Ok Ok, so why even give an intro? Let’s just get right to it
I have this thought, and I know I’m not the only person to think about this. In fact many people have been wrestling with the way we do church (so to speak) for many many many years. I’m just another person asking the same question. Once again, these are observations, I’m not saying this is true for every individual church, but I think it’s a decent reflection on our church culture. Here we go.
It seems like there are three sides to the church “divide” that I see.
1. Many people, are only interested in attending church once a week, showing up, sitting down, going home. Nice, clean, simple, un-engaging, safe, and ultimately they are a consumer of the church and not a partner in establishing the kingdom of God.
2. Other people are completely hellbent on keeping their church the same as it has been for the past 50 years. The carpet can’t change, the leadership can’t change, the way they approach things such as ministry can not change, and the music most CERTAINLY can not change. These church bodies believe that the way they have been approaching church is the way it’s always been done, and therefore will not change close to anything about the way do it. Usually their biggest focus is Sunday morning and events centered around the church meeting in its building. When someone attempts to change something, or implement something new, there is usually an uproar.
3. Then you have churches that have grown up in the tradition, rejected that tradition, but not Jesus. So they start something “new” (That’s funny) and leave the “traditional” church to start something “fresh” and “organic” and “cool”. The problem here is that often times people like this throw the baby out with the bathwater. The word tradition is banned from their vocabulary’s, and they do as much as they can to try and be different.
The first group I mentioned I’m not even going to address in this post, it needs it’s own day. But these other two types (again, generalizing but you get the idea) are the ones I want to talk about.
You see I came out of one side, embraced the other side, and now I’m not so sure what side to be on. but that’s just the point, we here in western culture have to be one or the other. It’s impossible to embrace both sides because, well, we just can’ do it. You’re either black or white, in or out, tall or short, traditional or not traditional. You can’t be both! Ah but I argue that you can be. In fact I say you need to be both in order to get a full picture of the kingdom.
What do I mean? Well here’s what I mean. A good friend once told me “Tim, sometimes you need to take in the meat and spit out the bones”, and that is exactly what we need to do with both sides of this coin. Let’s start with a more traditional side and then we will move to the other, and then see how they can work together.
The traditional church (by traditional I mean since the the reformation, about the 16th century) has done many things well. God has used it no doubt. I myself, am a product of the traditional church. But in the same breath the traditional church has missed a few of the most important things. discipleship, authentic Christian community, and solidarity. The traditional church is losing numbers, and does not have a good standing with people in our culture. The stereo types of a typical church goer is that they are anti-homosexual, pro – conservative, way too political, outspoken, and un loving (see the book Un-Christian). This has done serious damage to our ability to reach out to our fellow human beings. The traditional church almost unintentionally has become ingrown and stagnent. So closed minded are some people in this movement it’s sometimes discouraging. Seeing church splits over colors in carpet, drums in service, and things like it, have proven that the focus on this side of the coin started out as authentically living out ones faith, but then shifted to a type of legalism that is not flexible. “this is the way we’ve always done things, why change it” is a great way to sum up the problem with the traditional movement. They turn mole hills in to mountains and then die on that mountain. Because of that, they have lost my generation in many ways.
The other side of the coin is more known as the emerging church movement. This movement was really birthed out of the traditional movement but not in a positive way. Most people in the emerging church movement see the church more as a fluid, living, breathing thing, then the traditional movements see it is. They also are much more flexible with the way things are approached and done. For instance some of these movements don’t meet in traditional buildings, their service orders can vary, the music is much more flexible, and they are much more open to different ways to reach people for Jesus. there is a problem here however. Sometimes people in this movement are too flexible and the community that they attempt to create is usually somewhat on a superficial level. More concerned with feeling good then the truth of God and his message to us, this movement will sometimes do things that are not in line with Scripture. Often they also have no problem with throwing out the traditional movement, without examining it, taking the good from it, and using it. Instead the mindset can sometimes be “Well they just don’t get it like we do”. This idea is toxic and only creates division not unity. Understanding the word, knowing the doctrines and history of the faith is lacking here, and because of that this movement can sometimes only go so deep.
Now to bring this altogether, the question we have to ask is why? Why does it have to be one or the other? In fact if we beging to merge these ideas, the product is a church that is not only intentional on sunday mornings, it is intentional in life as a whole, flexible enough to know what things are perfectly ok to do differently, and solid enough to understand the doctrines and basic truths of the faith, not compromising on them, but understanding them better than ever, and learning how to communicate them to a dying world.
You see sometimes I think we put the cart before the horse, sometimes we get so focused on a specific day of the week, or a specific event that all we do is focus on that. Then the other 5 days of the week are left empty. The church is not nearly as active on a tuesday then it is on a Sunday. Why is that? You see it’s not that Sunday’s are wrong. It’s that sundays can not be the end all be all, they can not be the focus. Jesus, living life together, eating dinner together, getting in to the word together, spending nights in worship together, discipling people, is the focus of the church. Not a once a week event we call Sunday morning service. That should be a FRUIT of what we are doing in the week. You see the Sunday morning service is great, and much needed, but it can’t be the focus of what we do. The focus of what we do has to be the other 6 days of the week. Of course this conflicts with our schedules that are overloaded, to which I say “welcome to this radical thing called the gospel”. Now is not the time to be consumers of a Sunday morning service. Now is the time to be partakers in the kingdom of God, and that INCLUDES Sunday mornings, it’s just not limited to that.
You see once we start combing the best of both worlds, realizing that community and discipleship are key to our faith, and out of that comes meetings and events. Then we start to see the fullness of God, and how He wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives. Let’s ask this question to everything we are currently doing “why?”. Why do we have a Sunday morning service, why do we have small groups, why do we have worship. If the answer is “just because” then we need to put it up on the chopping block until we figure out why we are doing it.
Let me sum this up
We need to start building bridges not burning them. We are all part of ONE movement not a separate movement. Your church is not THE church it is A church, this means that we need to start partnering with each other, not keeping in our comfortable corners.
My generation- it is not about throwing out the old and in with the new. This is divisive and does not solve the problems. Don’t start something new, instead be a part of the church, loving it, and working with it. And enough whining and crying, start being the change. It’s really easy to tell people what’s wrong when you’re not involved, just showing up on Sunday morning and leaving. Instead engage, partake, and start getting involved. Your church leadership is full and they don’t need your help you say? Who cares? start inviting people out to coffee, start hanging out, getting dinner, discipling, you don’t need the title “pastor” to pastor someone. Just go and do it.
Older Generation- Be patient with us. Really, we are a bunch of air heads sometimes, thinking we know it all, and really have no clue. we need your mentorship and support as we try and figure out what the heck we are doing. Activate us, we want to be part of the solution, we want to open dialogue up and start brainstorming on how we can usher in the Kingdom of God through the church. We need your wisdom and help as you pass the baton over to us. Be flexible in things that really are not essential to the faith, teach us what we can’t compromise on. Ask us to coffee, ask us over for dinner, some times we need a little shove.