I just finished reading Shane Claiborne’s book, The Irresistible Revolution. If you have not read it I highly recommend you do. If you have become frustrated with and have left the Church (aka: Building-Based Christianity as I prefer to call it), or have become frustrated but have not left the Church (yet), or want to become frustrated for a good reason, then read Claiborne’s book. For the first time (at least in a way in which I could hear) someone told me the frustrations I have felt/feel toward Building-Based Christianity may actually be healthy, necessary, and a “gift”. Frankly, I usually hear terms like divisive and heretical so Claiborne’s voice was quite refreshing.
Ironically, another emerging voice (Claiborne’s) and not the blaring trumpet from the traditional pulpit has caused me to pause and re-evaluate my persistent desire to walk out of the Building and shake the dust from my feet as I go. The last time that happened I had just finished reading Brian McLaren’s book, Generous Orthodoxy. The fact that McLaren could find something to appreciate about so many different expressions of the Christian faith caused me to think I should maybe stick around and look a little harder for the good and praise worthy. At the same time, I also started to understand my role as a disciple (believer) in a new way.
I do not remember being taught overtly that questioning Church authority was wrong or even ill advised. Still over the years that message was conveyed loudly and clearly. As a result I internalized most of my frustration. Each time one of the questions came bubbling to the surface I dutifully tried to stuff it back where it came from by reprimanding myself for undermining authority, not having enough faith, or having a critical spirit. But, eventually the questions started winning. And, about three years ago I simply could not turn them off anymore.
If those feelings had been something new I might have asked my husband if we could go to a different fellowship or at least a new small group. But the reality is I have eventually felt discontent in every fellowship I have ever gone to as an adult. (Due to a variety of reasons, most often moves, I have gone to nine different fellowships). Once the fellowship I attended was actually toxic and I had a good reason for leaving but each of the other times a dullness or an impatience set in and I just wanted out. Most often I was bored and could not get motivated to do anything. Or, I was frustrated because no one else was doing anything. Leadership seemed in-grown, unapproachable, stifling, exclusive, controlling, in a constant state of transition, legalistic, or stuck chasing after manifestations. The times my husband and I were a part of leadership we often felt helpless and confused. Doing Church was hard work and rarely enjoyable or fruitful. At times we felt both called and excommunicated, spirit-filled and dry, excited and lost. I became depressed, discouraged and angry.
I quit praying. I quit reading my Bible. I quit wanting to go to Church. I quit caring. I quit believing. Well, almost. It was like the fairy godmother told Cinderella–if she completely quit believing the fairy godmother could not be there. I could not quite quit believing. I could not quite quit caring. And, I could not quite quit praying. But the caring and the praying and the believing started to look differently.
I am taking a break from the Building for a little while. I need to learn how to walk without so much judgment toward leadership and the Church in general. I also want to figure out what it means to walk in Christ’s footsteps in my daily life and not just on Sunday morning or when I am with my Christian friends. My prejudices are very real and very ugly. Thanks to books like Generous Orthodoxy and The Irresistible Revolution I have been encouraged to confront them, to give Church another chance. Still next Sunday after I get off work, instead of hurrying home to get ready to go to Church. I might stop off at a local coffee shop and try to figure out what it means to be the Church. And Saturday, after work, maybe I will stop by the food bank at our Building, to see if I can lend a hand. And perhaps between now and then I will get a little closer to answering some of my questions.
Thank you, Shane Claiborne, for your testimony and your encouragement. Thank you for introducing me to The Irresistible Revolution.