Thursday, February 12, 2015

I have just started reading "A Churchless Faith" by Alan Jamieson, a pastor and sociologist in Great Britain.  Jamieson did his sociology research on people who were leaving what he calls "EPC" churches in Great Britain (Evangelical, Pentecostal and Charismatic). He arrives at some surprising conclusions, the central one being that most of the church leavers, left in order to continue their spiritual growth. The church they were attending had become the major obstacle to further maturity.

Here is a particularly  telling passage and quote from page 103 about what I would call paternalism in church leadership, leading to perpetual child-like dependency in the church members:

from page 103:

Jamieson develops a four part typology of stages of leaving church that also represents stages of personal growth. I will be posting on those in the next few weeks.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

An elegant argument

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook. It is an actual sign along I-65 in Alabama ...

I personally like it better than ...

"Come to our church--we have Starbucks coffee and donuts" or - "Come to our church, our worship band is the shit" .....


(I'm on a roll now) "Come to our church, our super cool pastor wears jeans and super cool nerdy glasses and will give you 3 keys to a happy and fufilled life" .... yeah ... the devil is kinda growing on me ...

yup, a the devil seems like a more honest motivation to me

Monday, January 26, 2015

Postchurch and the people of God

I’m trying to break the habit of using the word “church.” It just has too many meanings: The Church, The Church Universal, the invisible Church, churches, local church, the city church, mega-church, purpose-driven-church, the missional church, the emerging church, house church, simple church, organic church.

It was not always this way. The people of God have been around for a long time, at least since Abraham or even Noah. The people of God in Abraham’s day were called a family. In his son’s era, they became the tribes of Israel. Another a couple of hundred years later, the people of God were a nation. Then they built a temple (we could argue the point, but I don’t think that God particularly wanted a temple, he seemed quite content in a tabernacle, and a temple could not contain him anyway. Evidence? Every time they tried to rebuild the temple, he allowed it to be destroyed).

During and after the Babylonian captivity, the Jews began to meet for prayer and to study the scriptures in synagogues as long as they could muster a quorum of twelve heads of households. Without access to a temple, they could no longer offer the blood sacrifices and so Judaism set out on its long transformation from a national identity to become a major world religion that has changed the course of world history.

After the three years of the ministry of Jesus, the people of God came to be called “followers of the way” (that phrase always reminds me of the Dao and Chinese Daoism).

In the gentile city of Antioch, they first became known a Christians (little Christs) and somewhere not long after, St. Paul borrowed the secular term “ekklesia” from Koine Greek to describe the new communities of Jews and Gentiles that were coming together to follow Jesus. Ekklesia was a Greek political term for secular city assemblies (it was used twice in Acts 20 to describe the near riot of the silversmiths who were losing their business of making representations of the goddess Diana in Ephesus).

Why didn't Paul just use the word “synagogue” and give it a distinctively Christian meaning? Because he was developing something new, a community of God’s people that was not Jewish. So he selected a new word, ekklesia, with a secular Greek meaning  (Paul Banks, "Paul's Idea of Community).

In the gospel of Matthew, the word “church” only occurs twice. However, it is highly unlikely that Jesus actually used the Greek word “ekklesia” in Matthew 16 when he spoke of building his people on the rock of revelation, or in Matthew 18 where he spoke of taking an unresolved conflict “to the church.” He was speaking in Aramaic (not Greek), and when the gospels were written some thirty years later, Matthew simply inserted the word that had become standard through the work of St. Paul among Greek-speaking believers, to represent what Jesus had meant when he spoke of the congregation of God’s people.

Fast forward to 1610 and the King James translation of the Bible. The most obvious English word to use in translation of ekklesia would have been congregation or perhaps assembly, both of which give a word picture of people gathering, rather than a building. But the problem was that the Church of England, recently separated from Rome, had a lot of cathedrals that required upkeep and maintenance. Using a word like “congregation” might undermine support for the cathedrals, so the translators adopted a word related to the Scottish “Kirk” which had some roots in German. Thus, we ended up with the morass of meanings that currently come under the huge umbrella of “Church.”
I think it is time to stop going to church and to become the people of God.  Wherever two or three are gathered together (in his name) … Jesus promised he would show up.  

What comes after church? We really don’t know yet, so for now I will call it Postchurch. I don't like using another iteration containing the word "church" but it will have to do for now until something better comes along. Perhaps "meetup"?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

5 Reasons Why American Evangelicalism Completely Lost Me

I was reading a blog by Benjamin Corey on Patheos about why he would not consider returning to Evangelicalism and it resonated with some things I am writing in my current book project, “The Four Walls of Evangelical Christianity,” especially his point #4, that Evangelical Christianity is obsessed with taking power over our culture, which goes with my chapter on “The Theology of Dominance.” I am also currently reading John Davison Hunter’s book about the failed Evangelical attempt to change our secular culture through the efforts of the religious right (To Change the World, The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibilityof Christianity in the Late Modern World).

Below are the highlights of Benjamin Corey’s blog post which you can read in its entirety here.

5. Today’s Evangelicalism looks more like a political movement than Jesus.
Just try to have a regular conversation with the average Evangelical– chances are they’ll talk more about the political battles of the day than they’ll speak of Jesus, and that should be a major red flag to anyone who wants to pursue Jesus with reckless abandon. Without their political identity, many Evangelicals would not have a sense of identity at all.

4. Today’s Evangelicalism is obsessed with power.
The invitation of Jesus is to become a “servant of all,” setting aside the need/desire for power so that one can busy themselves taking the lowliest of positions– that of a servant. Since Evangelicalism has become more of a political movement than something that is part of the Jesus movement, its focus has shifted from becoming a servant to gaining and maintaining power.
When you combine the quest for power with political ideologies that are completely foreign to Christianity itself, they find themselves in a big mess– which is the state of American Evangelicalism today.

3. Today’s Evangelicalism seems generally unteachable and unwilling to wrestle with theology.
Too many Evangelicals are willing to learn only if new learning will reenforce what they already believe. There’s little room for growth, reinterpretation, or the constant need for contextualization of the scriptures. For a movement that prides itself on following the scriptures, I’m repeatedly shocked at the unwillingness to see what the scriptures actually say and the willingness to malign those who attempt to point the movement back to the source.

2. Today’s Evangelicalism doesn’t seem to share Jesus’ heart for outsiders.
Jesus was among the excluded, and lived a life where he was constantly inviting the others who were excluded to come in and have a seat at the table. Jesus was passionate about including people one would never think should be included.
Today’s Evangelicalism on the other hand, seems to be in a perpetual cycle of always redefining the lines– not to draw people in, but to keep even more people out. Instead of throwing a banquet and inviting in the outcasts (an image Jesus painted through one of his parables) it seems that Evangelicalism is more concerned with maintaining purity of the label than it is interested in inviting others to see and experience the “Good News” for which Evangelicalism is named after.
We should constantly be looking for ways to build bridges and invite people in–not building walls in order to keep people out.

1. Today’s Evangelicalism punishes people by withholding of relationships.
I’ve experienced what happens to Evangelicals who dare to question, who dare to read their Bibles, and who dare to actually apply some of Jesus’ teachings (such as the command to nonviolently love our enemies): the punishment of having all of my relationships taken away from me.
Whereas a year and a half ago I had a church family and a circle of friends in my local area, today we are completely isolated– all of the friends we had have now packed their bags and left. I may be widely read but in my local area, I have a total of one real-world friend left, and even he has admitted the he gets questioned by others as to why he’s friends with me.
Today’s Evangelicalism does this to folks who think outside Evangelical lines– it strips them of relationships, cuts them off, and severs ties. I can’t count the number of emails I get with folks sharing their stories in this regard– it is sadly all too commonplace.