But Seth asks some very fair, thoughtful questions. Pretty impressive, given that he's from Texas.
(This is a joke. I know not to mess with Texans. They're all, to a person, packing heat. Multiple heat.)
It seems that a real line has been drawn in the sand here between what you think healthy church is and is not. It seems you think that you have been involved in the not-so-healthy side of things for a while.
Nearly my entire life. I'm a PK, myself, of a fundamentalist background. I've also been a full-time youth minister with a church I still love. (Short bio note and disclaimer: I've told few people my whole story. But when I have, the usual response is, "It's amazing you're a believer." With that as a backdrop, and if I am all wrong here, please be patient with me.)
I have found that many of the trappings -- the non-essential, cultural understandings of "church" -- are at odds with the movement that Jesus intended. Honestly, I *think* this is less about the continual hypocrisy, at high levels, we've run into, and more about growing in our understanding of what Jesus was talking about.
Remarkably, despite growing up exclusively in churches that "preach the Bible", I never encountered the very message that Jesus called The Good News. I'm not exaggerating. It was never explained to me, "Here's what He meant by 'the Kingdom of God'..."
Now you have found a group of individuals who are in agreement with you on how healthy things should be and you all are politely bowing out of the Church that you have attended.
Not really. None of us "went to church" together before. We've known these people for awhile, and it's not so much that we agree on "Here are the Things that Will Make for a REALLY Good Church", than we have all -- I mean this -- seemingly come to the same conclusions about what we're supposed to be doing as believers.
None of us is charged up about, "Hey, let's start a 'home church'!" -- it's more of a homeless one.
There is no new 501(c)3 organization. There is lots of gumbo, because two of the families are Cajuns. I don't know how that happened, but it's a delicious development.
First question would be: Do you consider what you are doing throwing out the baby with the bathwater?
No. I feel like I can see the baby better.
A lot of things come into focus. Now, I don't have to struggle with how our money is being spent, given my experience in developing nations. Now, I don't feel like there are a hundred Little Kingdoms at stake with every decision. Now, I'm not prone to using a big church worship meeting as an ego trip, even at an sub-conscious level. For me: Temptation averted.
Now, rich people can truly be on the same level as the poor. When there's no big budget to meet, what good is your big money here? I know some wealthy people who would actually welcome that!
Now, there's a very clear understanding: Bringing people into the Kingdom is NOT "the pastor's job". That concept now makes no sense. Speaking of jobs, no one needs feel tempted to make or defer a decision to protect his job.
Now, the Worship Band roster is: Anyone, Who, Wants, to, Be, in, the, Band. No problem with people who are talented players in worship bands, but -- you'll admit -- there's something sweet, and Kingdom-like, in allowing anyone who wants to play, to play along.
("But I can't imagine letting everyone play in front of hundreds! That wouldn't work, and..." -- exactly.)
Yes, if I need to express my artistry, or want some spotlight, I'm sure everyone in our group would show up at the Square Grouper or a coffeehouse if I wanted to play there, and they'd cheer for me.
Now, the MVP's are not people who are excellent public speakers and musicians. It so happens, I'm a public speaker and musician, so this is -- no kidding -- a downer for me, personally. These skills make me a "real asset" to the typical American version of church. But the guy who doesn't do this stuff, but still yearns for significance...? He can find it with us. After watching men, standing on the sidelines for so long, wondering what the point is...forgive me if I get goosebumps. It's no wonder that "house churches" seem to have so much more male involvement.
Now, I have more time to spend with people, face-to-face, which means more encouragement, more personal accountability, more correction, and more fun.
And, now, ironically, I "see" how my Vision, itself, can get in the way. I love how McManus puts it: He says, "When you join us, we're not the same, anymore." It's not about you plugging in, as a cog in my Plan.
If you are being distant from us, it's not that we note "Hey, this person's attendance is slipping, we need a follow-up form..."
Instead, if you're not a part of us, we haven't been together at all. We're different when you're not part of us.
The worst of it is that you have been burned by some apparent hypocrisy ... maybe? (Reading into it a bit here)
Well...yeah Not just the sexual hypocrisy (which has caused scandal in several of the churches we've been in the last several years, and, on a couple occasions, has been swept under the rug by people whose salaries depend on keeping the status quo) but the manner in which people have been BLOCKED from doing ministry, when it threatens someone else's Job Area. It's amazing how often this happens.
All of this is not anti-pastor, it's, in fact, the exact opposite: I think we put American Pastors, systemically, in a nearly impossible situation, spiritually, and vocationally. It's totally unfair. I've blogged about this, before, and I hope to do it again, soon.
What Kingdom-minded leader wouldn't welcome a reinvigoration of people saying, "Bro, it's not just you, anymore. We're all coming alongside you now..."
So in turn you have unique perspective of the church that others do not have. You have been to other countries and seen first hand the poverty and you have seen things that make you sick when you return home. You've seen all of this and you know that "leaving the Church" is not the answer. It never is.
Bingo. Seth, this is not just a consideration for me.
I think I've taken one too many trips. I can't listen to "Where the Streets Have No Name" anymore without crying. Here are a few of the faces I see:
In Calcutta, I met a little girl who looks just like the other uniformed girls in her Christian school in the slums. One difference: When they shut the lights off at the school, and everyone goes home, she stays in the darkened building. She lives in the hallway. No parents, and no chance, save her Compassion International sponsor.
In Sumatra, I met a Muslim Imam who hated Christians -- until our little group cried with him as he searched for his little boy after the tsunami. After just a week, he said he now understood we were not his enemies, we loved him, and he wondered why his "brothers" were not helping. The church there, somehow still there, needs our money.
I looked out the window at buildings, still containing bodies, during an underground worship gathering of about 20 people in Banda Aceh. They had no money, only the clothes they were wearing, the smell of rotting bodies was still in the air, and they sand, a capella, in their language, "How Great Thou Art." I couldn't sing.
In the slums of Costa Rica: People positively mobbing us to get their very own copy of the Bible.
Most memorably: In the slums of Nairobi, there's barbed-wire around some church gathering-places. When some hungry Compassion kids get their food -- other kids try to jam themselves through the wire, from without. I watched crowds of moms, and kids, watch from without, while the kids within had a chance.
In Kibera, Kenya, we visited a desperate church with a "job-training" program: They trained girls to be cosmetologists. They proudly showed us their two old-school hairdryers, and they proudly showed us a few half-empty bottles of shampoo.
Please tell me, again, about how we need to "attract" more Americans, using more features, to a building, when in some places, they have to fence kids from the church building, for lack of funds?
This really IS a big deal to me and Carolyn. I don't know how to get around this. I'm sorry. Again, please be patient with me. I can't figure this one out. The overhead should not be this high.
I wonder if leaving the current model and people there altogether isn't reactionary...My Dad is a Pastor of an inner-city church in Missouri. He's not interesting in big numbers, or big salaries. Just getting people clothed, loved and taught the gospel. There are also healthy small groups that meet within this small Church. It is hard for a man like that in that location to find help. The people that do help often are ones that need help just as much as the people they are helping. I look at a situation like that, with my dad, and think... "Man could my Dad use the help of a Brant."
Seth, I think the way we've done things, itself, undermines the hope of your Dad getting some help. Too much is put on pastors, period. We've set up a system that works, quite nicely, for me if I want Christianity without following Jesus.
It just seems like the churches that shouldn't be dying are the ones that are dying while the big churches just get bigger. I wonder if there is a way to do both. I don't know the answer. Whether we should all quit going to these big buildings and start over.
I don't say this idly: There are some people I positively admire who are working in mega-churches, or churches just shy of that status. Frankly, many of their churches grow because other church leaders are just convinced they need to have a rock band, and the vid projector, and the slick blah blah blah -- even though they don't have the talent for that model. So it comes off as...strange.
My experience: A lot of times these mega-church people are real thinkers, really care about people, and attract other leaders. But there are many who try to copy them who don't share their gifts.
All this said: In previous discussion on Kamp Krusty, we talked about how the "going to church" idea got started, and, ultimately, a commenter referenced the Temple, and how we are adapting the idea that we "go" to a building to have church. For those who approvingly cite this, please study how Jesus felt about the Temple. There wasn't room in that town for the two of them.
I do know I am thankful for the honesty here that continues to keep the wheels turning.
Me, too. I stand correctable, and frequently corrected.