At 4:35 pm Monday afternoon, I wrote the final sentence in my new book, Finding Church: What If There Really Is Something More? That’s always a wonderful moment, akin to a builder turning the last screw in the dream house he’s been building for his family, or a trucker turning off the freeway toward home at the end of a cross-country trip. It’s a wonderful feeling. Part of what helped me get to the end was the cheerleading of a friend who said he had the sense that “this message is a modern version of what Christ was doing while he was here in human form, fighting for the freedom of his beloved.” Gracious words, given that he hadn’t read it yet, but I hope that’s true and I’m blessed not to be the only voice in that fight. I do hope, however, that for many for whom the term “church” conjures up images of pain, arrogance, or bondage, might look elsewhere to the church that Jesus is building that is filled with love, life, and grace.
If you’ve been following this odyessy you know I was close to this point four months ago before I blew it all up on the advice of a good friend and first editor I ever had. I love how it has come back together and hope now we’ve find the form that will best convey this material. But even then I had yet to work on the final chapter. Though I had some notes there, I was never sure how this book would end. On this reformatting I kept wondering and it didn’t become clear to me until early on Saturday morning as I began to approach it. I had no idea how to give a final summation given the fact that this journey is still unfolding for me and that I have great hope that God is still percolating something amazing beneath the surface of our world and that the church will yet take expression in ways more profound than any of us see at this point. Finally I knew how to end it in the only way this book could end, in a chapter titled, “To Be Continued”.
Here are a few excerpts:
No, this is not a promise for a sequel called Finding Church Too! I am simply acknowledging that this book speaks into a story that is far from complete. Though Jesus is building his church in the world she is not yet all that she needs to be to bring this age to its conclusion and to be presented before him as his spotless bride. He is still building his church though in ways that mostly go unnoticed and unnamed.
And while I’m filled with anticipation at what might yet lie down the road, I have no idea what she will look like in the end as people are untangled from obligation to human systems and become more preoccupied with him and his kingdom. What will it look like as we learn to love one another from the heart and care about each other the way God cares for us? The tastes I’ve had locally and internationally of this family when people are focused on him and generous with each other have fulfilled every desire I’ve had to experience his church in the world. My heart yearns to see more of his children find their way into that reality and when they do, what will we look like then? I told you upfront that I wasn’t an expert with all of the answers and now that we’ve arrived at the final chapter, hopefully you’re convinced. If you have more questions than answers, you are not alone. I do too. I want to keep learning how I can more effectively engage this church Jesus is building and I anticipate that to be a life-long adventure. But to be honest, if I died tomorrow I could truthfully say that I’ve been able to participate freely in the incredible beauty and power of his church that I always hoped was possible.
Finding church is not a matter of locating a group you like and joining it. I hope many of you arrive at the end of this book as exhilarated as I am by the possibilities of finding a more vibrant church experience than you have found to date. If you’ve wondered why you never seemed to fit freely into the human models we’ve created, perhaps now you understand why. You weren’t rebellious or independent; you just had a seed of life in your heart that refused to settle for an illusion when something real beckoned you onward.
Finding church is not a matter of simply joining a Christian group, but actually embracing him and inside of him discovering how to live and think with others in the new creation. We can’t describe her in intellectual terms and then implement our own strategies to fulfill it. The church has to be experienced alongside others who are being transformed by him. You don’t control that, and neither do I. We can only make ourselves available to him and see how he links us together.
I hope this book is continued in a broader conversation of men and women worldwide who are passionate about Jesus and his kingdom that are willing to look past our differences to the common unity we have by virtue of the fact that we are children of the same Father. It won’t be about the best way to do church, or to which one you belong, but how can we all belong more fully to Christ. How can he be our shepherd and lead us to greater freedom from our own agendas so that we can truly be one as Father, Son, and Spirit are one? How can we encourage each other on that path, and how might he connect us in conversations and collaborations of generosity and graciousness that will make him visible in the world…
Sharing my joy with friends I’ve been near over the last couple of days at finally completing this book, illicited the same question: “So when will it be ready to read?” So before I get those emails, I’ll answer as best I know. I’m going to spend the next month polishing up the entire work. While I’ve already cut about 15,000 words from it, I want to streamline it a bit more and hoping find another 5,000. For those of you who don’t write, that may not make much sense. Why cut out something I might want to read? I am not cutting it to leave things out; I’m cutting out the extraneous matter to make what’s most important stand out. And believe me, there’s always extraneous matter. If I was with a real publisher it would take another 12 months to get it ready for publication. But since I’m doing this one on my own I’m hopeful to get through editing, lay-out and cover design by early September and release the book in late September. That’s all best-case scenario. If I have to blow it up again, it will take even longer. But I’m hopeful that I won’t need to.
Thanks to so many of you who have been an encouragement throughout this process. I