302. what if. . .
A good friend of mine, still back in Hawaii, wrote an amazing blog entry a few weeks ago.
Funny story about him before I get to his post. I first met him in England of all places – in a little town down south called Okehampton. I was in England with a band I used to be in called Apartment 3 (they’re now called Sunday Morning Chaos). So we’re playing the first of two shows that we had up there (long story) and after our first song we turn to the crowd and say something like, “hey, we’re from Hawaii. Anybody else out there from Hawaii?”
At the back of the crowd, one hand went up.
That’s how I met Blake.
Turns out he had been backpacking and skateboarding around Europe. Somehow he heard something about some band from Hawaii playing somewhere in England so he jumps on the Chunnel and finds his way to Okehampton. Turns out he got to the town too late to get into the local hostel so he had spent the night before sleeping on a street bench.
Blake is cool like that – he’s indestructible.
He’s also a Christian who’s with it and on it and understands that following Christ isn’t about becoming the big man in church or about knowing the chords to the latest hot, hip worship song or about pasting little fishies on bumpers.
He’s the guy whose idea it was to start up the house church I attended before moving to Seattle.
He’s also a kick ass writer, which brings me, finally, to the entry he posted a few weeks ago.
A New Way
What if we as Christians tore down every single church building,
had no worship team,
no microphone for a witty, dynamic message,
and no place to fellowship?
Where would we praise?
How would we worship?
Where would we hear the Word of God?
And where would we be safe to fellowship?
Would we find that praise resonates in the depths of our hearts and share all the good things that God has done?
Would we find that worship is a state of mind and a life devoted to God?
Would we start going to the Word ourselves and allow the Holy spirit to bring revelation into our very own lives?
And would we realize that we were never meant to be safe? That we were never meant to be separated from the world?
That life is harsh and love is raw and gets dirty.
If we tore it all down there would be no walls, no division between us and them.
There would be no church names, just names of people.
There would be no ministry teams, but we would find that ministry lies all around us.
There would be no paid positions, only those willing to serve.
We would no longer ask, “Why are they not coming to church for hope, love and truth?” because we would be bringing truth, hope and love into every aspect of life in a real and tangible way.
What if we realized that God never wanted us to go to church, but that church is the “Body of Christ” and the “Body of Christ” are the people who follow the Lord?
Church would no longer be a place we go to once a week, but rather, a NEW way of life.
I had two reactions to his post. First off, I knew exactly where he was coming from. He’s had to deal with a lot of church politics bullshit in the past – really stupid things like not giving him support to go on a mission trip to Indonesia (or was it New Orleans?) after the hurricane because church leaders thought he didn’t put enough of the folding chairs away after service, nevermind the fact that he wasn’t putting away chairs because he was busy going out of his way to meet newcomers and people who he knew were hurting. This myopic, missing the point completely way of doing church is still all too common in Hawaii (the emergent thing hasn’t really hit the islands yet…not that that’s the barometer for authentic church life). Far too many churches think that the church is the walls and the chairs and sound system.
As Blake’s post makes clear, far too often the physical, material stuff of the church turns out to be a hinderance because people start equating the stuff of the church with the church itself. Maybe this is part of the reason why Christianity is often vibrant and passionate in places where the church cannot meet in public. Because in places like that, the church isn’t seen as a safe place to hide from the world…because there is nowhere to hide. They don’t have to come up with ministry plans to reach non-Christians because they’re out there with non-Christians every hour of the day.
But I had a second response to his post. There was a time when I would have been right there with Blake, tearing down the walls, but instead I found myself defending the church. In the comments section of his blog, I wrote:
I know where you’re coming from and I mostly agree but there is a place for place. Tradition, while sometimes a burden, also keeps us from going off the deep end – keeps us connected with those who have come before us, who have built these walls with blood and tears and love.
I don’t believe we need to burn everything down and start anew. We leave what doesn’t work for us behind and blaze new trails. Some will follow, some will remain. God will use us all.
And at first it surprised me that I would respond by supporting the church. And then I realized that I wasn’t the same angry, frustrated Christian I used to be. And in large part, this change has to do with Quest, the church I attend here in Seattle, as well as the C-Group (Bible study) I attend.
Quest church, the leadership as well as many of the congregants, are all about living out Christianity in such a way that it’s not only about building up the church building but about redeeming the world at large. There are lots of people who serve part or full time at non-profits and lots of people who donate money to these organizations. And then there’s my pastor who’s going to be starting up his own non-profit soon.
One of the really unique things about the non-profit that he’s setting up is that it’s a non-religious non-profit (see point one of this post). Why? I’ll let him speak for himself:
[My wife] Minhee and I love Christ. I am a pastor. But this will not be a Christian organization. While we know we’ll partner and support many Christian organizations, the fight against global poverty is not just a Christian issue – it is a humanity issue. We care about preaching the gospel but we care equally if not more about demonstrating the gospel. We don’t care who you are. If you care about human suffering and are involved in the fight against global poverty, we want to collaborate with you.
Unfortunately he’s gotten flack for this from some other pastors. They say they can’t support his organization because it’s not a Christian organization. I don’t know which churches have said that, but I suspect that they’re probably very similar to the churches that Blake and I were frustrated with back in Hawaii – churches that are missing the point of Jesus and the Gospel.
The way I see it, an organization that is run by Christians with Christian principles behind it IS a Christian organization. Period.
This non-profit organization that my pastor is setting up is
just one example among many of the amazing, world-changing things that people at my church are a part of. I feel honored, privileged, and blessed to be there.
And that’s why I surprisingly found myself defending the church in response to Blake’s post.
And so I’ll leave you all with this. For those Christians out there who think that the church in America has completely lost its way, please know that there are churches who are about far more than just growing their weekly attendance and retention rates or raising their weekly giving numbers. There are lots of churches like Quest who are grass-roots and hands on both in the community where they meet as well as in areas around the world in need of support; churches that understand that Christianity is not about waiting to go to heaven or waiting for the second coming but about bringing a bit of heaven to where we are here and now as well as living now the way we will after the return of Christ.
You are not alone.
PS. keep writing, Blake!