Sunday, April 01, 2007

TPFKATC - The Underlying Issues


There is a path of detox and deconstruction that leads to an understanding of the underlying problems in the system of church that Christianity has functioned in for many years. Most who follow this path still have an appreciation for the traditional church although they can no longer wholeheartedly embrace the packaged religious experience.

To be honest, I tire of the assumption that those who come to this place are simply bitter and critical. The reason that Bill's post, The People Formerly Known as the Congregation, hit the blogosphere with such a splash is because there are so many people who sense the validity of the issues he addresses in his post.

There are many who find themselves in agreement with Bill's post, not out of a critical attitude, but because of a deep conviction that God's Spirit is moving within the hearts of his people to bring about the transformation and reformation required for the church - His Church, which we love deeply - to become the vehicle of redemption that will impact the world in our generation.

This is not a simple case of "for or against." There are specific issues that we are convinced have been a hindrance to growth in the maturity of the church and the advancement of the kingdom of God.

Do we have a better way? Oftentimes not. However, we have placed ourselves in a position of learning and experimenting. We will boldly or perhaps foolishly go against the status quo in our attempts to follow the direction of God's movement.

If you read through the list of issues covered in Bill's post, you will see traditions that are being deconstructed. You will also see values presented that we hope to express in our lives in a positive effort to re-imagine who we are as the people of God.

Passivity
We are convinced that a church system which allows believers to fulfill their weekly spiritual obligation by listening to a sermon creates a consumerist audience who have not been encouraged to step into the responsibility of being a disciple and discipling others.

Clergy/Laity
We have seen that the false distinction between clergy and laity has led to a professionalization of ministry which contributes to the passivity of congregants.

Tithing
We believe that tithing has been taught as a method of obligatory giving in order to create a permanent source of funding for institutions. We believe that we are to develop a relationship of obedience to the Holy Spirit concerning our giving rather than simply paying our dues to a religious system.

Buildings
We are convicted that the millions of dollars spent on buildings for churches has not been wise stewardship of the resources that have been entrusted to church leaders.

Attractional methods
We understand from Scripture that it is our duty and mission to go to the lost rather than to expect them to come to us.

Programs
We are convinced that becoming busy with programs within the church removes us from developing relationships with those who aren't involved in church. We no longer equate service in church programs with faithful commitment and service to God.

Dualism
We no longer see a Sunday morning service as the complete expression of our sacred lives. We have developed an understanding of our role as the people of God that requires being the church in all that we do.

Incarnational living
We purpose to minister in the opportunities that our daily lives present, and we are intentional about involving ourselves in the lives of others in deeper ways than a Sunday service allows or requires.

Following the spirit
We are convicted that dependence on the Holy Spirit is required to move forward into becoming the people we were created to be. We are also convinced that the Holy Spirit is leading us away from the systems and structures that provide a comfortable complacency rather than the challenging mission we are called to.

Servant leadership
Lastly, we see clearly that the hierarchical structures of leadership that have been taught through tradition are not scriptural. We know that the methods of leadership that are so often defended as biblical are at odds with the type of relationships that Jesus intended for us to have with one another.

We have not come to these convictions carelessly or casually. They will shape and inform our spiritual journey whether we continue in the traditional system or find another expression of church. Whether or not we ourselves are written off as reactionary, the church will eventually have to address the validity of these issues.

36 comments:

Bill Kinnon said...

As far as I'm concerned, this would be Part Two to my original post. I've linked to it in a new post on my blog and will add a link in the original post.

I ask the question in my post about this one, "I wonder who will write Part Three?" Let us push forward in this conversation as we seek to discern where the Lord is taking us.

sonja said...

Whoa ... Grace another one out of the park!

You're right, we're no longer fit for the institutional church and I've been thinking about that a lot lately. I've been having a lot of "So now what?" conversations with myself ...

Jamie Arpin-Ricci said...

I agree with Bill. Well said! While I wouldn't presume to be writing part three, I am working on something that you both inspired. Should be done tomorrow. In the mean time, I am going to point people in this direction.

Peace,
Jamie

John Frye said...

Grace,
I just recently came across Bill's TPFKATC. I linked to it. I agree with him and the comments above that you have contributed significantly to this conversation. Keep your clarity and courage. You are a good sister in this time of tremendous change.

Steve Sensenig said...

Whether or not we ourselves are written off as reactionary, the church will eventually have to address the validity of these issues.

This is one of those statements I wish I had written! ;) Seriously, you make a good point. It's not about the acceptance of us -- whether or not we are accepted or written off is really immaterial. But it is about the underlying issues, and they eventually will have to be addressed as to their validity.

Great follow-up to Bill's post. I would love to say that I will write part 3, but I'm not sure what to say. I've been questioning a lot of these things on my blog over the last 18 months or so that I've been blogging, but don't always know how hard to push on some of the issues.

Something you touched on that really resonated with me is the passivity aspect. I have made the comment before that, even if the institutional model is not wrong in and of itself, to the extent that any model hinders the growth and maturity of the people involved, it is unhealthy.

KSG said...

This is a great followup to Bill's post, thanks for writing it.

Makeesha said...

awesome sweet sister - well said as usual.

Jamie Arpin-Ricci said...

Grace,

I just posted my tribute to what you and Bill wrote. Hope you like it.

Peace,
Jamie

Joy said...

Grace,

As usual, your words are filled with grace and wisdom! Bill's post that you referred to is what has finally brought me out of hibernation!

It is so wonderful to see how strangely parallel we still are walking... I must catch up! You have been busy since I've been gone!

Thanks for visiting me and for your encouraging words!

Still lovin' your toes!!

John Smulo said...

Grace,

You inspire and challenge me. Great thoughts as always.

Robin said...

Hey Grace...it's me...your lightweight reader...popping in to let you know I tagged/nominated you with a "Thinking Blogger" award.

Wow.....what a post today; you have the ability to summarize concisely and understandably a wide range of issues facing the Church today. As a member of a mainline denomination, these are conversations I'm not even hearing :/.

But, oh, how they resonate within my spirit.

Darryl said...

Wow, bang on. Thanks for this!

Inheritor of Heaven said...

I think we are definitely in a transition time. Coming from a very "religious" area of the country (still large numbers attend church due to tradition and the religious spirit) I see those churches that still use their buildings but teach according to the principles you outline as being valid expressions. I think there will still be those who are gifted as pastors and teachers who will equip others to do the work of the ministry and so there will still be forms of the old though the outward expression may be different. In our region there needs to be a very large paradigm shift away from "the pastor does it all" toward "it's our ministry, equip us to do it".
The money aspect is always difficult in America because we think it is our money. We at our church are being taught that tithing is a start, a discipline which the Lord uses to grow us into more sacrificial and cheerful giving. In our region I would guess the average giving is WAY less than 10% (Barna says that if ANY charitable giving is counted as tithing, then only 6% of adults tithe). If the Lord owns it all and scripture shows many places where believers give it all then perhaps 10% is a starting place most people need to go forward from.
I think that what you write about incarnational living, following the Spirit, and servant leadership are exactly what the church must be pursuing in order to expand the kingdom. I don't think a tract will expand the kingdom like a relationship prompted by the Spirit will do.

Heidi Renee said...

Wow Grace - amazing post! I've added as an update to Bill's - really well written!

Sue said...

As I've found in the past, once again, you have given clarity to what can be an emotional topic for many. Thank you for that.

John Frye said...

GRACE,
I did it.
Check out JESUS THE RADICAL PASTOR.

Ed Brenegar said...

Here's the real problem. Given the opportunity, we'll create our own institutionalize version of the Christian faith. The problem isn't the institution. The problem is us. Until we realize that the church is a reflection of human strengths and weakness we'll be deceiving ourselves into thinking I know better than those consumerist Christians. We are those people with just different stuff that we want to institutionalize. Grace, you and Bill may be correct in your specific analysis of specific churches. The reality is also true that we need organization to sustain and protect the community of people who share a common faith. The real problem is when institution exists apart from community. Community dies and the institution lives on.

grace said...

Bill,
I left a more indepth response to you at your blog. Thanks for inspiring this conversation.

sonja,
I understand what you're saying. A wise friend recently told me that it is not about where we fit, it is about Who we follow.

jamie,
Awesome work on part 3!

john,
I am so glad that you added the perspective of the pastor. It is an extremely powerful and important post.

steve,
I appreciate your point. My complaint is not necessarily with a particular model, but rather with these issues regardless of the model. I felt like I have already posted on many of these things too. In fact, I considered linking to a previous post in each of the 10 main points.

Thanks ksg!

Makeesha,
It's nice to see you out from under cover again. I've been praying for you and David.

joy,
Yes, Bill's post was incredible. Also be sure to check out part 3 by Jamie and part 4 by John Frye.

I am amazed at the amount of information you've devoured since you began this journey.

john,
Thanks and you inspire me too!

robin,
You are so funny. I'll be by this morning. So what did I win? ;)

Thanks darryl and thanks for the link.

inheritor,
Great comments! I actually think buildings are helpful and sometimes necessary, but not to the extent that we have they made them monuments to our kingdoms. I think there are great possibilities for redemptive use of the buildings that already exist.

I also agree that ministry roles are in a state of transition. So much of that is dependent on the heart of the leader. But there is also a huge paradigm shift needed from the congregation in wanting the pastor to do it all.

As far as giving, I think that at least 10% is a good starting place. I don't believe that teaching tithing has been the right way to teach heartfelt generosity. Also, I believe that we have erred in teaching that giving to the institution is the only way to give.

As always I appreciate your kingdom perspective and insight.

Thank you Heidi!
Thank you Sue!

ed,
I agree that our gatherings will always involve human weakness, and part of our struggle and growth is in dealing with that aspect of ourselves and others.

However, I do not believe that we have to institutionalize those weaknesses. For example, because it is a human weakness to strive for power, therefore we create hierarchies.

Rather in our awareness of those tendencies, we can choose an alternate way. For example, because it is a human weakness to strive for power, we purpose to emphasize and model servant leadership.

My analysis was not of specific churches, models, or structures, but rather of issues. These issues can be addressed within the institution.

I believe that we can have healthy organizations that are willing to address the issues and be transformed into more missional expressions of community.

And yes, sadly, sometimes the institution lives on long after the community has died. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

bryan riley said...

Wow. I'm a little late here, but I love what you've written. I suppose I must go read the others' previous and post now. It makes me want to sharpen my pencil.

Makeesha said...

thank you for your prayers grace. :)

lyn said...

Grace this was so well put and written - thank you.

Lyn

Gary Means said...

Well done as usual, Grace.
AMEN, AMEN, and AMEN!

I'll link Bill's post and yours on my blog. I'll also take a look at parts 3 and 4 by the other authors.

Have a blessed Easter!

grace said...

Thank you Bryan. There's no such thing as late around here.

You are welcome Makeesha.

Thank you Lyn, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Gary,
I know you'll enjoy the other parts also. Thank you.

radicalreversal said...

Grace,

Great post .. exactly the same sort of sentiments that me and our little group of dissidents have been expressing for some time.

Blessings,

Paul
--
http://radicalreversal.org/weblog/

Shannon W, Austin said...

I'm not alone anymore! All that I've been thinking, saying, feeling, expressing and praying about for so long are posted here. Thank you.

ron said...

Grace, boy Bill's post has been like dominos...striking a nerve,which leads to striking another...and on and on. I had been away for abit and didn't see Bill's orginal post till recently.What came to mind for me was the folks in existing established churches that are working through the missional expression of being church.The challenges for them are quite different than building something fresh outside or on the fringe.To get communities that have collected alot of excess and needless baggage over the years, to unpack it " all " and just keep the essentials and then move into a land of transition towards a missional church...one gets an appreciation of what Moses went through in the wilderness.
Anyways Grace, you, Bill, John, Jamie and many others have said it all beautifully...lets continue to dream God sized dreams. Peace...Ron+

The Merry Rose said...

grace, thank you for being the loving and caring way in which you put this. it resonates with me strongly.

grace said...

Paul,
It's nice to meet you. I enjoyed browsing through your blog and your group's website. It looks like we share a similar perspective about many issues.

shannon,
I'm glad that you found the post encouraging. Blessings to you.

Ron,
I often find myself wondering whether many churches and individuals will be willing or able to undergo the kind of transition you've described.
I think that dreaming God-sized dreams will be vital to becoming the church we need to be.
Peace to you also!

Merry Rose,
Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

Heidi said...

Wow indeed. Thank you for so graciously raising the issues that MUST be dealt with, either from within or without the church walls.

I wrote my personalized version of "Formerly Known" here:

http://livewithdesire.typepad.com/live_with_desire/2007/04/formerly_known_.html

Blessings,
Heidi

grace said...

Heidi,
I think you said what so many of us feel. We still love God, still love the church, but somehow we've found ourselves outside the category of "normal Christians."

I especially could relate to what you said about mediated relationships. I think that once a person truly understands their freedom to enjoy their relationship with the Lord without a mediator, they are no longer able to be coerced or intimidated into a relationship where someone else presumes to stand in His position in their life.

Thanks for adding your voice to this conversation. I linked to your post in my most recent post today.

Sola gratia said...

Your post and the whole thread has triggered me to write my own response. Comments appreciated - http://lordibelievehelpmyunbelief.blogspot.com/2007/04/tribe-formerly-called-quest.html.

Old Pete said...

I've posted a response at http://uk.geocities.com/oldpete66

I'd appreciate any feedback

Pete

Old Pete said...

Just to show my lack of experience the response is at http://oldpete66.blogspot.com

Tony Myles said...

Rock on!

Volkmar said...

Ok, now I'm hooked.

I continue to read and ruminate.


Tom

Tim said...

Good Job! :)