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.


John said...

I would caution you to not represent the New Testament church as more holy or mature than it actually was. John had plenty to say to 6 of the 7 about some pretty gross sin being committed. Furthermore, the church today is stronger than you give her credit for. The human element will always be it's weakness so nothing has (or will) change in that regard. Lastly, I hope you will keep your finger squarely pointed at yourself and not others. We have a tendency to compare other's actions with our intentions and if you're not walking in humility, love, and submission to the truth, you'll be nothing more than a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal equating to a loud, intolerable noise from which individuals can receive nothing of value. Emerson said, "What you are shouts so loudly in my ears, I cannot hear what you say". The word cautions us from being THAT person. Happy searching and discussing!

Mark R. Morris, Jr said...

I assume you are the same John that claimed to have known me in years past. Please leave a last name so I can know who I am answering. First, I do not believe that the first century church was perfect, but I also know that the sin they had in their midst was not any more than we have now. As to my fingers, I will point at my self and others. Since I am not the entire church I cannot be the entire problem, or the entire solution. I believed in the past that the things which bothered my were just an issue of a rebelllious heart, simply because the solutions I chose to attempt to impliment were not the right ones, but I now realize that what I was seeing DID grieve the heart of God, I was just immature in my response. I like that you said submission to the truth, because I believe that that is one element that can be lacking in some of today's church. We have a tendency to rely on the giftings of others and allowing them to filter, or even suppress God's word to us, instead of searching for the truth ourselves. Please leave your last name. It seems strange that you are willing to point out what you seem to think are my weaknesses, but I have no way of knowing who is handing out so much advice, while cautioning me against the same. Last, but not least, this is my blog, it is a voluntary experience for everyone that participates. I am only saying what I see and feel and believe that I hear God saying to me. I am not attempting to dictate, nor were the authors of the book I am discussing, welcome to the conversation.

John said...

I'm a huge proponent of you're right to express your ideas on your blog. I respect the fact that you control the information flow. I'm don't care if you publish anything I write because I'm writing it for you and not for your readers. Even if I have known you in the past I don't know you now and therefore it would serve no purpose and could hamper the conversation for me to tell you my last name. I will reach out to you in some other way if I feel it would help you or our converation in the future.
It would be superfluous for me to tell you what to do. You are obviously a grown man and responsible for your own statements. If I believe you're off base, I'll tell you and ask that you do the same for me. Honesty makes the exchange more productive and, who knows, we might even sharpen one another in the process. I will not criticize you personally, only your words when I feel they are wrong.
I don't think you are trying to dictate to anyone. You're simply stating your opinion. I just hope you will consider that you are part of the body you often seem to be beating up. Encouragement and expressing the truth in love is what people will respond to.

Tammy Prater said...

I first should say that I am very sorry that you have a broken relationship with the church you call home. That is heartbreaking. However, One church does not constitute excommunication from the Church at large. I would be eyes and ears open for the church God intends you and your family to be a part of. Perhaps you are going somewhere far better than you ever imagined. I went to a church that one person had nearly nagged me to death to go visit. I actually went because someone else invited me several times. It turned out that this new place was beautiful all around. My daughter wanted to be a member on her FIRST visit. She never reacts that way. Deep hurt is never easy to overcome. However, if you allow yourself to continue too long with negative thoughts, it can cause you some serious problems with God. I wish you and your family nothing but the best.

Mark R. Morris, Jr said...

My curiosity is making me crazy. I will find out who you are. :) But until then your comments are welcome. I am just not sure of what you hope to achieve by correcting me with no relationship in place, but I welcome any and all input. I am deeply in love with the church and this is where my frustrations come from. While I understand that it is important to focus on what is right, if everyone does that all of the time, to the exclusion of self inspection and being realistic about where we find ourselves, things are not likely to improve and I happen to believe that not only is there a lot of room for improvement, but once those improvements are made I believe this church thing will be easier, (Matt 11:30) and we will be more effective at allowing Christ to shine through us. As pointed out in this great book, by two very respected authors and speakers, I am not alone in that assessment. In fact I came to these conclusions, including most of the same Biblical reference points independently, then found this book, or rather it found me. Someone left it on the table I usually write on at the library.

Mark R. Morris, Jr said...

My use of the term "excommunication" is a literary device. It is a term that attracts attention. Yes, I know that these men have no authority to allow or disallow my being a part of the church universal. That is a connection that has never, nor ever will be broken in my life. I grew up with a Church of Christ minister for a father, so in the first 14 years of my life I attended over 2000 church services, and until I was 25 could probably count on both hands the number of Sundays I was not in worship at least once. All this to say, I understand the need for fellowship and will be taking my family to worship at a place we called our home for several years. However, I am the church, you are the church and wherever two or more of us are gathered to discuss, worship and serve Him, there he is in the midst of us, so I have church with a friend every Thursday morning at a local breakfast joint, and I have church with Boe Parrish about once a week at Panera bread, and in other places throughout the city at various times throughout the week. Thank you for your concern. I hope you will continue to read my new posts to understand what I think is going on with church and what I believe each of us should do about it. Thanks for your comment. Welcome to the conversation.