This evening was the book launch for Paul Vieira‘s first book, Jesus Has Left the Building. I attended, drank some coffee, saw a few people I haven’t connected with in a while, and had a brief visit with Paul.
The book title comes from an interview that Opra Winfrey did with Bono a few years ago, and it deliberately gives the allusion to the notion that Jesus has left the building (the church) and the party there is over. As he was writing it, he intended that it would be his farewell to the institutional church, and the epilogue (which he read at the launch) reads that way. Paul speaks in (institutional) churches as he travels, but his message is becoming a little less welcome… he left the church a few years ago, intending to live outside the walls. Apparently the book has a “twist” at the end, which is odd for a book of this type… but for that reason, I don’t know how it ends yet. It does have the distinction of endorsement from the odd combination of Winkie Pratney and David Ruis.
The book includes Paul’s story, which is an interesting one. I’ve known Paul for probably 15-17 years or thereabouts. I know his parents, and I’m aware of several parts of his journey, though I’m looking forward to reading about other parts of it in the book. While still in high school, Paul started a small gathering in his parents’ home with some friends, singing and seeing what God would do. It grew to about 50 young people, and then over time, grew further to about 700 kids attending each month. After about 4 or 5 years, Paul and his team felt clearly that it was time to shut it down, which they did… 14 years ago today. I’m looking forward to digging into the book, and intend to blog more about it once I have.
For now, lots of resonating between people who didn’t let the door hit them on the way out one Sunday, and never looked back. This evening I even spoke with a pastor who seems restless in his role… and for him, it’s likely just a matter of time. There were quite a number there who could relate. Jesus, yes, church, no. There are so many more out there, and as Paul put it, “we’re finding each other.”
Sounds like a good reason to still have been in Winnipeg. At least for the evening. But the door DID hit me on the way out…
I used to think Jesus had left the building, and so I left. Then I discovered Jesus was still there and I was the one who left the building. But nowadays the whole discussion of whether Jesus is in the building or not strikes me as so missing the point. Jesus never cared so much whether he was in the building to start with. We were the ones who cared about that. What Jesus cared about was (and still is) whether we were carrying him to the highways.
When will we stop making church something it was never intended to be? When will we stop saying that if only church was like this, and if only church was like that, if only it wasn’t so boring, if only it was cooler and more relevant, then maybe we could reach this generation…. What the church looks like is IRRELEVANT. And it always will be. If you make it cooler they will come. And you will be obsolete again tomorrow.
Go to freakin’ church people! Suck it up and quit yer griping about how its a dinosaur and doesn’t meet your needs. Learn to make church what church was meant to be instead of spending all your time worrying about what’s the next big thing that is emerging. Be more concerned about your life and your heart, and less concerned about church. It’s only church, after all.
Apologies for the rant in your comment space Maynard. You may feel free to delete me if you so choose.
No deletion, simply disagreeing isn’t enough to warrant that! Probably bear in mind that the book title might be provocative than it should be. Paul isn’t advocating “no church” but is suggesting it be done in a more relational, smaller way than what we’ve seen. What he’s promoting would probably look very much like the church that you’re involved in yourself (the protestant one, not the Catholic one). If anything, he’d be saying stop the hype and chasing the next fad… just share your lives and be the church. I plan to blog about the book in more detail once I’ve gotten into it, so stay tuned.
The door hit me too… it was being slammed from the inside at the time, and I was glad to be on the outside when it closed! I occasionally frequent another one now where the door tends to swing as freely as you want it to, but mostly just stands open and inviting.
Thanks Maynard. :)
And hey, don’t count on the “Catholic” one I’m involved in being less relational than the “Protestant” one…. ;)
i’ve been inside the building for about 30 years. Seen Jesus sometimes, Missed him sometimes. Mostly I agree with A – that the question is probably wrong. Jesus was pretty clear on where he’d be, in the space that both separates and connects us. So he’s as likely to be in church as any other place. Or as likely not to be. The issue of church meeting ‘my needs’ is maybe okay as an entry point, but if it stays there, keeps being about meeting my needs, both i and the church become narcissic. At base, it was never about that. It was about doing the work, living the life, about connecting with the least of these, etc.
Antony — sounds about right to me!
Bill — precisely. If the building has become a place concerned with drawing and entertaining, catering to those who wish their needs filled, then it’s got the wrong makeup. I think that’s what Paul is on about… our conception of ‘church’ really isn’t the same as that, but it’s what most of North America has come to know as ‘church.’
I too was at that meeting. I bought 5 copies and had a chance to read it before that night. I think we are making no bones and no apologies about not wanting church to be programmed and institutional. I believe over the next couple of years we are going to see more and more people leaving “the building” …. even amongst those who are deemed famous like George Barna and so on. Those of you in Winnipeg are fortunate. We live in Kleefeld and there is no sign of finding other people. But we trust that if God is working in all other areas then he will work here too…….. Blessings