Categotry Archives: church


More Stuff We Do That’s Not In the Bible


Categories: church, fun, What the heck was THAT?

This is a follow-up to my post last week called “Extra-Biblical Christianity (or Stuff We Do That’s Not In the Bible).” Go read it first, if you haven’t already…I’ll wait…

I had some awesome responses from readers, things to add to the list…plus there’s a couple more I can add myself. (Again–these are about things we do as Christians or churches that are extra-Biblical, but not necessarily anti-Biblical; so today we’re not commenting on whether any particular practice is right or wrong. )


Defined (Imprisoned?) by the Meetings


Categories: changing mindsets, church, Meanderings (look it up), Rantings

(If you have come to this blog because you’re still working through yesterday’s massive synchroblog on “What Is Missional?”…you can read my entry here.)

I’m finally making my way to the end of the book Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture by Michael Frost. Yesterday I read some things that have already started re-shaping my thinking. Here are a couple of quotes:

“Why can’t we think of churching together as a web of relationships? Why are we obsessed with the singular event rather than seeking the rhythm of a community churching together?”

“The result of nearly two centuries of Christendom is that Christians have become used to the idea that their faith is primarily about attending meetings–worship meetings, weddings, funerals, prayer meetings, and so on.”

In the same chapter, Frost shares how in a truly missional church, the corporate meeting is merely the “tip of the iceberg”, and one simply cannot gain a good picture of this kind of community by simply “checking out” the weekly gathering. There is so much more going on in daily life that shapes them.

Reading this book is helping me verbalize some things I’ve been processing internally for some time.

In a recent conversation with a friend, I shared how I am in a season where I am just not in the mood to attend a multitude of church meetings. Almost immediately the “don’t-forsake-assembling-together” Scripture was brought into the conversation. I tried to explain that “assembling” takes many forms and doesn’t necessarily have to always be in the churchy format we have gotten so used to. But I am not sure I was able to communicate what I was truly feeling, or that my friend “got it.” I almost wish I could now re-visit that conversation, because I feel now like I could communicate better.

Yes, the Bible tells us believers to assemble together (Heb. 10); and in Paul’s epistles (especially in 1 Corinthians 12-14) he gives some instruction on what sorts of things can/should happen when we “come together”. But I am coming to realize that the early church was not defined by their meetings the same way we are; their sense of community was much deeper, and their focus was not on the meetings themselves.

I’m realizing that most of our concepts of “meeting together” are still shaped by religious Christendom rather than the Scripture itself. Think about what happens when the church assembles. Regardless of the “flavor” of church we’re talking about…these meetings are almost always focused on a set of events that are occuring in front of an auditorium while most of the people look on. Whether pre-planned or spontaneous, these events constitute an “order of service” (another term not found in the Bible). When we think of “assembling together”, this is usually what we have in our head; this is what we think it means.


Missional: What It Means to Me


Categories: changing mindsets, church, missional

(This is part of Rick’s synchroblog on “What Is Missional?” See the end of this post for the list of participants.)

I hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew.

Although I’ve been a Christian most of my life, and involved in some form of church “ministry” function for most of the time I’ve been a Christian…I have only known of terms like “missional” and “emergent” for the past year and a half. And just when I’m getting used to reading, hearing and saying these types of words…apparently there is already some frustration about their usage, about the labels, about what is associated with them–what they mean, or what they should mean. Hence, the reason for the synchroblog.


Confusing Method for Principle


Categories: changing mindsets, church, food for thought, religion

I’ve alluded to this topic probably several times, the most recent being in my post “Questions of Heresy?”. It’s probably time to cover this one head on, because in my opinion it is at the root of many of our relgious practices. A lot of the disputes that divide the church, and a lot of the resistance to new things, boil down to a confusion between method and principle.

It is apparent through the Scriptures that God does not change. This makes sense, since Someone who is eternally perfect has no need to evolve. His character, His nature, His love, the things that He likes and dislikes…all of this remains constant, and always has. However, it is also apparent that while God does not change, His methods do. (A key example of this is in Isa. 43:19, when He says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing.”) Because man does change over time, God will alter His methods in His relentless quest to reach man.

By the same token…there are principles in Scripture that I believe derive from God’s constant nature, and these should not be tampered with. But there are often a wide range of methods that we can employ to fulfill those principles.

The problem that so often occurs with the church is that we employ a method for so long that we begin to confuse it for the principle that we are trying to fulfill. When this happens, our method essentially becomes one of those sacred cows people talk about, and this is one of the key ingredients that turns our relationship with God into religion. Over time, the method loses its effectiveness, but we hold onto it tightly because we deem it sacred. So when someone comes along and challenges the method’s effectiveness and suggests a better one, it often creates havoc. The method often will be staunchly defended–even though it isn’t really working–and the person will sometimes even be labeled a heretic, even though there has been no tampering with Scripture. All this happens when we confuse method for principle.

Let’s look at one example of what I’m talking about. The church has a mandate in Heb. 10:25 not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. I consider this to be a Biblical principle. However, there is very little said in Scripture about when, where or how to assemble. It relates a few methods that the early church used to fulfill that principle, but otherwise the Bible gives a great deal of latitude. I personally believe this is on purpose–to allow the church to adapt to the different cultures of the world and last through the centuries.

Now look at the church today. There are people who believe if you do not meet at a set time on Sunday morning, or in a specific building, or follow a specific liturgy, you haven’t been to church, and therefore you haven’t fulfilled this principle. And the first time someone suggests a different method of meeting–the “don’t forsake the assembly” Scripture gets thrown at them. This has nothing to do with principle, and everything to do with method. It’s just that we’ve carried this method for so long that we don’t know how to handle it when someone says we might be able to do it another way.

I’m a pragmatist about these things, which means I’m into what works. So if your methods are working for you and bringing good results and truly helping you fulfill the principles of Scripture, I’m inclined to leave you alone about it. It is when your system or method no longer works, or is counter-productive, or violates Scriptural principles, that I want to say, “Hey, are you sure this is the best way you could be doing this?”

Now to a more direct example, and the crux of the matter. To me, institutional Christianity is a method–not a principle. If you look at Scripture carefully, you’ll find that most of the trappings of institutional church–from the buildings to the government structure to the order of service–most of these are extra-Biblical (which means they aren’t found in Scripture at all). And some elements are currently even in violation of Scripture. There are methods we have used for centuries, and perhaps at one point they were effective in fulfilling certain principles of Scripture. But they are only methods. Many of our methods aren’t necessarily bad in and of themselves. But they should not be held as sacred. If our methods aren’t producing good fruit, we should change them–without compromising Scriptural principles.

So all that to say…I do not have a moral problem with the institutional church in general, and I do not consider myself a better Christian than others because I am outside of it. I have not broken fellowship with the Body of Christ that remains within those walls. I simply believe this is a method that is losing ground rapidly, one that in most cases no longer works, and one that has never fully allowed the church to be all she is meant to be. My journey outside the walls is an honest attempt to find a more effective way to live my faith and fulfill the mission of Christ. And my hope in processing this publicly is that my journey would encourage others to simply strip off the filters through which we hear and see things, and take an honest look at the state of things in the church, and make honest decisions about our methods to make us more effective and fruitful in the world.


Mistaken Identity (part 2)


Categories: changing mindsets, church

(First read Mistaken Identity part 1…okay, now you’re ready…)

In my last post I described how the church in general suffers from mistaken identity, because it is an organism that thinks and acts like an institution. I concluded by sharing that because there are those who are (in increasing numbers) drifting away from the institutions and acting more like an organism, this mistaken identity is now growing into an identity crisis, especially among institutional church leadership.


Mistaken Identity (part 1)


Categories: changing mindsets, church

I have known cats who apparently think they are dogs. I had a cat growing up who would follow me like a shadow anywhere I went, would wait at the door if I left the house or went to the bathroom—just like a dog. Our friends have a cat named Milo who throws himself on the floor on his back and waits for someone to rub his belly, or goes from person to person looking for someone to pet him.


Be the Change


Categories: church, Meanderings (look it up), Rantings

So as I was sitting at a dance recital (of all places) last night, mulling things over while watching what was happening on stage…out of the blue this thought came into my head:

“Be the change you want to see.”

It was so profound I wished I had my laptop there so I could blog about it in the dark and irritate lots of people around me. But something told me someone else had come up with this phrase before me, so I Googled it when I got home.

Dang you, Gandhi.


A Manifesto for Church


Categories: church, fun, What the heck was THAT?

Another tag, this time by Heather….at least it solves the problem of what to write about. 🙂

I’ve been tagged to write about what I think a good church should look like. Here are the rules, according to Barry, who started this thing:

1. Post to your blog on the subject “A Manifesto for Church”, outlining your thoughts on what an ideal church would/should be like. Posts can be as detailed or as short as you like.
2. Include a copy of these rules.
4. Put a link to your post in the comments to this post.
5. Tag at least 4 other people.
6. What happened to rule 3?
3. Ah, here it is.


Some Thoughts on the Need for Community


Categories: church, community, Meanderings (look it up)

A few days ago Erin wrote an honest post called “A Place For Us“, which touched off a firestorm of comments as people shared their ideas, hopes, fears, dreams, and longings to find authentic Christian community with others without the trappings of organized religion. Just reading the comments can be almost overwhelming (but try it anyway). If nothing else, they point to a deep shared need among the growing number of people who are disenfranchised with religious systems.

We might be disillusioned with institutional church. We might be jaded and wounded by the abuses we’ve suffered. We might be nauseated by the idea of regular structured meetings of any kind–under a steeple, in a home, or in a park. We might be so broken that we just don’t trust anybody outside the virtual world of blogging.

But we still long for community with other believers. We still need it, even though we may not trust it. We still dream of it happening in a lifegiving way, even though we may not dare hope for it.

Dare we hope for it?

I say we dare.

When I say that, I don’t intend to cheapen this issue by claiming to have the answers as to what a healthy community looks like, or how to have one. Emotions and opinions both run quite deep on this issue, and I think what it looks like is shaped by who is there and where it’s happening. God is way too diverse for us to reduce things like this to formulas, and that’s why I don’t put a lot of stock in people who vigorously claim that their picture of it is the right one.

However, in our quest to either find or form this kind of community, I think there is a way we can approach it with wisdom. For what they are worth…here are some thoughts I have on the matter…

1. You are going to be hurt.

Gosh, maybe this shouldn’t be point one. But lemme splain.

Fear of being wounded again is probably the number one reason why people who have left church groups are reluctant to try again. When we have been wounded, the reflex is to build walls or barriers or try to put safeguards in place to prevent it from happening again. And even when we venture out and try to re-connect, our impulse is to try and set things up in such a way that people (read: we) won’t get hurt. But here’s the thing: people are ultimately the ones who wound us, not an institution. We wound one another because we are all broken. And meeting outside the walls of an institution will not change this. If our main objective is to avoid being hurt, it ultimately results in avoiding relationship altogether–and that means missing out on the potential of great joy and fulfillment. That can’t be the answer. So rather than trying to avoid being hurt, we need to learn how to deal with one another with grace and forgiveness, and we need to learn to look to Jesus our healer when we do get hurt. The potential for healthy, lifegiving community is ultimately worth the risk of pain.

2. Lasting, healthy communities cannot be built on the mutual dislike of something else.

I recognize many such organic communities will consist of broken, hurting people, each with their own story of pain. But ultimately the cohesion of the group cannot be about what everyone is against, or in my opinion it will not last. You need to be for something. A love for God, and love for one another, with Christ at the center, and hopefully some sense of shared mission. These are at the foundation of healthy community, no matter how it fleshes out.

3. The fact that communities disband (or even implode) does not automatically mean they shouldn’t have existed, or that they did something wrong.

I notice that a lot of people are reluctant to join or form communities because they are concerned that at some point things will go south, and the group will implode or scatter. And because of our brokenness, while we can make good choices along the way that might help, there is no way to completely guarantee that this will not happen. That does not mean the group didn’t serve a good purpose for a season, or that we shouldn’t try again. Having been through my share of negative experiences, it’s my belief that everything is redeemable by God–even bad experiences. I’ve probably learned more from my bad experiences than my good ones. And a “bad” ending doesn’t have to ruin the good experiences gained.

We often have the mentality that a community that forms should last forever, and if it doesn’t, we failed. But if the church is really the fluid entity we think it is, it makes sense that there are times and seasons for certain communities. Sometimes a community goes south just because it outlasted its expiration date. And sometimes a community can last a multitude of seasons just by being willing to reinvent itself repeatedly. There is no set time span for healthy communities; each one is different. Our home church has lasted 8 years so far, and has undergone a lot of shift and change and turnover during that time. It is, in my opinion, a healthy community (although it hasn’t always been). We’d love it to last forever, but we’ve known for a long time that it lives or dies by the breath of God. So we have hope for the future, but we trust the future to the Lord, and seek His will for the present hour.

4. We are part of a story that is still being written. We are part of God’s bigger picture. And we need to be flexible during transition.

What I mean by this is that even though there are many who feel isolated and alone, or jaded by church, seeing no good purpose in it–I believe we are still part of a bigger picture. There are common threads running through our experiences that tell me that God is up to something with all this, and we don’t know what it all is going to look like. One reason the need for community is so deeply felt by the disenfranchised is that they are so alone with their feelings. Many of us feel we are the only ones who see things this way, that there is no one around us to have community with. That’s a legitimate feeling, but it won’t always be that way. This chapter is still unfolding, and this shift is still in the early stages. In the meantime…this also means that whatever forms our communities might take, we need to hold them loosely. Just because “community” looks like this today does not mean it will look the same in a few years. We should purpose in our hearts to be flexible and adaptable.

So…all this to say that despite all our concerns and fears about forming community, I think ultimately it’s better to face those concerns and not allow them to stop us. There is a deep, God-inspired need within us, and when we yield that sense of need to Jesus and ask Him to lead us, I believe He will respond to that. There may be issues of timing and healing, but ultimately, I believe the reward is well worth the risk.

That’s what I think, anyway…what about you?


City for God


Categories: changing mindsets, church, food for thought

So I’ve been tagged again, this time by Abmo…and this time it’s a bit less frivolous.

Abmo asks, with all the rhetoric that goes on in the church about “taking the city for God”–what would that look like if it really happened? What would a city look like when it’s completely won for Christ? Abmo asks that we write about it and then tag two people.

If I’d been asked this question three or four years ago, I’d have had a completely different answer than the one I’m going to give. I was at one time completely immersed in the take-your-city-for-God thing. Funny thing is, no one has ever really asked me what it would look like if it happened. And that’s probably something folks should think about–otherwise, we’re kind of like dogs chasing cars. (If the dog ever caught the car, what would he do with it? Chew the tires?)

If I’d been asked this question three or four years ago, I’d probably have described my version of a Christian “utopia”–one where everyone was nice to each other and readily obeyed what few laws were on the books; one where everyone was a Republican but loved the environment; one where sin was on the decline because there was barely any temptation; one where it didn’t matter what church you went to because everyone all got along; one where everyone was prosperous; and one where even the crops we grew were better than anyone else’s because God was blessing the land. Stuff like that. Sounds good, right?

But…I’ve come to learn there are huge differences between religious Christianity and true Christ-following. And the town I’ve described would have been based more on the religious type. And as appealing as that sort of “utopia” might seem, history consistently tells us a different story of what happens when religion and government are in bed together–which is precisely what would happen in that environment. The religious forms of Christianity have been no different in that regard (the Crusades, for example), and I don’t think a contemporary charismatic flavoring would make things any better. I’ve come to realize that this way of thinking totally misses the point when it comes to the subversive nature of the kingdom of God. So I think for this to work, we would need to scrap a lot of the existing mindsets of “taking our cities for God”, and in fact scrap our religious mindsets to ensure that whatever we had would not be corrupted by them.

That said…I have given some thought to what it might look like for a city to be won over by a true and pure desire to follow Christ, where most–if not all–citizens became true Christ-followers. And I find my picture is much different than what I had before.

If that kind of thing were to happen before Jesus returns…I think it would lead to a signifcant change of structure and a purposeful “downsizing” of the city. The population would decrease significantly, on purpose. I see two reasons for this:
  1. People who truly seek the heart of Christ will at some point share His passion to reach people who have not tasted of His love. They will take the Great Commission seriously and realize that in a city where everyone is a believer, there are no people who need to hear the gospel. A great number of the population would thus be compelled to go elsewhere.
  2. Believers would take their cue from the stagnancy of the early church in Jerusalem in the book of Acts–where it took a persecution to scatter them, because they weren’t spreading the gospel outside the city. They would have a conviction by the Holy Spirit that by keeping all the believers gathered in one locale, they would risk a stagnant, lifeless, even religious faith. Water that doesn’t move, stagnates.
Thus, I think a city truly won for Christ might honestly become a ghost town. But if the city remained, it would become a true sending place. People might come in and out for refreshing and refueling, but the focus of the city would turn outward rather than inward. If it did not…it would not remain truly Christ-centered for long before it became religious. (Back to the Christendom thing.)

The point is, as long as Jesus tarries, the Great Commission remains in effect. His disciples here on earth really need a healthy balance of being in shared fellowship with other believers and in regular contact with non-believers. I know it sounds a bit ironic, but if everyone in town became a Christian, that balance would be upset. And while I want everyone in my town to know and love Jesus the way I do…once that’s accomplished, we would need to find that balance once again. It is the very fact that so many Christians do NOT have that balance even now that causes so many of us to be religious, stagnant, and irrelevant to the world we live in. (Oops, sorry. How did that soapbox get under my feet?)

A final thought: ultimately, the final example of a “city for God” will be the New Jerusalem in Rev. 21. If you want another picture of a city that is merely dominated by religious Christianity, I’d recommend watching the movie Chocolat.

I tag Jim.

I tag Kathy.
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