Friday, February 15, 2008

Ode to Church as we Know it

This is this week's addition of "the Shaping of the Church" that is intended to create some dialog regarding the focus and potential direction of churches in an American context.

I have been talking a lot about the need for change in churches and my personal desires to be a part of something that feels different from the same old story. In fact, it is not difficult to find people roughly my age and background saying the same things and longing for something new.

Before I mislead you into thinking that everything to do with the "Western Church" as we know it is bad and that everything new is good, please allow me to say that I am grateful for the Western Church. Throughout the history of the "Western Church", we have seen some terrible things happen but we have also seen some amazing things happen.

Lets face it, how many millions of people have received food, shelter, clothing, medicine, and love throughout the entire world as a result of Western Churches. When our federal government was locked in bureaucracy after Hurricane Katrina, it was the Church there meeting needs. When racial hatred continued in the south, it was the churches (not all I admit) that joined in the cry for justice and civil rights. How many people have felt completely hopeless and ready to give up on life until followers of the risen Jesus (from the Church) meet them and love with the unconditional love of God.

Turning to less practical matters, it is the Western Church that encouraged the dialogue between science and theology. It is this same church driven by "baby boomers" that pushed the limits on acceptable worship and paved the way for a new generation of new churches. The Church has forced mainstream culture to wrestle with how to expand the message of tolerance even to those with religious convictions. It is the Church that has delivered messages of hope and practical advice for daily living.

The Church that people like me want to resist and reform is not all bad and still offers hope and guidance to millions of followers today. I do believe that millions more exist who are hungry for meaning in life who have not been able to find that meaning in or traditional churches and who are more likely to in a new church, but let us not be so naive as to believe that everyone will like a new approach.

This new style of church that I talk about often appeals to people because it comes with the promise of really accepting people no matter where they are at in their own spiritual journeys. But that acceptance must also include accepting those who lead and who attend the "Traditional Western Churches" that we are challenging. The truth is that we all have different tastes and styles, and as long as Churches (old and new) live the message of Jesus and seek the priorities of God, I don't care what style is used. As Paul said in his letter to the Philippians, the good news being spread is what matters to me. So thank you traditional western churches for your years of pursuing the truth of the scriptures. May we stand side by side in our efforts to show the world the love of God and to actually be a part of blessing the world through our lives... but you can keep the Starbucks cafe in your lobby, I don't really want it.


Perry said...

Not sure I understand your last sentence... didn't you help put in a sudo-starbucks at MHC? Regardless, I agree with your sentiments. I have been reading The Shaping of the Church after reading something you wrote earlier... I concur for the most part. BTW, it was weird to send Katie off without many familiar leaders this weekend.. the bus was on the wrong side of the church... don't these people know protocol?

Anonymous said...

I think that sometimes new and different are okay... and there needs to be "something new" and "fresh" for those seeking that change....I am not your same age but I agree with what you are saying. YES, even someone my age is longing for something new and different. I think people freak out because it may be out of the "norm" and involves CHANGE. I freak out sometimes too when thinking about change but change can be good. Oh so good! Especially when you know God is in the driver's seat! And if it is something that is going to light a fire under me and make me more passionate about who God is and what he has and is doing in my life then I am all for it.


derek said...


That thing was an English Brew House my friend.

A Starbucks in the lobby seems to be used to amp up the "we're hip" factor. Which it doesn't.

A fine English Brew House as such was created for people to wrestle in culture, politics and theology. Never cool, nothing hip. Maybe it evolved into that.

I have realized more this last year, that the same old gig the "church" is playing needs to face reform. Change: there’s talk about it, meetings about it, memos about it and I wouldn't be surprised to find a spreadsheet on it. But the fact it this; until you see it happening you can't call it change.

And striving to "be hip" only hurts you. We're talking true change, no fluff, no lies, and no pseudo change. Just pure raw change. And it starts with pastors critiquing themselves and what their doing. If you can't critique yourself you will only speak of change and never experience it.

Look at the mainline churches on the East Coast-they're dying and being forced to closed their doors. Why? They wouldn't change. Pastors with years of experience stuck in "this is how it works" platform.

Mike said...

I appreciate that there has been a Thank You to our parents, that someone who was around longer decided to love Christ and share that with us. They deserve to be acknowledged and honored. Good Show.

patricia said...

I agree with Mike. Thank you to my parents too for the foundation they gave me.
But my parents church and even the church style that I brought my kids up in doesn't satisfy them or me anymore.
I'm tired.
I just want real.

Ryan said...

Perry- But it wasn't in the lobby. I guess my point is that I don't like the "formula" that is represented by Starbucks. The push one button and get your drink kind of thing.

Melissa- New often feels refreshing but the key is having enough purpose to keep going when it is no longer "new".

Derek- An english pub in the lobby is okay with me.

Mike- Yep.

Patricia- I agree. But I also believe that some of the "boomer" churches are real in their own way.