Monday, June 20, 2011

Is it possible???

I've been having deep, deep thoughts whilst hanging the washing out.
This is just a series of questions for reflection.

Is it possible to love the institution of the church too much?
Is it possible to be so caught up with what we do to make our church, church, that we actually engage in an act of idolatry by exalting the church to a place above that which it was intended to have?

"I love my church" something I know I have said in the past - a statement that can be difficult to interpret - "I love my fellow called out, chosen ones" - "I love the ones who stand alongside me, marked as different in the community they find themselves" would be more theologically accurate but do we sometimes mean: "I love the experience I have being part of my church"?

There is no doubt that belonging, making "church happen" is incredibly fulfiling - I know this for myself! - but is there not even the tiny potential that worshipping this fact can creep in?

And it is also incredibly possible that we fall in love more with the feeling that comes with being part of the church more than passionately loving the one who is the Head of the church; who loved not his own life but gave it away for those who had no hope of fullness of life.

And for me that is the difficult walk. To know that when guitars cease playing, when shouts of joy tail off, when the last person has been prayed for, outside the doors of our experience of church there are broken, broken people who are loved by no-one. People so low in depression they don't know whether to keep on breathing tonight. Children who are routinely abused. Business people with loads of money but an empty ache.

In the potential that there undoubtedly is for "glam and show" at conferences and churches today, are we growing disciples who have at the absolute front of their thoughts every night and day, burning love for the Father and a heart for the lost? Every extra day before the point that Jesus returns is an opportunity for more and more people to hear about him. He's longing for people to come to love him (1 Tim 2:4). Maybe some people might not have thought of that.

As a wise man once said: the flow of the river of God is out - to love your experience of church but be unanchored in the community outside the church is not the Jesus way.

The most worrying trend that I have ever observed is Christians caught in the ghetto of lunch/coffee/nights out with Christians/meetings all the time/Christian-church stuff all the time (even if its under the guise of "we're doing it for the people not in our church") - well, get living life with the people not in the church! Join a club, volunteer at the local hospice, be a Brownie leader, start a book group with people from work, get a part-time job pulling pints - oh, and read David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyon's book: UNchristian........

I can write about this because I have recognised the pull of loving the experience of church too much in my own life. Back in University days one of our wise friends decreed that the 30 or so of us who were studying there should all only get together on Wednesdays for lunch instead of being in and out of each other's flats/social calendars all the time - he said: hang out with your class ALL THE TIME apart from Wednesday lunchtime. We met to eat and spent 2 to 3 hours worshippng and praying for our classmates each and every Wednesday. We didn't see each other again apart from on a Sunday. That was a 1980s missional community (except we didn't call it as such). I remember it was really hard because I loved the warmth and ease of being part of such a vibrant, worshipful, on fire church. But we grew deeper and faster and saw huge inroads in our influence in our classes and faculties.

Hey, heavy thoughts but on a sabbaticalling time you get to see a few churches and these have been my thoughts from some travelling about just now. Hope they are helpful questions, not meant to be condemning ones, just my honest reflections.


  1. Great thoughts Lynn. I've just finished reading Organic Church by Neil Cole and have been challenged and encouraged by my perception of 'church' and how I 'love church'.
    It's always good to ask the questions and ask God to constantly reveal and expand our understanding of things. I personally feel that we (I) have such a small perception and understanding of what church is and what it can be, and how we should/could really love others and love the church in the right way with the right focus and balance. I have a few other thoughts on this too but too wordy to write it all here!!! x

  2. thanks L, was a bit worried this would come out as a rant. I am just genuinely reflecting on where I am and where I was in my past and what I want to carry forward into tomorrow

    All good, all exciting.
    And I have been wiped away, tears and snotters this weekend, with what grace means, all over again.
    "Lord, if you marked our transgressions, who would stand?"

  3. Community is important, and it is simple but tough.

    It takes sacrifice.

    But actually you need community that knows how to love each other before you can dare to bring someone broken or hurting into it. Or someone who already knows how to be community but doesn't know Jesus.

    I totally agree with actually living life. It's part of the reason I've made some choices about how I spend my time and changing back to the old Laurie!!

  4. thanks for your thoughts LA.

    Although I have observed over long years that it's sometimes IN the bringing of someone broken and hurting into the Christian community that we truly learn how to love well. If we wait till we're fixed...well, it ain't gonna happen!

    We had living with us for a wee while a guy from the male sex worker scene in London at the same time as we ran a small group with people who were not free from drugs in it.

    In one memorable night L threatened to punch J and shortly after X who was living with us ran away. To put it bluntly, in those days of neediness everyone around us, us included, sawour faith grow. Our home group certainly learned how to love; us because we needed their support! and the guys who weren't sorted because they needed the steadying influence of a loving christian small group.

  5. read this today which echoes some of yesterday's thoughts well. As they say: it's not rocket science but it does require time.

    I love the last line:

    "Don’t make the mistake of making “missional” another thing to add to your schedule. Instead, make your existing schedule missional"


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