Hmmm. Bear in mind that “Church” isn’t something you “go to” unless you’re an “outsider,” I guess. Duane Cottrell is Looking for Church: “People keep asking me where I’m going to church. I’m only slightly annoyed by that question…” He has three primary criteria in the church he’s looking for though.
First, he’s looking for a non-self-centred gospel and the understanding that salvation is not just a future thing: “the Gospel is an invitation into a new life-God’s life-through Jesus Christ, and that life begins now.”
Secondly, he considers the way they approach spiritual formation
Most churches are places where people have to hide their sin. And when I say sin, I’m not necessarily talking about big, hairy, nasty sins. I’m talking about the fact that you haven’t opened your Bible or prayed in a month. Or, that you saw a person with a need you could meet, but instead of helping you chickened out. A real church would be a place to come and work through these issues with people who are right in the middle of it with you. Imperfect people helping other imperfect people become less imperfect.
Thirdly, reliance on “non-cognitive” spiritual disciplines. It sounds like he’s looking for a church much like the one I long for, the one which I finally decided if it was to be, it must be created by me and the like-minded folks around me. Duane notes a problem, though…
The problem I have, really, is not that churches like I have described do not exist. I am fairly certain that they might. The problem is that I am not ready for one. I understand the kind of commitment required in a church like this. I understand the level of intimacy necessary in a community that has these attributes. And, I am well aware that a church like this would completely change my whole life. The hardest part of answering the question, “Why aren’t you going to church,” is explaining the things I have attempted to explain here. The easy answer is simply to say, “I’m not ready.” Either way, I’m telling the truth.
Maybe I’m not ready for it either… but in getting together and journeying with some like-minded folks, we can probably all get there together. The alternative is extended times of not doing “church” at all… something many of us have been through, whether we stop going or whether we go and we aren’t really “there.” The other day I ran into an old college friend and had time for only a brief exchange of ‘journey notes.’ He’d taken about three and a half years “off” of church… and you know, there’s a lot of that going around. He, like many, is finding new life in ancient tradition, and is returning to “church” but not like the one he left. In view of a mass church exodus, somebody else put the question, “When are they coming back?” The answer is, they’re not… not to anything like what they left behind.
Hey, wait a minute… Exodus …now there’s a good name for an emerging church reacting to the constraints of what they formerly knew.