Another one of those discussions about church…

I shared lunch with some friends today- I meet with three other blokes to pray every couple of weeks. It is a really good mix of folks as each of us are very different, but share a desire for honesty, friendship and to create a safe space to share faith and life.

Today we spoke about church.

It is a familiar theme. I am the only one of the group who is no longer attending a regular Sunday morning service in a church building. All of my friends are still hanging on in there- just.

It is not that any of us do not appreciate the value of meeting and worshipping communally- it is just that the baggage that comes with this seems to have a high price- and also that the activities through which communal worship is celebrated can just be so suffocatingly irrelevant- for us, let alone for our kids or our friends and neighbours.

The question of what might be possible as an alternative has exercised much discussion, including on this blog.

In particular, today we asked a local version of this question…

A couple of days ago, in response to a comment on this piece by Aileen, I wrote this-

I wonder  if  we were ‘over sold’ some of the ideas about what it means to be a Christian. We have been told repeatedly that people are of two sorts-
Saved and unsaved
Good and ‘of the world’(or even ‘evil)
Transformed and untransformed
Enlightened and deceived by the devil
We have the Holy Spirit who will sort us out- they don’t.

This dualism allows us to then suggest that Christians are elevated above all other people- more holy, more loving, living better lives. And then when we discover (as we inevitably do) that Christians are often just as screwed up and damaged /damaging as the next person, we are exposed to a great disappointment- and what the Americans would call a ‘disconnect’ between our rhetoric and reality.

I have come to believe that the Kingdom of God at loose on the earth is NOT the same thing as ‘the church’. Rather “God plays in ten thousand places, from the father to the features of mens faces, lovely in limbs and hands not his”

The question is, if this is true, what the POINT of the church is? If Christians are untransformed by encountering Jesus- what is the point?

I think I would reply that we are not untransformed- the very fact that you and I are asking these questions is proof of that. Rather what we come to is an awareness that we can reach higher, and deeper- and expect an encounter with the divine as we do this that is so much more than a one directional intellectual exchange of religious ideas/doctrine. But also that we are called to walk humbly- and to hold ourselves in awareness of our sinful state- not other peoples sinful state, but our own.

Perhaps then the purpose of the church is to be a sprinkling of salt, bringing out flavours of the world, and a source of light that illuminates good and beautiful things. This kind of church I can belong to!

I have no desire to start a new church though- in the sense of a new institution, or a new exclusive gathering of people who try to sell their ‘product’ and their version of truth to everyone on the outside.

But what began to emerge today in our discussion was the possibility of a more regular celebration event, in partnership with others where possible.

In many ways this might compliment some of the more intimate small group church things that I love.

Who knows what might emerge, but I have a feeling that it might be time to make some noise again…

4 thoughts on “Another one of those discussions about church…

  1. Chris wrote:
    “But also that we are called to walk humbly- and to hold ourselves in awareness of our sinful state- not other peoples sinful state, but our own.”

    There are lots of other points in your original post I would love to comment on (and that I sat here and read while nodding my head vigorously…we need to find a button that expresses that). It’s early, I’m rushing off and I haven’t had coffee, but I had to pick out the above point – because it is **key** to what I think about ‘church’. It’s a view I express so much, probably very badly, because many people think I’m being negative. I’m not – the opposite in fact – by starting from that point (being aware of your own flaws and broken places) you can, surely, relate to others who are broken and flawed themselves and struggling with it. And of course the next stage of that is wondrous, beautiful, amazing, soothing, healing grace.

    How can we (the general we) possibly explain about that grace if we are starting from a point of “I’m alright already, Jack/Jill – I’m sorted, and I’m up here – you’re still down there and you don’t quite cut it.”

    Ooh, when I start on this, I do feel some of the churchy hurts resurfacing – and I need to nip that in the bud, because it will start to negate the fantasticness of this point. (Don’t you just love to add ‘-ness’ onto a word to make a new one?!)

    This is one of those subjects where I simply feel so much, and so passionately, about it that I find it almost impossible to express myself in a way where anyone might understand it.

    I too desperately miss faith in community. I feel very isolated – that’s not to say that there are not places where I *can* go and feel OK, because there are, and to suggest otherwise would be wrong. There is one local church where I have found nothing but kindness.

    Now I’m rambling! Sorry! And I have a ferry to catch. But keep on writing your blog please…I don’t often pop my head above the parapet, but there are many times that your writing encourages and soothes.

  2. Not ranting Aileen- just passionate!

    I agree very much with what you say- I think that, like you, I find the ‘victorious’ nature of some of the Christianity you are referring to very difficult. I am always skewed towards the broken parts of who we are- because I think that God is too.

    But there may be a balance to be struck somewhere here- because as you say, GRACE is our destination.

    Hope you have a good day…


  3. Pingback: Richard Rohr on Dualism… « this fragile tent

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