Monday, June 3, 2013

CHURCH WHEN YOU'RE NOT HAVING CHURCH

...an illuminating story...



The 'church' described below isn't your normal church. But is it more like church should be? Biblical? Participatory? Unpredictable? Missional? Growing? You judge!

".....we discovered a dozen or so people with a heart for reaching others in a university and air-force town on the rural fringe of the city... A year later... the dozen had become more than fifty meeting
in homes and in the local elementary school....Four years later there were more than one hundred fifty. Most had no church background (I love that) or had been alienated by former church experiences.

"...Local church leaders spread innuendo about us. We anticipated such and let it go. We had no desire to steal sheep from other congregations. Our whole intent was to reach those who would not normally go anywhere near church. We often joked, more than half-seriously, that we were "the church you have when you're not having church."

"There were no salaries to work in the church. No church buildings. Minimal programs. No constitution. No doctrinal statement. No membership. No ministry was fenced. No two meetings ever looked the same. Brian and I did lots of teaching, but Sunday meetings were led by children or families or small study groups or groups of friends. It continued to grow like this....

In the end over two hundred gathered each Sunday. Yet the real impact was far greater than this. The population of the town had a fifty percent turnover every four years... The transient nature of often marginally employed public housing tenants, Air Force personnel and university students, together with the irregular participation of people who lived on the social fringe, meant that the group probably had a direct influence on many hundreds of people over the decade."

Did the church live-happily-ever-after? Very sadly, "no" for a number of complex reasons. I quote just one, "We were growing faster than any other local church, and the open style of leadership and participation was increasingly attractive to disillusioned local Christians. But churched folk bring church expectations. Some more traditional Christians began to agitate for the conventions of "real church." They wanted leadership with a capital L, control, paid staff, a "real church service," and more programs...People wanted me to act like a "real pastor." They wanted me to refrain from any mention of my own inadequacies. To preach "proper sermons." To take a salary."

This abridged account was taken from Mark Strom's "weighty" book, "Reframing Paul - Conversations in Grace and Community." InterVarsity Press.

A very positive example with a serious warning!

Jack
 

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