Thursday, August 24, 2006

Survival Tips

Because I write often critiquing the church system and examining ideas about how we do church, I am concerned about sowing seeds of discouragement and restlessness in emerging people who are in traditional churches.

It is not my opinion that everyone should abandon church as we know it. For those who are planting churches, I hope we see new expressions of what church life can be. However, those who aren't involved in something new can become a new kind of church member - one with a better understanding of their role in the kingdom and the role of church in their life.

I have written survival tips for the emergent-thinking person who is a part of a not-necessarily-emergent church community:

Accept the church you are in for what it is.
This one is first because if you are in an established church, acceptance is necessary for survival. Expectations of changing their system will only lead to discouragement and frustration for both you and those around you.

Be Missional.
I have learned that there isn't a church system around that can prevent you from being what God has called you to be, expressing His life in you, and serving the kingdom wherever you happen to be.

Commit to relationships both within your church and outside of your church.
Be open to fellowship in the church you are in, but also try to nourish relationships with others who don't attend your church. This will help you develop and maintain a healthy perspective of life outside the church bubble.

Define your beliefs and values.
Understanding yourself will help you with the rest of the survival tips, especially acceptance. Rather than discouragement or frustration, understanding can give you the ability to acknowledge and embrace the differences you find between yourself and your existing church. Knowledge of those differences will help you to express yourself in church life in ways that are appropriate for you and to set boundaries for yourself in the areas you don't agree with.

Empower others whenever possible.
If you are in positions of leadership, you have the opportunity to model servant leadership. There is nothing wrong with being a leader if you understand that the role of leadership is to empower others.

Find the things you are in agreement with in your church.
Knowing these things will give you a positive aspect for building your relationship with the church. Invest yourself in the areas you agree with. Find God at work in the congregation and make yourself a part of His work.

Grow in your relationship with the Lord.
This is your highest calling. Again, there is nothing the church can do for you or to hinder you from expanding the depths and riches of your walk with the Lord.

Have faith.
Have faith that God will position you within the body of Christ. Trust that He will lead you in the path that He has for you, whether that path leads to staying or leaving.

If all else fails:
get a tattoo (ht to Pam)
dye your hair pink (ht to Lily)
grow a soul patch - men only please (ht to Bob)
and have a guinness! (ht to Robbymac)

I hope these tips are helpful to you.

11 comments:

Mike Croghan said...

Just what the doctor ordered!

Good advice, all of it. Thanks, Grace.

Bruce said...

Wonderful thoughts Grace. Great perspective that is never talked about: having a non-traditional mindset in a traditional setting.

B~

Ryan said...

You hit the nail on the head. Emergents shouldn't leave churches simply because they don't agree with everything the church says. That would only lead to a new denomination and more separation between Christians

Lily said...

Awesome, Grace. Thanks for saying this stuff. In some ways I wish someone had said this before I left, it's very insightful...yet I know there was no other way for me.

Oh and I appreciate the mention! It's still pink...

Cindy said...

Solid words, Grace. It is definitely living in tension, as you said. I often wish I could hear God calling me out of it. Thanks for your insights.

David Cho said...

Can I do those things under "if all else fails" first before getting to the rest?

Good post

Pam Hogeweide said...

yes dave. i'd be happy to take you to my tattoo artist and i'm sure lily will help ya dye your hair pink :-)

Hugh Anglin said...

We had to join the local Baptist church to continue to work with the college and career group. It wasn't too bad, just filled out a card, shook the preacher's hand and got loved on by a lot of dear saints. Maybe it's possible to be an emergent in the traditional church without causing too many "emergencies" (pun intended). Thanks for your words of wisdom, I'm filing them away for future reference.

Gary Means said...

I really appreciate your perspective on this subject. There are no emergent churches near me. I am taking exploratory steps toward starting one, but for the past few weeks I have been attending a local Baptist megachurch. Even the word "Baptist" pushes a ton of buttons for me, but this may be where God wants me right now. I believe God is urging me to consider serving in at least one volunteer opportunity to the poor there. 25% of my community lives below the poverty level, so the need is great.

The biggest thing I have had to deal with is resentment toward the institutional church. I have to get the focus off of me and my wounds. It's so easy for me to set up a utopian church in my head, and then contrast reality against that. For some strange reason, reality loses every time!

God calls me to relationship with Him first and foremost. If I neglect that relationship, then it doesn't matter whether I go a emergent church or a fundamentalist church. Well, okay, I guess it does matter. I might strangle someone if I went to a fundie church. but you know what I mean . . .

I haven't had any coffee yet. I wonder if these comments will make sense after a cup or two. oh well.

grace said...

Glad you like it Mike.

You too Bruce, and thanks for the link.

ryan,
That's true. Also alot of people who are emerging don't necessarily have anywhere to go that shares their views.

lily,
I understand that. It's really more about learning to be, in whatever place you find yourself. I considered writing survival tips part 2 for those not in a church, but haven't had time to really think about it.

cindy,
I don't even know what I wish anymore. However, I know that these are some of the things I am doing (or learning to do) in order to be at peace with where we are for now.

david,
Only if you promise to post a picture. :) Can't wait!

Pam, thanks for your offer to help David. Such sisterly love!

hugh,
Nice pun. The emergencies probably arise in the areas of differences and might possibly be avoided with some wisdom and understanding of what those differences are.

gary,
It makes sense to me. I find myself drawn mostly to areas of service that are hands-on and outside the church now, even if they are church sponsored, not necessarily in-house ministries. That is a huge change from where I came from.

As far as the institutional church, sometimes I idealize also, but sometimes I back away from it in order to save my sanity. I have to constantly remind myself that God will direct my steps.

Trailady said...

Great thoughts, Grace!! Many good points are made here. :o)