Sunday, February 20, 2011

Instead of "Church" as usual

Since becoming an ex-church member through the modern wonder of email excommunication I have had time to catch up on some reading. One of the books that has caught my attention is a little gem entitled Pagan Christianity. In their book George Barna, Christian culture researcher extraordinaire and Frank Viola, house church guru, have undertaken the task of unmasking some of the modern churches most closely held practices and revealing their true origins. While many of these are based in Biblical texts, the modern versions often vary widely from the original.

They tackle ten of the most essential facets of modern church life
The Church Building
The Order of Worship
The Sermon
Professional Pastors
Sunday Morning Dress Codes
Professional Music Ministers
Tithing and Clergy Salaries
The Lord's Supper
Christian Education

While many Christians are already confident that the fellowship they attend is doing things “by the book” some of us are curious trouble makers who like to ask questions such as, “What does scripture have to say about this.”

If you are one of “those” people who stir up trouble wherever you go and are never happy unless you are tearing something down, or blowing things up like me. (dripping with sarcasm, but these are the things I have recently been accused of, without any specific accusations of course) then I highly recommend this book. If you are not, avoid it like the plague, because the copiously researched footnotes may upset your apple cart and start you down the road to questioning the teachings and practices of your own congregation.

Over the next little while I am going to delve into these areas a little more in my personal thinking and, being the firebrand that I am I will be sharing my conclusions here for anyone who cares to read them. This is, of course, my blog, and as such my personal platform to say anything I like. But, I love dialogue and will post any comment that is not obscene, so joint in the conversation, or read the book, write your own blog and leave a link to it here.

Here is why I think this is important. We are moving into an interesting time, whether we like it or not. Our planet is becoming smaller, relationship wise, and we are headed toward a more global community. It is obvious that our government understands the strength of group thinking and influencing large numbers of people through their relationships. One of the largest groups in the US is the evangelical church. When totalitarianism comes, it has a tendency to masquerade as a return to law and order, which the church is, understandably, in favor of, but it quickly moves beyond that into control.

In our current institutional mode of operation, the church will be a much easier target than the organic church that survived three centuries of Roman Empire, before succumbing to major institutionalization. It is time for us to begin to reimagine the church as the underground movement Christ intended her to be. The church where community was so strong a value that outsiders called the believers Christian for their strong likeness to Christ.

So, if my thoughts interest you, or piss you off, subscribe to my blog for more as I share with you what I have been imagining for the better part of two decades and am just now finding the words to describe.

PS, please don't send me emails worried that I have lost my faith. Just the opposite, I firmly believe that what happened to me and my family, while painful, was a necessary part of what God is doing in my life. If anything, I am more in tune with what God is saying to me now, than I perhaps have ever been and am excited to see what will come out of this exploration of what Church could be.