Posted by: minnow | June 10, 2008

The Church has Left the Building…humm…

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.

 

 

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Responses

  1. this was one of my favorite books, i read it when it first came out & i still think about the thoughts in there. yeah, it’s time for new ways of living out our faith in really tangible ways that have nothing to do with buildings and sunday mornings, shiny & happy.

  2. Amen, Kathy!
    I’m obviously late to the party but better late than never. I’m currently reading Jesus for President. Iguess I just didn’t want the revolution to end.
    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Hey. Isn’t it important though to stay connected to “the church”? Doesn’t the Bible command us to continue to meet? If you will boycott buildings — will you also boycott small groups that were organized by a church? Will you go out of your way to meet people? Form your own ‘church’? We are not connected to God through the church — we are connected to the church through God…and this post is challenging to me. Even though I get extremely frustrated with “the church” — I believe that pulling away or turning away from the relationship is the last thing GOd would wnat me to do. He wants us to work out our issues…no?

    You are obviously a lot more experienced than I am though — I can only talk from my experience and what God has revealed to me at this point.

    GOd bless 🙂

  4. Randi–Some very good points and great questions! The Bible does indeed tell us to continue meeting together. However, I doubt the writer had the Americanized version of Building -based Christianity in mind when he wrote that.
    In some ways I think we are actually on the same page. My personal vacation from the building is so I can “work out some of my issues. Kathy Escobar (see comment above) wrote a wonderful post on the stages of faith. I want to get past the “works” stage and even the (potential navel gazing) self analysis stage to actually loving God and loving others no matter what that looks like on the outside. (You may have to read her post to understand my last comment).
    I am still “meeting with other Christians”. My husband and I go to a small group twice a month and we fellowship with another Christian couple almost weekly. At this point I have no intention of creating my own “Church”. At least not so it would be recognizably a “Church”. My husband and children still attend the fellowship we have attended since moving here so I am “connected” through them as well.
    As for being “more experienced” who can say–maybe being older gives me that but experience only matters to the extent that we learn from it.
    Hey–thanks for stopping by and come again any time!

  5. awesome! your words intrigue me. I’ll have to read more later during my son’s nap time! 🙂 I’m sure I have a lot more to think about it and respond to.

    Thanks for your words! and I will respond to your comment on my blog eventually – it’s just gonna take more than a few sentences so I have to wait until I can get my thoughts together. 🙂 thanks for you.

  6. Hello fellow traveler,

    As you’ve experienced, the leaven of the Pharisees has pretty much worked through all of the organized western church, as we can see through the obsession with “bible study”, the gift of teaching, of getting our doctrine “right”, and even of meeting in ‘church services’ when the bible clearly shows a completely different dynamic that’s supposed to be going on when believers meet.

    Now I see that the “organized church” is just an artificial substitute for the real thing, which is all through the NT scriptures but most directly in 1Cor14:12 or so. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with church services, but meeting according to God’s own blueprint is so much more important.

    When I first saw this I thought I was the only one in the world who realized it. And, just like He usually does, He led me step by step until I had found tens of thousands of believers who had sloughed off the “church service” approach/mentality and merely started just doing what the bible said: nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else.

    I was flabbergasted that I found a group of believers, loosely networked with many other groups of believers in the area, that were living the book of Acts, meeting that way, living that way, and walking with God in a way that we’d all imagined was possible but never found while doing the man-made church service program.

    The relationships were deep and satisfying, there are no more programs to mature believers but rather just walking with the Holy Spirit, Who of course wants nothing more than to grow us up, corporate worship that was spontaneous, glorious, primal, holy and wonderful all at the same time, people finally being set free from habitual sin that had dogged them for decades, people knowing each other and being known, transparency with each other, broken people being bound up and carried along, the Body with all her gifts ministering wonderfully to herself and led by the Spirit of God.

    If you haven’t run across “So You Don’t Want to go to Church Anymore” by Jake Colsen, you might find it a great blessing. You are on the right path, following the still small voice of God Who, as usual, is wooing you from the status quo and into authentic Christianity, with its ups and downs and all of it walking by faith with other people doing likewise. You won’t ever be able to go back to the artificial construct that is “church service” once you’ve tasted the real thing.

    One of the many loosely connected networks in my area is on http://www.summithome.org

    May God bless you in your Journey! What a blast!

    Hugs,

    David


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