I got this question in an email yesterday and felt it important enough to answer for others of you as well.
While I agree with many of the observations you and Mr. Young make with regards to institutional church (and I’m only a first generation Christian) – I am troubled by conclusions I’ve drawn (rightly or wrongly – and this may be where I could use some of your help) with regards to So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore. I think that it is a no-brainer to say, “Let’s stop going to church. Let’s, rather, just be the church.” I’m with you on that – I’m tracking. I guess where I get hung up is that I believe that deconstructionism isn’t enough – it isn’t enough to say, “Sunday morning doesn’t work” – even if I agree with most of your points on this argument. To turn your own phrase, “Who wants to be on that side of the argument?”
Do you really want to be known as one of the guys who convinced people not to go to church on Sunday morning? Forgive me if this sounds cliche or preachy or even judgmental – but is that a conversation you want to have with Jesus – that a central contribution of your life was to deconstruct Sunday mornings?
What would you have us (your brothers and sisters) construct? It seems to me that it is too easy for any one of us to step away from Sunday morning because it isn’t working for all kinds of reasons. The truth is – we need your help to construct a different looking Sunday morning – to continue to ask good questions and critically examine what we are doing as a church – but to also build with us.
Here’s my response:
I’m not sure you’ve drawn the right conclusions. My answer is not a simple deconstruction of Sunday congregations. In fact, I’m often in them to share the life of Jesus. I’m for deconstructing the religious veneer that we shroud our gatherings in. For some of us that means getting out altogether. For others it might mean being part of a process that recovers a more grace-filled tone, and a less passive environment in which the life of Jesus gets shared. I’m all for looking for ways to do that with what we already have.
As to those who find that environment no longer works for their journey, I don’t want to construct anything for them to pursue. I do think that’s Jesus’ job. “I will build my church…,” is how he put it. The reason church life grows stale is because we’re looking for institutional solutions, not relational ones. If we equip people to live loved of God and live as lovers of people, the church will spring up all around us. It probably won’t be contained in a specific meeting or building but will grow wild and free and bear fruit in the interconnection, collaboration, cooperation and submission of brothers and sisters who are being changed by Jesus. That can look like a hundred different things. But once I begin to describe some of those things, I know our tendency as humans to prefer replicating a model to following the Head! We love to construct things, not build up people. The New Testament points us to building up people in Christ and seeing what expression that takes. I don’t think it works the other way around.
So the process in or out of those systems may be deconstruction of religion and ritual, equipping the saints to live inside the love of the Father, facilitate connections that stimulate cooperation, collaboration and submission and people follow Jesus together, then see what HE builds out of that.
I am convinced that’s the process we are in. Having another model to shift to will only shift the problem into a new shell. We’ve got 2000 years of church history to say that can’t work. And I’m happy to help on all sides of that process as Jesus gives me grace. But I don’t think anyone who knows me will think the central contribution of my life to deconstruct Sunday mornings. The central passion of my life is to help people live loved of the Father and love on his behalf with increasing freedom. To the degree that our institutions do that, I’m thrilled. To the degree they don’t, change is in order.
What kind of change? That’s up to the Head himself.
I’m only a bit player in this unfolding drama.