Archive for May, 2003

PM Pilgrim – Great Post

Serious Trouble for the Church
Great post from Post-Modern Pilgrim.  Perma link not working.


The “Church Leaver” debate

The Church Leaver debate
I think some of tension between the congregationalists and the church leavers is over the appropriate structures to fulfill the purposes of the church. In general the church leavers feel that informal interpersonal relationships enable them to more effectively be the church. They don’t actually believe they are abandoning church but adopted a radically different form of it. The traditionalists have difficultly understanding how you can fulfill the purposes of the church without formalized structures. Even the earliest forms of church had certain structures in place. Their belief is if there are no structures you don’t have church.

One element of structure we see in the New Testament is leadership by elders. Todays evangelical churches are rarely lead by elders. They are lead by senior pastors. This doesn’t follow the biblical pattern but we don’t worry about it because the early church had its problems and it isn’t the perfect model for church today. They correctly argue that the issue isn’t whether we need to have elders but whether we fulfill their original function which was to provide leadership. I prefer the NT model to our current one but I agree the issue isn’t about elders its about leadership.

The church leavers start informal fellowships with no formal organized leadership. They are then criticized for not being a biblical” church because they don’t have proper leadership as they don’t have a senior pastor or elders. What people are missing is that informal groups usually do have leadership but it isn’t based on structure or position but in relational authority. The leaders are credentialed by the respect they earn from their peers.

The traditionalists have equated the structure with the purpose.

Accountability is a similar issue. Those who argue for formal church structures claim that the church leavers are exercising their faith in isolation without accountability. They equate church membership with accountability. This is because we are taught that one of the main reasons we have church membership is accountability. For many the structure evolves in to the only acceptable form of meeting the purpose. Therefore we get the idea that you can’t have accountability without being in church.

Unfortunately real accountability is extremely rare in church. Churches fill up our time with events and they establish communication patterns that make it very difficult to be real with anyone. For many Sunday morning is the only time of the week they can’t be real with anyone because we are all pretending to be holy and spiritual. In search of real fellowship people leave. Suddenly they have more time. There is no group to keep up appearances for so they can be real. They have more time and energy for their real friends. They find what they are looking for.

The advantages/disadvantages of an informal fellowship
Informal fellowships based on relationships fulfill some purposes of the church much better than the established church does. Many of the negative side affects of traditional ministry are absent from a purely relational approach. Conversely there are some purposes a small group of believers can’t fulfill by themselves. They can’t run homeless shelters, ministry training facilities, conferences, or soup kitchens. To live out its mandate the church needs to do things that require formal organization.

They haven’t abandoned church
It’s not fair to accuse the church leavers” of abandoning church. They have abandoned a form of church for another one that is more effectively meeting their immediate needs. One of their major needs is recovery from the dysfunction of traditional churches. Let them recover.

The church hasn’t always been as messed up as we are
One of the reasons I’ve heard for maintaining the status quo is that all churches are messed up and we need to stick with it because its the only thing we got. This point completely misses the monumental difference between today’s church and the early church as well as groups like the early Methodists and Anabaptists. Throughout history God has used the church to transform society around it. Today society changes us. The church has always had its problems but we are foolish to think that all previous forms of church were just as messed up” as we are.

Wake up call
Thousands and thousands of Christians have left established churches. Most of them say they are healthier now than when they left. Why then do we feel the need to criticize them for abandoning church”? Should it not be an obvious wake up call that deeply devoted followers of Christ are leaving the established church to find more of Him outside the system? Our most common response is to attack the people that leave. Is this not missing the point entirely? The church needs a deep radical reformation and telling people to suck it up and come back to church is not going to solve the problem. There is something deeply and grievously wrong with church today.

My Journey
I moved to the fringes of church about 5 years ago. During these blessed desert” years I recovered from church. My relationship with God and my study of scripture lead me back to institutions, albeit cautiously. Now I see things I never would have seen before. I’m much more aware of how accepted church values contradict kingdom values. I think there are going to be a lot of people who cautiously creep back in to formal organization. They will do it equipped with the knowledge how to create a better environment for real fellowship and real accountability. They will be able to lead new forms of the church that are more effective than the ones we have. If as a leader in an established ministry you are genuinely concerned about the church leavers I would say relax. God is taking care of them. If your primary concern is your own ministry and the success of your church you should be worried because these people will never go back to the old forms of church.


The Pursuit of Religious Success

The Pursuit of Religious Success
In this fantastic prophetic allegory is a simple dialogue about worship. The Traveler is a man who has left Christian City” and is seeking the city of God. The Traveler must pass through 4 wildernesses. It is in the second wilderness, the wilderness of worship, is where this dialogue takes place.

Suddenly a person of unearthly beauty is standing a few feet away from the traveler. “Greetings,” the being says. “It’s a long way across this stretch. Many have perished trying to make it on foot. I offer you a better way.”

“A better way?” Asks the traveler. “Yes, I have the power to cross this wilderness in a split second. And if you will let me, I can take you with me. I can have you safe on the other side directly.”

“What must I do?”

“All I require is a token act. If you will merely kneel to pay me homage, I will lift you across this wilderness with the speed of light..”

“But that would be to worship you, wouldn’t it?”

“Why do you find that strange? People do it every day. You did it yourself long before you came to this wilderness. The citizens often worship me in Christian City. Some there worship money–serve it like slaves. Their eyes light up at the thought of it. But the love of money is only a symbol of my reality.”

“You aren’t reaching me with your talk of money. It’s never been a problem in My life,” the traveler retorts. “How about romance? What could be more beautiful or innocent than being in love? But when the state of being in love becomes a goal and dominates the mind, there is idolatry involved. And it is ‘yours truly’ behind that idol,” he says triumphantly. “But the most personally satisfying worship I receive comes from men and women who are pursuing religious successes.”

When I first read this I didn’t understand what the pursuit of religious success was. Now that I’ve been in ministry I understand it all too well.


Back in the loop: Blessings out of Tragedy

No Comments

Blogging: Advice for Church Websites

No Comments

What church is biblical?

What church is biblical?
The following is a comment I posted on Rachel‘s site.  The discussion is over Wayne Jacobsen’s article.

What church is biblical? The church in Jerusalem looked very different from the one in Corinth. Even in the beginning church looked different in different situations. My church isn’t “biblical” and chances are yours isn’t either. Perhaps Wayne has found a form of fellowship that works for him where he is right now. That might sound relativistic but there is no church formula.

These days there are many are talking about how we do church. I believe this is missing the point.

One of the key questions we are not asking is “Why?” Why organize? Is it because we believe can accomplish more for the kingdom together than in isolation? It’s a nice thought but that can’t be true because so many of our churches do little to further the kingdom and it doesn’t seem to bother us. Is it accountability? In most church meetings people are anonymous listening drones unable to communicate with anyone. In reality churches rarely hold anyone to account because they fear the political and economic fallout.

If we truly and honestly look at why we do things we will find that we are far from the purposes of God’s kingdom. So much of what we do in God’s name is about us in one way or another. I’m not bothered by people who don’t organize because I know they aren’t trying to build anything for themselves. I believe that the greatest failure of today’s church isn’t its structures or its underlying philosophy, its the temptation and deceitfulness of religious success.

1 Comment

A Churchless Faith

No Comments

Why I don't go to church anymore

No Comments

Brian McLaren unlikely leader of 'emerging church' movement

No Comments

Fred Peatross launches

Fred Peatross launches
I’m proud to say I was the developer on this project.  Working with Fred was great.  I really like how we incorporated spiritual themes right in to the design.  I’m expecting good things from his blog.

If you are interested in getting started with blogging or would like to your site to the next level my company can help.  Jordon, Jeb and I are all hard core bloggers.  We believe in this medium and we would love to assist you.