As seems to be more and more true these days, I had a great conversation with my friend Corey. He noticed my Facebook post about meeting with a group of fellow questioners. We hung out for the first time last night. What brings us together is a shared “unsettledness” about matters of faith that are no longer served well by the traditional models of church. We have questions, doubts, concerns, maybe even outright disagreements about what we see going on.
Corey wanted to know what it was we’re after. What are we looking for? He challenged me to name one gathering place of people that requires zero organization (I actually don’t think he was really challenging me. He just wanted me to articulate what was in my head.). He went on to ask what would happen if we were more at odds with the methods than the madness.
Everything requires some level of organization and logistics. Even the group I met with last night needed organizing. Someone had to open up their home, each of us brought sides, we had a start and end time. That’s one thing.
Establishing the legal organization (i.e. the 503c non-profit), is where it gets muddied, but not by the thing itself. The organization is an inanimate object. The problems begin with what we expect the organization to actually do and we read far too much into the Bible than what’s actually there in that regard.
From the conversation we’re having, we realize that something isn’t right, but we can’t put our finger on it. I guess that’s one reason we’re meeting: to find out what it is that isn’t quite right. We seem to agree that when you strip away what we have created from what we can actually know about Jesus, that seems to look different from what the typical organization looks and acts like.
Corey wondered if we have become dependent upon the organization, no matter the method, and less on Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
I would say that’s true. I also think we’ve also become dependent on personalities, the Christian sub-culture and all that goes with that. It’s a natural result of the methodology combined with the challenge of thinking independently. I face it…we all do. I also don’t think it’s any coincidence that the way we do church, especially in the west, rose out of a passionate commitment to capitalism and an entrepreneurial spirit. It’s the American way.
As Corey continued, he asserts that all we want is a redemptive community free from the certainty of doctrine and legalism. Where we can vulnerable and free from judgement and shame, without concern for what it looks like. After all, we learn from each other through the Spirit of God.
The constraints of having just the right theology and methodology and any other -ology is what we’re trying to get away from. What is it that we really need to be the redemptive community I believe Jesus was after?
I’m not out to change anything that already exists. I just know that as best as I can tell right now, there are others feeling similar frustrations and we’ve decided to come together and talk about it. I really enjoyed the group I was with last night and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.
Among our little tribe are a number of different perspectives. One is an outright agnostic/atheist. Another still finds much to appreciate about the local church. Still another wasn’t raised in any sort of church tradition. There’s an avowed former Baptist turned avowed feminist, a recovering fundamentalist Christian, and a former staff pastor who’s all but given up on the organized church. We pretty much run the spectrum of belief and unbelief.
What we have in common is a commitment to give each other space and have direct conversations about all the questions we have and a desire to be in community with each other. I personally want to know what it means to follow Jesus as he laid it out; before it got passed down and diluted by the events of history and imperialism and manifest destiny and baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie.
We’re not out to change the world. We’re out to discover what it means to live in grace. And maybe as we figure that out, we’ll also change ourselves.