to dream ourselves into a new reality. One where we are restored our humanity, where people have dignity, where we are all cared for.

 

The Empire doesn't have the final word. We need to live into the reality of the Kingdom of God here and now because it is already here among us if only we could recognize it.


Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?

Church

I’ve been writing lately about what I see as the problem with the liberal/mainline/progressive church. I’ve talked about Liberal Vs. Progressive, why we’re not growing, and said that I think Mark Driscoll is right. Then I shifted a bit and raised the question “Why Christianity?” and offered my reasons as to “Why I Am A Christian.”. My next question was about a “Salvation Moment” and my answer. Then I asked What does a Christian Look Like? and gave my answer. Last week I asked about Discipleship and Accountability http://is.gd/kwtmGi and then gave my answer. http://is.gd/e27NnO I want to continue in that vein of raising a question and then offering my answer on a variety of different topics. I’m not trying to provide definitive answers, but rather to raise what I see as the provocative and/or essential questions that the church needs to be able to have answer for (even if that answer is to say that this isn’t an idea we need).

 

Yesterday I asked: Why do we have church? What should church be for/about? What elements are most important?

 

I loved the conversation that is beginning yesterday in the comments. It highlighted the tension of the church being both for outreach and service, but also for being a community.

 

When I think about the early Christians (at least the picture we get from the book of Acts and from some of Paul’s letters) I get this sense that the reason people were attracted to joining the community was because of the way they took care of one another. Being a member of the community had actual physical benefits. People shared meals together and those who didn’t have food were fed. Rodney Stark, a Christian scholar, talks about the fact the Christian communities adopted abandoned female infants and raised them. He says that there were real benefits to becoming a Christian, especially for women.

 

The early church was about both meeting together for worship, education, and ritual acts (baptism, Eucharist, etc.) and about actual change in the community. That change, though, was grounded in their spiritual lives. It’s this both/and that I feel is missing in a lot of churches that I have been a part of.

 

The reality is that most churches aren’t equipped to do large scale social service work. So when I think about wanting to effect real change in my community I would probably be better off to do it outside of a church. A social service organization dedicated to, for instance, running a shelter or providing emergency housing is going to be able to utilize resources more effectively. The money they get from grants goes directly to the work, the people they hire are trained for that specific work, etc. By becoming a part of a church community I am saying that there is something more than just doing the work.

 

Here’s how I understand church: It’s a place for a community to gather to talk about following Jesus. It’s a place where we can learn together, challenge one another, support one another, and make ritual space. It’s a place that strengthens us for following Jesus every day. Now, I understand following Jesus to be about radical social change and so when I think about being equipped and strengthened for that journey, I’m looking for serious encouragement and support. I need people to remind me that I am living in an Empire and I need to not capitulate. I need people to challenge me on how I am spending my money and if I am caring for my neighbor. I need to be encouraged to seek justice.

 

And then, when people see Christians living together, challenging the Empire, confronting injustice, then maybe they’ll want to know more.

 

This Christian life is counter-cultural. It goes against everything the American empire values. We need encouragement and support to walk the way of the cross. We need to support one another in our confrontation with injustice. And it needs to be rooted in worship of a God of justice who calls us to a path of love and non-violent resistance.

 

I’m going to spend the next several weeks teasing out more of these ideas, but this gets us started. What do you think? Agree or disagree?


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Why Church?

I’ve been writing lately about what I see as the problem with the liberal/mainline/progressive church. I’ve talked about Liberal Vs. Progressive, why we’re not growing, and said that I think Mark Driscoll is right. Then I shifted a bit and raised the question “Why Christianity?” and offered my reasons as to “Why I Am A Christian.”. My next question was about a “Salvation Moment” and my answer. Then I asked What does a Christian Look Like? and gave my answer. Last week I asked about Discipleship and Accountability and then gave my answer. I want to continue in that vein of raising a question and then offering my answer on a variety of different topics. I’m not trying to provide definitive answers, but rather to raise what I see as the provocative and/or essential questions that the church needs to be able to have answer for (even if that answer is to say that this isn’t an idea we need).

 

The questions of the day: Why do we have church? What and who should church be for/about? What elements are most important?

 

If we believe there is something to this Christianity thing, odds are we are going to want to do something about it together. I want us to talk about the reason for the church and the methods we use. In this case I am particularly asking about gathered together people who are doing or being church. This isn’t a question about the larger Christian community as a whole, the entire body of Christ, or Christendom the world over, I’m asking specifically about the local community expression.

 

Why does the church exist and who is it for? Is it for the benefit of people who consider themselves Christians? Is it a place where they can come to get encouragement, support, and education about what it means to follow in the way of Jesus? Or is the church for other people? Does it exist to tell people about the way of Jesus and to encourage others to follow? Does it exist to care for the “least of these” (Matthew 25)?

 

Does it matter what form the church takes? Are denominations still important?

 

Why church and not some other civic organization? Why a Christian church and not an interfaith or Unitarian Universalist community (especially for those of us who don’t believe in hell)?

 

If you go to church, why do you go? What does it mean to you? What does it give you? And what do you give the church? Is there something you get from church that you don’t get anywhere else?

 

Is there anything about church that wounds you? That you wish would change? Are there structures and systems in place that actually make it hard to worship?

 

Are these questions simply just consumerism in church? Does it matter if we “like” or “get something out of” church or are those notions harmful?

 

I have so many thoughts on this topic that I’m going to be breaking it up into a series of posts, but I’ll give my first thoughts tomorrow. I’d love to have some conversation about this topic. Are there other questions that I’m missing? What resonates with you in these questions? What do these questions bring up?


Want posts by email and occasional extras, including my new ebook “A Guide To Recovering From Fundamentalism”?