Seems there’s some misunderstanding about the journey we’re on. To some, it looks like the journey to leave the church we’re in… which to me is evidence that we aren’t explaining it very well. Given that observation, I thought it might help to take another stab at it in hopes of clarifying it in my own mind if nowhere else.
- I long for a church that is low-key. I’m tired of hype, I’m tired of noise, and I’m tired of intensity. I used to like all those things, but I no longer equate these with “signs of life.” I long for something more contemplative, a place that can acknowledge worship as being intellectual as well as emotional.
- I long for a church with deep interpersonal relationships. I was attracted to a place that talked about relationships and tried to build relationally, but with growth, time, and change, what started as relational has become merely functional. Faith walks need camaradarie, lives shared one with another.
- I long for the attainable challenge of Jesus. Put the other way, I’m tired of being challenged, by which I refer not to the challenge of the gospel or the challenge of Jesus, but to the challenge of leaders who seem to continually push for greater levels of sanctification. Ever unattainable, this leaves one straining for an unreachable goal and feeling cast down for falling short. To elaborate, this causes a situation in which a believer perpetually feels or is actually considered “not quite good enough” to engage in ministry. I long for the challenges which God give the grace to attain, rather than the challenges of men which one strives fruitlessly to attain.
- I long for a decentralized structure, and I long for servant leadership among peers. Power corrupts, which is a danger in the church as anywhere else… and a heirarchical structure is the breeding-ground for the corruption of church leaders. Jesus talked about this, about what can happen to church leaders who start well but end up enamoured with their positions. Practically speaking, this drives the necessity for decentralization so that the structures can be interrelated but independently manageable in smaller sizes.
- I long for a culturally relevant church. I don’t understand why cross-cultural missionaries attempt to understand culture to present the gospel within it, while churches in the developed world tend to simply withdraw from their own culture, often condemning its evils. Unfortunately for them, our culture is filled with people who need to see real Christianity in action they’ve seen enough caricatures of Christianity already. Being culturally relevant in the early 21st century means understanding -gasp!- postmodernism.
- I long for a church that can be outwardly-focused without constantly pushing evangelism on the congregation, and for a church that does not relate evangelism with church growth as an end.
- I long for a church that recognizes the value of ancient traditions. I’ve long been saddened by the iconophobia in many evangelical circles, discomfort with symbolism, suspicion toward any type of mysticism, and the ignoring of rich faith traditions from Advent to Passover.
- I long for a church that is not uncomfortable with mystery or with the sacraments. The evangelical understanding I’ve been taught on the Eucharist is anemic, and the standard baptism explanation of “an outward symbol of an inward faith” misses the spiritual act, which still has an element of mystery in it.
- I long for a church that recognizes the value of story. Scripture is story, and so are the lives it touches. One cannot presume to talk about relationship without recognizing the importance of personal stories.
So this is the path I’m on… I am seeking a place that is in pursuit of the things I long for. If I can’t find a place like that, I’ll find some people who are in pursuit of the things I long for, and together we’ll create such a place. The path I’m on is the pursuit of these things I long for in the church.
Is this path a reaction to church? Partly. It would be easy to list the things I don’t like about the church and give that as the reason to leave… but that really misses the heart of it. Please understand that I’m not mad at the church. I have been frustrated, but the path I’m on puts an end to the frustration and helps me to be able to avoid getting mad. To unpack that a little, I’ve tried for several years to change things. Big things, small things, things that bug me, things I think are wrong. Let’s just say there’s resistance, and leave it at that for now. It does tell me that this church will never be what I hope for, and efforts to change it will only result in frustration and/or pain. In other words, no good will come from my efforts to change it… it is what it is. Now, I’m not dismissing the church or writing it off. On the contrary, I consider it a part of my heritage; for many years it was a rich part, and something for which I’m deeply thankful. On the other hand, I’ve reached the point where I long for different things than the things I longed for when I first signed on.
So the basic thing about this journey is the same as about any journey… it’s not about the place we’re leaving, it’s about the place we’re going. Even if we don’t know where we’re going; it wouldn’t be the first such journey instigated by God.
I hope that helps. I feel better, anyway at least for now. I’m sure there’s more to follow.
Well Maynard, I very nearly could have written this post myself word for word about a year ago. The path you descibe is the same path that I have been following. In just about every detail it sounds like. I know you already knew that you are not alone, but I’ll remind you of that anyway. You are not alone. Prayers here for the further north. Peace.
I really resonate with all your longings you shared. thanks …
Wow, me too. I long to pastor in a church like that. I suppose that means that I have some responsibility in bringing it about…
I feel like you’ve just opened a door in my mind that I didn’t even know was there.
This reminds me of the many talks we had back in Bible college days. My response is two-fold:
(1) I’m so grateful to God that the years in between college and today have not dulled your passion to see the BOdy become something more than Churchianity.
(2) I’m grieved (not overwhelmed, just saddened) that so little has changed in the church at the same time.
I’m with Arlen — you’re putting into words what I’ve been saying & thinking as well. Although, I have to point out to Arlen, that he’s actually far SOUTH of Brother Maynard, in the balmy tropics of Minnesota. They don’t call it “Winterpeg” for nothing! :)
Oops… My stupid.
Sorry, Arlen, I thought you said “from the further north”, not “FOR the further north”…
I blame it on de-caf coffee.
Thanks for taking the time to articulate what many of us resonate with but struggle to put into words. I so appreciate the wordsmiths among us! Having taking two huge van journeys (10 days on the road the first trip, 8 days on the road the second trip) this past year with my husband and three children (5 years old and under) I’ve learned that if I only focussed on the destination then I missed all the “joy in the journey” that was to be had. So, cheers and here’s to the journey!
Thanks all, for the comments and blog links… I find a lot of resonance with my online journey-mates. Either it’s okay, we’re not alone – or we’re all nuts. I’ll settle for either one, at least it’s good company.
This post was partially to adjust the perception that I’m all about leaving something… but I don’t see myself fleeing as much as pursuing, so I think I’ve been able to state that much better here. fwiw, I’m not looking for a place that provides all I long for, just one that is also pursuing those things. On reflection, I think that to some extent the ability to state this in positive terms rather than negative ones is in part an indication of where one is in the detox process.
I am somewhat tempted to camp here for a short while and elaborate on each point in further blog posts… we’ll see what happens. In the small group that we meet with to discuss these types of pursuits (which is becoming a faith community of its own), we’re considering many of these questions, what we value, what guidelines need to be established, and so forth… so it’s something that needs to be in my thoughts these days.
btw Arlen, some of your offlist correspondence with one of our groupies was read out when we met together on Saturday evening… good insights you had to offer, thanks for that.
And Robbymac, you should know that “decaf coffee” is an oxymoron, like “Microsoft Operating System” or “disposable income.”
Gratia Vobis et Pax
why would u…?… if God didn’t tell u a thing about it…
Thanks for your comments on your journey. As a young pastor who will soon be planting a new church in the college town of Lafayette, Indiana, I am really interested in what kind of church will reach other postmodern-minded people.
However, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat concerned by your list. I don’t want to sound critical, so I’ll just mention this briefly…
Your ideal church sounds great and wonderful, but it sounds “passive,” for lack of a better word, to me. I mean, the church in the book of Acts was clearly just as community-driven as the church you hope to find, but the issue of “sacrament” was far less of a deal than the issue of “evangelism.”
I dream of a church where people can be authentically themselves as well as be motivated to help others become more authentically themselves too.
As I write this last line, I can’t help but think of the irony of saying “I want” when I talk about the church. When push comes to shove, it’s not about what we want in a church anyway. It’s really about what God wants. Maybe it’s time for us to rediscover…
1. Love God
2. Love others
3. Follow Jesus
4. Make disciples
“it’s not about the place we’re leaving, it’s about the place we’re going”. This is so helpful to me. There was a time where I was being driven by my fear of what the mainstream church is. I kept trying to resolve it, to fix it, to figure out why I could not fit in so that I could be made right. I spent years repenting because I could not be at peace with what I saw happening around me. Then I began to realize that it really is not my problem, or better, it is not my calling to fit in much less to fix it. I began realizing that I could stop running away from what the church is and begin running toward what the church will be. Being driven is about running away from something dreadful that is behind you. Calling is about running toward something wonderful that is ahead of you.
Well put, CJ. It’s so much better to have your motivation in front of you rather than behind you… if you have to keep shoulder checking, you’re more likely to trip on something in your path.
Gotta love them metaphors!
I finally figured out that trying to change where I was would have no effect but to lead to pain and frustration for all concerned.
“if you have to keep shoulder checking, you’re more likely to trip on something in your path.” Yep, my point exactly. Hence all of the pain and frustration. I am still a bit scraped up but I don’t stumble nearly as often anymore.
Bless you brother.
Thanks for these nine longings and their ongoing relevance to today. Seems like community with God, and each other, lived out into the world might be a fitting summary. I’m working on a post that may resonate.
You wrote this almost three years ago but tonight it was a fresh word to me. I had been reading robbymac’s detox stuff (so encouraging) and found the link. I’m in detox and it has felt lonely. Glad to find others have walked this road. So glad. I threw my hands in the air and shouted (silently, for the sake of my sleeping children) “YES!” when I read #4. ‘Course my heart resonated with most of what you wrote. Thank you. Thank you for being honest and vulnerable.