In a number of my entries, I am highlighting certain flaws and indescrepancies that I’ve observed in institutional Christianity (i.e., what most people refer to as “church”). If you catch me on a day when I’m ranting, you’re liable to think that I (like many others) am just jaded and bitter and looking for a place to spew venom.
But the truth is, this is a journey, a process–not a destination. I know that in my ramblings, however random they might appear, I am going somewhere. In fact, I believe Jesus is taking me somewhere. This isn’t merely a journey away from something; it is a journey toward something.
In any process, there is transition, and things can be messy in transition. Another blog I’m reading, “Love Wins”, had an entry a day or two ago about criticisms of the emerging church (see the entry here). The criticism was essentially that emergents have a tendency to slam and ridicule evangelicals, especially on the blogosphere. While I don’t condone malicious ridicule, I do understand that part of the reason for this is that emerging Christians are in the process of reacting to the things they found wrong with the evangelical church. Before you can construct something new, there is a natural de-constructing of the old. We have to be patient during this process, because it is not finished yet.
Seems to me there’s something even Biblical about the de-construction/re-construction process. Jeremiah’s prophetic commission was two-fold, according to Jer. 1:10. There was a “plucking up, breaking down, destroying, and overthrowing” part; and then there was a “building and planting” part.
Growing up in various forms of institutional Christianity, I was able to see a lot of things that were unjust, un-Christlike, and restrictive about the system. And when I compared what I saw around me to what actually appears in Scripture, I was increasingly surprised at how much of our institutionality is NOT supportable by Scripture. These church systems are man-made, and granted, they have helped us fulfill many principles in the Bible over the centuries. But the institution we’ve created is by no means the ONLY way to fulfill Scripture.
For the longest time, I looked at the flaws of the institution, and looked and hoped for ways to help the situation. I told myself, “God isn’t finished with His church,” and believed that He’d just supernaturally somehow make people better, so the inconsistencies of the institution would just go away. But gradually I realized that maybe “fixing” the institution isn’t the answer. Maybe there are better ways to be a follower of Jesus and fulfill Scripture. Maybe there is something more, something real…or at least, something more real.
This is why I say I’m on a journey toward something, not just away from something. I’m not running away from institutional Christianity; I’m leaving it behind because I believe there is a better, more lifegiving way to live my faith.
So be patient with me during my rantings, because my de-constructing will lead me to re-constructing. And I’d say this to others like me who are reacting to the abuses of institutionalism: if you do not allow this to take you toward something better, your journey is incomplete, and you will inevitably become bitter. Don’t just be about what is wrong; be looking for that “something more, something real.”