I'm glad that some of you enjoyed Jim and Brenda's little trip through the church in 2027. I really enjoyed writing it, especially because of all the surprises you threw at me! Long about episode 5 or so, when Jim first visited Corner Church, and ya'll told me it sounded cultish, I was blown away. But I was also intrigued.
My biggest thought in starting this series was to show how the church might have to change to be meaningful to Gen Y. It would need to be more involved, more challenging, and more involving. But along the way, I threw in every dreamy idea I could come up with. CC was absolutely my current idea of the best compromise church in the world. It seemed to me to take the best of both worlds, the free wheeling home church, and the moneyed church that has survived eighteen centuries.
You saw it differently. :-)
And that's where it all would have stopped, had coincidence not gotten spooky. That same day, another blog identified me as sounding cultish (easily poo-pooed as bleed-over from someone who might have read comments at this site). Then someone told me the same thing IRL (in real life). And when I told my spiritual mother about all the discussion, she says, "Yeah. I've been meaning to tell you for years that the church should not be that involved in each others' lives." 4 hits in 8 hours or so.
Suddenly, your concerns were huge and growing.
Suddenly, I had concerns. :-)
I won't kid you. I'm not yet convinced I'm wrong, but I'm looking at the possibility harder than ever.
I pretty much decided when my mom in the Lord spoke up that I was going to have to explore what it might mean if CC really were a cult. I could not quite bear to say it had been a cult all along, but driving a stake through its heart was an option. So, Derek emerged from the shadows. And Derek came with the agenda of a true cult leader. I did not have to invent Derek, though, because there's a Derek in every church. Whether he's the young, charismatic leader who has a goal, or the old, sincere gentleman who wants to stop the church's tailspin, he's always there and always pressing.
It sounds like we've all known Derek, and the way he captures hearts and minds.
Corner Church was susceptible to Derek because they lacked the protection of bureaucracy. Since they didn't have a denomination to whom to answer, and because their structure was soo flexible, Corner Church was able to move with the passion of the moment. It cost them.
I've seen it happen, and it sounds like several of you have as well.
The conflict is that I still love Corner Church, and I would still join it in a heartbeat.
After this whole series, I find I'm pretty confused about the church. Who is she? What should she look like? I watched a loving bunch of Christians get sucked down with a sinking church, so I know the benefits of safe churches. I just cannot love a safe church.
Please bear with me while I go on a bit about what I cannot release.
The church is organically fitted to intrigue the omniscient God.
She is made up of the least predictable building materials in the universe, us. She is alternately described in scripture as an army, a bride, a body, a gathering, and a bunch of baby chicks. She is a throng, and a single city as large as the eastern half of America. Mostly, though, she is reward enough to lure the omni-blessed God to the death of the cross.
Do you ever read about her in the Song of Solomon? That whole book is about the delicate dance between her and the Son of Man. I dare you with all that's in me to read that book, and as you do, picture a drive across town to indulge in three services a week.
Picture in your min the worship leader asking everyone to stand and sit and stand and sit while you read how the Shulamite says, "I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek Him Whom my soul loves. ... I found Him Whom my soul loves. I held Him, and would not let Him go ..."
Picture to yourself pews full of believers while you read how the King describes her as, "... built in rows of stone; on [her neck] hang a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors."
I can't do it.
I have not read many love poems, but I cannot remember a one that suggested that a policy of boring repetition, week after week after week. Is our Sunday service what has caused the King to say, "You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, ..."?
God made each of us different, so very different, from each other. And yet every church is the same. We know some people engage in soaring art every chance they get, and others bake cookies or shovel snow. Some get lost in crossword puzzles while others need to be surrounded by the buzzing of life.
But all across America this Sunday morning, everyone will sing 3-5 songs, give a tithe, hear a truth (with three subpoints) and receive a benediction. The artist's gift will be listening to a sermon and singing. The baker's and shoveler's gift will be listening to a sermon and singing. The crossword puzzler's gift will be listening to a sermon and singing. Guess what the people-person does.
And these are not just gifts. These are their gifts to the Lord. They received gifts to construct the body - to edify her. The artist could draw a timeless depiction of some truth for the visual learners, but her services will not be needed, thank you very much. The crossword puzzler could piece through the obscure details of 1 Cor 15's grammar, but the church doesn't encourage such things. The baker and the shoveler could warm dozens of hearts, but a church is not a home and it's hard to connect in a big building like that.
Praise God, the people persons cannot be kept down. They will get everyone together for lunch after the service, or they'll know the reason why. :-) (People who need people are the luckiest people in the world, I hear.)
I cannot think of one verse in the new testament that looks like an American church service. Not one. I cannot think of one thing about human beings that commends the church service to their edification. OUr pastor is doing a great job, but if I were sitting under Charles Haddon Spurgeon every Sunday, I would not be a happy man. Not until the church has a hope of profitting from every member will I be content.
I heard and still appreciate all your concerns. I registered that my mother in the Lord is concerned. And I loved this whole discussion. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and fears with me. I am more confused on this subject than ever before in my life, but that's a good thing.
I'm still looking.
There's an old Don Williams song that comes back to me over and again, year after year. It's about a country boy that tried his best to do life right. Here's the last verse and chorus.
Good Ol' Boys Like Me
When I was in school I ran with the kid down the street
But I watched him burn himself up on bourbon and speed
But I was smarter than most and I could choose
Learned to talk like the man on the six o'clock news
When I was eighteen, Lord, I hit the road
But it really dudn't matter how fah I go'd
I can still hear the soft Southern winds in the live oak trees
And those Williams boys they still mean a lot to me
Hank and Tennessee
I guess we're all gonna be what we're gonna be
So what do you do with good ole boys like me?