I have to confess that sometimes I get discouraged when I read posts that imply that the emerging conversation is just navel gazing. They usually go on to say that we need to hear from people who are actually doing something.
These posts suggest that many people in the conversation are simply critical and dissatisfied, implying that they have no intention of moving forward. Their message is that if you aren't ready to reconstruct, then just be quiet.
In a sense, I agree with them. I do want to read about how people are attempting to do church in ways that are different than we've known. Reading about how individuals are learning to live authentic missional lives inspires and encourages me.
However, I don't agree that everyone who isn't involved in a ministry should just be quiet. We need to allow people the space and time they need during the deconstruction/reconstruction process.
Detoxing from cultural Christianity is a very necessary process. Robbymac says in his article Detoxing from Church:
There is also another human tendency that wants to rush people from point A of the detox to point B as quickly as possible, so we can all "get on with the job/ministry".
When I read the kind of posts I've described, I feel that rush to move on. I have struggled against that rush from within also, but that drive to "do something" is beginning to dissipate. For me personally, it was necessary for that to die and for me to unlearn the leadership I had known.
When we left our former church, my husband very wisely declared that we would not be involved in any ministry for at least a year. During that time there have been quite a few possibilities come up. There was the temptation to start something.
One of the first temptations was to start some type of home meeting so that we would still have fellowship. We immediately nixed this idea because most likely it would have created conflict.
We had connections with a person who expressed interest in planting a Vineyard church in our town. I think that our community is ripe for a church plant, and a Vineyard would probably do well here. However, we are also glad we didn't throw our efforts into moving that forward.
In the midst of all this, we are detoxing. The main thing I struggled with was learning to redefine my purpose and identity apart from ministry. This quote from Jason Zahariades' article also entitled Detoxing from Church describes what I was recovering from:
"I need purpose for my life. So I go to my local church, hoping to find a leader with a vision big enough to inspire me. Then I sacrifice my time, energy, and money to become involved in the leader’s vision so I can build something big for God with him.
Now strip all of that away. Imagine what you would have left after you remove from your life everything connected with the organizational church. I mean everything. I’ve discovered the hard way that living most of my adult life in cultural Christianity has formed my entire identity as a Christian. And when everything in my life connected with the church is gone, including sixteen years of professional ministry, I’m confronted with the true raw status my personal faith."
This is where I found myself, absolutely naked. Overnight, I went from overcommitted and overinvolved to doing nothing. I went suddenly from respected and needed to shunned and avoided. From an abundance of relationships, I'm left with a few that I could count on one hand.
I know it sounds like we must have done something scandalous, but the truth is this was the result of deciding to leave. We were ready to set down our position, but nothing can prepare you for what it feels like to be disreputed among the people you have ministered to for years.
When you finally stand there completely naked, it is tempting to try to grab something to cover yourself with, to find some ministry to get involved in, some purpose to validate your worth.
We can now look back on each opportunity to start something and know that it would have been premature and the wrong thing for us to be doing. It is so important not to shortcut the detoxing process. If you haven't had the opportunity to read both of these articles, I highly recommend them.
While some people might point to us and say we're not doing anything, I finally understand how important this time has been. If we didn't submit to the process of unlearning what we have known and built prematurely, we would have had frustrating and potentially disasterous results.
My journey may not live up to what others expect, but that's okay. It's my journey, and I plan to continue sharing about it. I am not doing. I am becoming. This is most important for now--that I become what God intends me to be.