Wednesday, March 02, 2005

'To clarify this Journey...'

I'm taking the risk of cutting pasting an entire article rather than just linking to it, cos i think it's such a great piece and i resonate with it so deeply. i wouldn't want you to not follow the link! to view the article, by Brother Maynard, in its original context at go here. there are a couple of minor questions i would want to ask about a couple of points but that should wait for another time so as not to lessen the impact. enjoy..

"Seems there’s some misunderstanding about the journey we’re on. To some, it looks like the journey to leave the church we’re in… which to me is evidence that we aren’t explaining it very well. Given that observation, I thought it might help to take another stab at it in hopes of clarifying it in my own mind if nowhere else.

I long for a church that is low-key. I’m tired of hype, I’m tired of noise, and I’m tired of intensity. I used to like all those things, but I no longer equate these with “signs of life.” I long for something more contemplative, a place that can acknowledge worship as being intellectual as well as emotional.

I long for a church with deep interpersonal relationships. I was attracted to a place that talked about relationships and tried to build relationally, but with growth, time, and change, what started as relational has become merely functional. Faith walks need camaradarie, lives shared one with another

I long for the attainable challenge of Jesus. Put the other way, I’m tired of being challenged, by which I refer not to the challenge of the gospel or the challenge of Jesus, but to the challenge of leaders who seem to continually push for greater levels of sanctification. Ever unattainable, this leaves one straining for an unreachable goal and feeling cast down for falling short. To elaborate, this causes a situation in which a believer perpetually feels or is actually considered “not quite good enough” to engage in ministry. I long for the challenges which God give the grace to attain, rather than the challenges of men which one strives fruitlessly to attain.

I long for a decentralized structure, and I long for servant leadership among peers. Power corrupts, which is a danger in the church as anywhere else… and a heirarchical structure is the breeding-ground for the corruption of church leaders. Jesus talked about this, about what can happen to church leaders who start well but end up enamoured with their positions. Practically speaking, this drives the necessity for decentralization so that the structures can be interrelated but independently manageable in smaller sizes.

I long for a culturally relevant church. I don’t understand why cross-cultural missionaries attempt to understand culture to present the gospel within it, while churches in the developed world tend to simply withdraw from their own culture, often condemning its evils. Unfortunately for them, our culture is filled with people who need to see real Christianity in action — they’ve seen enough caricatures of Christianity already. Being culturally relevant in the early 21st century means understanding -gasp!- postmodernism.

I long for a church that can be outwardly-focused without constantly pushing evangelism on the congregation, and for a church that does not relate evangelism with church growth as an end.

I long for a church that recognizes the value of ancient traditions. I’ve long been saddened by the iconophobia in many evangelical circles, discomfort with symbolism, suspicion toward any type of mysticism, and the ignoring of rich faith traditions from Advent to Passover.

I long for a church that is not uncomfortable with mystery or with the sacraments. The evangelical understanding I’ve been taught on the Eucharist is anemic, and the standard baptism explanation of “an outward symbol of an inward faith” misses the spiritual act, which still has an element of mystery in it.

I long for a church that recognizes the value of story. Scripture is story, and so are the lives it touches. One cannot presume to talk about relationship without recognizing the importance of personal stories.

So this is the path I’m on… I am seeking a place that is in pursuit of the things I long for. If I can’t find a place like that, I’ll find some people who are in pursuit of the things I long for, and together we’ll create such a place. The path I’m on is the pursuit of these things I long for in the church.

Is this path a reaction to church? Partly. It would be easy to list the things I don’t like about the church and give that as the reason to leave… but that really misses the heart of it. Please understand that I’m not mad at the church. I have been frustrated, but the path I’m on puts an end to the frustration and helps me to be able to avoid getting mad. To unpack that a little, I’ve tried for several years to change things. Big things, small things, things that bug me, things I think are wrong. Let’s just say there’s resistance, and leave it at that for now. It does tell me that this church will never be what I hope for, and efforts to change it will only result in frustration and/or pain. In other words, no good will come from my efforts to change it… it is what it is. Now, I’m not dismissing the church or writing it off. On the contrary, I consider it a part of my heritage; for many years it was a rich part, and something for which I’m deeply thankful. On the other hand, I’ve reached the point where I long for different things than the things I longed for when I first signed on.

So the basic thing about this journey is the same as about any journey… it’s not about the place we’re leaving, it’s about the place we’re going. Even if we don’t know where we’re going; it wouldn’t be the first such journey instigated by God."


Naomi said...

I want to add one! having been around amazing churches (including hOME) which are trying to do all of the above, in my experience I think it's always worth saying first and foremost to others and ourselves the obvious:

I long for a church that really believes the gospel - so numbers matter for the right reasons (we long to see many people, who are precious in God's sight, be reconciled with him, so that we expect to see the Holy Spirit at work amongst us every which way, so that we are involved in seeing the kingdom come on all levels...

otherwise the whole tenor of the thing becomes about what we want for ourselves, and not for others, we have no humility and when we find something we want we aren't willing to give it away...

richard said...

now there's that paradox that need not be a paradox. i want a church that will nuture me and encourage me in a real walk with Christ, so there I'm after a church that is kinda tailored to my own needs. But I also want to avoid church becoming a place that i manipulate for my own needs, and treat it like a hobby thingy. It's got to be accessible to other people and now that I believe I should think that my church is a place that believes in sharing the gospel and is accessible to other people. maybe it's not a paradox. Maybe it is just a balance that becomes a tough job to achieve. and just maybe this is a ill thoughtout comment. As much as I loved my church in auckland (which was a lot) when i went we were very good at the former and not so good at the latter. Lots of the people were burned out on religion and it became a safe place to be. Which is ok, as there should be a church for all people, but there is also a time to move from that.

I think home is becoming better at the looking beyond it's own people, which excites me.

This really is a poorly wrutten comment.

Oh well

Pippa said...

WOW!!!! what an amazing article. It feels so good that other people are reading off the same page/ having the same thoughts on this stuff. I long for hOME to look more and more like this type of church...

Matt said...

yes - i guess the questions Naomi and Rich are raising could be summarised by the question, 'who is church for?'. Brother Maynard's article could be interpreted as meaning that the church is ultimately for our benefit. though i'm not sure he would want to say that (whoever he is!). i think this ties in with some of the stuff i was sharing at the weekend away (plagarised from Saint Brian of Maclaren) about the church existing for the benefit of the world (remember the different coloured circles that some people took the bobba out of!). there is a tension here: for the church to really benefit the world it must be the church that God intends for it to be. as such it will be good for us too! i guess that then takes us back to the old chestnut of - 'is there anything truly altruistic'? or are even our efforts to make the church a blessing to the world really ultimately for our own benefit? i'm starting to ramble now so i'll shut, I agree with everyone.

Rich Johnson said...

Helloooo. I kind of agree with you all. Surely the point is that if a church facilitates God's people being God's people as he intends, be that in worship, growth, love, service, mission etc, then the dichotomy between "good for me, not good for them" will cease to exist ?