Monday, August 30, 2010

So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore - Or Are Thinking About It

I once worked as a wedding photographer. One of my last shoots (eventual pun intended) was for a guy that owned a weaponry store. The groomsmen were all armed with handguns. The groom even had a walking stick with a 28" sword in it... yeah, really. HERE is a look.

I am 2nd amendment guy, but guns and champagne do NOT go together. A little nervous, I had them pose with the weapons (so that the bride could use them to procure an restraining order in the future.). It was sort of a fun shot, but I was glad to see the pistols go back in their holsters. Part of what made me uncomfortable was that I was not part of the weapon culture. The guys talked about getting shot and stabbed; offering to show scars from whatever their day jobs were in the past. No, I didn't ask any questions. I can say that the groom was the most generous tipper I have ever come across. That's all I have to say.

Culture, simply defined; is a group of folks that get together who create and follow behaviors, practices and mannerisms that seem to make them feel comfortable with those around them. And, on occasion, they try to solve common problems. If it weren't true, there would be no such thing as a stereotype.

Church is a culture.

The church has always had trouble with culture, whether religious of secular. Jesus clashed with culture suggesting that a Samaritan was more like God because he dressed the wounds of the man found on the roadside. He clashed with Pilate and the Pharisees too. He shook up the woman at the well as He crossed cultural lines, and astounded the woman taken in adultery with loving forgiveness, not judgment.

Jesus was bringing the culture of the Kingdom of Heaven right here to earth. (Matt 4:17) Breaking with culture is tough to do. (Matt 11:12) In the church's struggle to be be appealing, we still cannot become the culture that we are meant to change; yet somehow we need to be relevant, don't we?

It is a tough job that every church program ever written was meant to answer in some way.

The answer is also a question: who cares? Jesus said that we are meant to do what we see the Father doing. Are we doing that? I believe, for the most part, not really. It is sad. So many are caught up in religion, denominations and American Christian Culture; much of which; is not working!

20 years ago a famous minister brought his brand of the American Gospel to Manila in the Philippines. It didn't work, because the prosperity gospel didn’t feed needy people in the trash dumps. Fortunately he was convicted.

Another ministry went to Africa and had zero experience with the demonic. They tried to convert, with the sinner's prayer, a witch doctor who cursed them and they became ill. Sure, you can tell yourself it was the food, but bread and water doesn't shriek, demons do.

More recently a well meaning group of Baptists went to Haiti to bring children home for adoption. They were all arrested.

Christianity and culture do not easily mix. When they do it is often more about religion than Jesus.

Here, I am going to confess, that I stopped writing because I had run out of time after starting this blog. I sometimes work on them on-and-off for weeks until they make sense to me. I don't often know how a blog will end, and some times they simmer in edit mode for quite some time. I knew this one was going to go somewhere even if it took a lot of copy and pasting. I changed the title 3 or 4 times hoping for something catchy to reveal the contents within. Since then, I read a book. It has been two years since I've read a book other than the Bible (which I read something from pretty much every day).

The title of the book was So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore. Coincidentally, it's all about what I have written here today and in my a number of past blogs. I suggest you read it today or tomorrow. But don't wait. It's free in PDF format.

It is a wonderful story - a tad long on the problems facing the evangelical church - but I've been around a long time. It was right on the money as it exposes religious guilt, disconnection from God, obligation and commitment from Heaven's perspective. I didn't hear anything new, but it made me evaluate some of the principals I think are important when I think of church. It gave a voice to some of my frustrations with the church culture I have been exposed to.

The authors and I agree, "don't go to church, be the church."

It is really speaks to how to have a "real," as opposed to contrived, personal relationship with Jesus in which you actually trust and hear from Him - I am all about that!

It takes aim at church culture from mega-church to home-group and and tries to dismantle the myths of fellowship, teaching and various other parts of religious practice, while; offering a consistent solution that includes a lot of relationship!

Wayne Jacobsen and Dave Colman promote their own brand of Christianity, yet their principals of grace, love and fellowship are spot on. I will say this. Once they have dismantled "religion" they leave the reader wondering what the answer is. I won't give away the surprise ending.

Here's why I give this book an 8 out of 10 rating.

- It effectively dismantled the myth of "going to church" and rightly focused on relating to Jesus.
- It focused on relationships; love and concern for others.
- It addresses some difficult things that happen in church which a lot of folks don't want to mention.
- It was proactive in pushing back on religious aspects of our devotional life. Who would have thought you could be religious about devotions?
- It gives a voice to anyone who has felt empty or abandon in church.
- It left room for the Spirit. I love the scene where a few folks were praying and others were not.
- I love the idea of church being a family.
- It mentioned gifting (which I think the authors don't get really - but they mentioned it.)
- I love the "don't go to church, be the church" mantra. Been mine for many years.
- Loved the healing, the confrontation of sinners, the getting down to the day-to-day....
- Trusting God

All excellent.

A couple of things yours truly thought could have been mentioned:
- It didn't really present a way of doing church - I still think there is a lot in Ephesians 4. (NOT Titles and positions, but the use of spiritual gifts) - but if we are relying Jesus, then He'll tell us, right?
- It was a little weak on things like discipleship, teaching and some of the stuff we should be doing. IE: Great commission, prayer, communion, (Acts 2:42) and the like.

Please don't take this as a negative. I think every Christian should read this book. It is time to look at what, and how we do church and evaluate it. Start today.

So, how do you like going to church?


Tony C said...

I'm going to spend time this week reading this book. I'll be back to comment when I'm done.

I love free books!

photogr said...

This book sounds interesting. Will read it when I have time.

Can't say that I don't like going to church because I do. Other wise I would not go out on my own and seek others also seeking God.

The part that I don't like in church is the politics and restraints found. Not all but a few churches I visited have become self serving on the congregation rather than serving God.

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