Sunday, November 27, 2005


How did we end up here?

Many in the emerging conversation have been displaced from their churches of origin. For some it was simply a matter of moving on. Others lost friends and reputations. Some even lost jobs.

Interestingly enough, the ones leaving churches are not necessarily the flaky and immature. They are mostly long-time members who were involved in church leadership.

Scott Williams recently expressed this so well:

the church is in deep kimshi. we all know that.

many of us are looking for outlets to vent our frustrations and ask dangerous questions. we band together to try to figure things out. most of those i read are dedicated to transparency, to honesty. they have no desire to destroy the church. most post-moderns i know are not desirous of disbanding anything, let alone turning people from faith.

While dedicated to truth and the basics of the gospel, they are frustrated with established church structures. Many, like myself, didn't even connect to the emerging conversation until they found themselves in the wilderness.

We aren't rebellious.
We aren't troublemakers.
We aren't independent.
We aren't crazy or weird.
And we aren't church-hoppers!

Some have found community and connection with others to share their journey. Bob Hyatt has a pub church and Scott Williams has a club church. Many others have simple church, organic church, or house church.

I reread Dan Kimball's post about reality church tonight. I am still wishing for a different ending to that sequence.

We are at an inbetween place. On Sundays, my husband and I often have a "state of the union" discussion which frequently turns to church issues. Where should we fit?

We go to a local community church on Sunday mornings. It still seems like the right thing to do for the kids. So we go. Attending, but not belonging. Dissatisfied, but not critical. Just longing for something else.

I have been thinking about robbymac's post about being a burr under the saddle in order to instigate change. We've been there, done that, got crushed.

I have come to accept the aloneness of this time and place.

The water is clear and there is plenty of room to swim around.


Anonymous said...

Hey Grace...
Thanks for the shout out! :)
I hear you on Dan's piece as well...

For me the sequence ends not so much in pub church (that's just where our gatherings happen to be right now), but in organic church, non-programatic church... churches that would rather plant other churches, both as a value in and of itself and as way to retain that dynamic which makes their community unique and special...

But that's just me :)

Keep up the questions... I think it's a valuable process and eventually deconstruction does lead somewhere- if God is in and around it.

Jon said...

Thanks for your candor regarding the feelings of aloneness that come from existing in a church climate that you can see needs to change. Must be frustrating on a fairly regular basis but I really respect your decision to attend a place where the kids are getting something good.

I'm not totally sure where I fit in this whole emerging conversation but I do know that we feel like God is calling us to some sort of new 'community of faith' here in our town. Exciting and scary. Just in the process now of breaking down some of my old conceptions of how church should run and reimagine things a bit. Should be interesting to see what God will do with all of this.

Cindy said...

You speak for me, too, Grace. I'm afraid your bowl is more crowded than you realize...

Bruce said...

Interesting post. I've been wondering the same things lately, but can't quite put my finger on why so many are unhappy with "church." There is a lot of discontentment and dissatisfaction, at least in the blogs I'm reading, but no one seems to point to anything in particular. Maybe our unhappiness is a result of God speaking to us, telling us there is more to this life, and to church, than we've come to expect. Or more than we've always been told. Anyway, enjoyed the post. cindy is right, your bowl is much more crowded than you think. We're just spread out over such a large area.


Pam Hogeweide said...

I'm that freaky wilderness, too, Grace, and it is most uncomfortable.

My husband and I have just decided to no longer be a part of the large church we have been involved with the past three years. We are not offended, that's not why we're withdrawing. We're not feeling "unfed" or overlooked or anything like that. It's the sense that There Must Be More to Life Than This. I know there are no perfect churches, and if there were, the joke goes, than it won't be perfect anymore once we start going there. I'm not sure what God has for our family. We're not leaders so we won't be starting our own anything of any kind. We don't have a shopping list of wishes of what to look for in a church. (though between you and me, Jerry did say he hopes we can find a church where you can say f*%k - sorry for swearing again on your blog! I hope you don't blacklist me!) It's not that Jerry and I get our thrills from four letter words, but his point being that he would like to burn the Sunday morning mask with the jargon and smiling and pretense...)

Revolutions begin with discontentment. Martin Luther was the spark for the reforamtion because he got messed up and pissed off. He could no longer ignore the way things were and had always been. God give us Luther's passion to nail our own treatise on the doors of the lifeless religious traditions we have bought into. Here's the thing, what I hear lots of people asking: what is our treatise?

I'm not sure, I don't know, I'm not that smart and I have no bible degree or academic credentials, but I wonder if the treatise we are after is found in intimacy and transparenc. Intimacy with Christ, knowing the reality of who He is and what He is like, and transparency with one another, living in honest vulnerability with one another with a grace that emerges (had to say it) from genuine unconditional love and acceptance. I wonder if love really is the answer to our discontentment and dissatisfaction.

Now what would that look like in the grand scheme of things?

I suppose a good place to start is in my own life.

Someone recently told me a story about eaglets. The mama eagle creates such a safe and cozy nest for her eaglets. Then one day the mom eagle begins to put little sticks in the nest, sticks that poke and prick. The nest is not so comfortable as before. This helps the little eaglets be more willing to be prodded to the edge of the nest, which is wedged way up high in the branches of a tall tree. She coaxes an eaglet to the nest's edge and then, without warning, pushes the eaglet out. The little one free falls, not knowing what to do or how to fly. Before the baby hits the ground, though, the mamma eagle swoops under him, catching him with her outstretched wings. She returns the eaglet to the nest and repeats this process until the eaglet finally learns to fly and soar on their own.

This remarkable transformation from eaglet to eagle begins with the uncomfortable itching and scratching from the prickly twigs placed in the nest.

I wonder if it is not God Himself prodding us out so that we may continue on in the transformation of becoming the beloved bride of Christ.

Shelley said...

Your post is so close to home for me too, Grace. And Pam, your comment quite thought provoking. I have been reading 'emergent' stuff for a year or more, and sometimes find myself shouting, Yes! That's It! Yes! But I just don't know what to do with it. I think my little town has enough churches already without me 'starting something new'--but that itching and prodding and just plain restlessness is going on inside of me too.

My husband, 3 yr old daughter and I attend a somewhat large community church and sometimes I think 'what's the point?' I don't see transformation happening in my life, or anyone else's. I am just so tired of Western/American Christianity. But it's not a matter of finding another place to go, because we've already been everywhere else. That doesn't seem to be the answer for us. And because I live in a rural, Bible-belty kind of place, I see little hope for change.

So here I sit in the wilderness--where I thought I was alone. Nice to see there are others here with me.

Thanks for sharing, Grace.

Aj Schwanz said...

Thanks so much for your comments!

I've been uneasy with the fact that, despite what folks might say, the actions of much of the emerging church movement is based on leaving something rather than being called/going towards something. I agree with you: there's something in the air that's making folks restless with their typical church attendence. But I've heard too many prophetic warnings about not leaving "traditional church" in the dust/abandoning/separating from.

If you have a longing in your heart - an unsatisfiedness - perhaps it's from/reflecting God? Or nudging you towards some *more*? Maybe we're going through some adolescent growing pains - things that ache and hurt but are necessary as we mature to become the people we're called to be in Christ.

Thanks for sharing so transparently - I greatly appreciate hearing your words.

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes - the wilderness. I wish it weren't so, but it is.

I'm no bible scholar but it seems to me that the wilderness was always a precursor to a significant shift in the historical landscape. Moses tending Jethro's sheep, the Israelites, John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul... It really makes me wonder if there's a monumental, world-sized shift just beyond our horizon. Some would say that's already happening, but yet here we are, still in the wilderness. It's anybody's guess what happens next.

Thanks for sharing how you feel so openly. The bowl is indeed more crowded than it first appears.

Rob said...

And the reason I liked the metaphor of the burr under the saddle is precisely because it hurts like forty bears (Canuckian expression) to be crushed over and over while trying to be an instigator of change.

And when we were the pastors who were pushing for change, it often resulted (eventually) in loss of employment, having to leave a whole network of relationships, and sometimes moving to another city. My family and I have had enough of that, thank you very much!

On the other hand, I've had several instances where the pastor(s) who succeeded me would email or phone me to say "thanks for being the ice-breaker -- they're letting me do all the stuff they wouldn't let you do". One time, one of the pastors who was hired to replace me even bought me lunch and beer to say thanks.

But I'm really, really tired and scarred and not really anxious to ice-break again, outside of the digital blogdom at this point. We've detoxed enough that we can attend regular church for our kids' sake -- and I'm NOT going to sacrifice my kids' spiritual lives on the altar of my discontent -- they want to go; we go. But our expectations are completely different, so we don't find it quite as frustrating. Could be because (and this may be the key) we're not in leadership.

Oops. Supper's on, so I'll have to stop here. Be back later!

Awesome post, Grace! You rock my world. :)

Kelly said...

you have touched on so many issues that i feel within my heart.

the options seem so limited when you look at the stage model.. God is not limited, and i just have to keep reminding myself of that.

your writing has addressed many questions i am currently working through, good to know that another fish is swimming around the bowl alongside me.

Lily said...

Grace, I thank you for sharing where you're at. You are always a source of encouragement to me. Maybe this is a strange analogy, and maybe I'm not very articulate, but I feel as though it goes with your fish theme.

I like to see myself as a salmon. Salmon spawn in freshwater streams and rivers, then journey to the ocean to grow and mature. Eventually, by some strange call, they will somehow find their way back to their "place-of-origin", the river or stream where they were created, in order to reproduce. In some salmon habitats, hydroelectric dams were built, and the salmon could no longer easily return home. So a thing called a fishladder was created. If you've ever seen a salmon jumping for all their worth to navigate a fish ladder, you've really seen something. So although it's an undeniable call, it's not without effort and danger.

I guess rather than being "cast out", I decided the ocean was getting a little polluted for me. By some mysterious, enigmatic call, not heard by most people around me, I felt the need rise up in my Spirit to return to my "roots". I felt my faith could not "reproduce" any other way. Along the way, I have met others who are in the process of returning home: navigating the various hazards and predators, swimming hard, jumping those ladders with all their might, because they know they must return home or die fruitless and unreproductive. We each have our own journey, our own place to return to, but it's comforting to know there are others who heard the call and are also willing to risk themselves in order to answer that call.

Yes, it's lonlier than it was before, there were big schools out in the ocean, now it's just me and a few others. But the water is pure and fresh, the stream is safe and gentle, and I have an awful lot to teach my offspring before they, too, must embark on their own journey.

I kinda like it here.


Traci said...

I am in awe of what I am reading both in the comments and your blog. I agree that there is a subtle shift going on. Long story short we left our church of 10 years to church hop. Didn't take us too long to find a wonderful church. Non-denom. Pastor lost his job as a professor at a denomonation run university to stay with this church. The motto is Come as you are. And they mean it. No judgements. Now I realize that as in all things there are flaws and we will find them, but I think this time we see things in a different way. But I do see the merits of staying out of church. I don't know where we would be attending if we hadn't found this place.

Anonymous said...

Another classic...

I came to realize in staff meeting on Tuesday that George Bush and I both have the same problem: neither one of us has a good exit strategy. So many people have told me I'm a "change agent"...but I no longer have the heart for it. For w/e reason...your post here encouraged me...thanks.

Linda said...

Thanks for sharing your stories and thoughts.

The repeating theme in all of your comments really encouraged me and I'm sure others who also read them.

That is why I have included and responded to many of them in my latest post.

bobbie said...

great post grace, i'm late the the discussion here, but early to the 'escape'. i think in our 'state of the union' discussions we've realized that what we long for is community - a smaller group of like minded individuals to meet with on a regular basis.

we could put up with anything 'churchy' on sunday for our kids as long as we had community elsewhere.

our move will hopefully afford this, but if we can't find it we're going to plant it (not a church, a community), nurture it, and hopefully it will grow into something that looks like what our hearts long for so deeply.

Linda said...

You explained what we are also looking for. While we probably continue attending "church," our longing is for community with a group of like-minded people.

It might be awhile before we find that in our area. However, we are open to nurturing those kinds of relationships around us.

I hope your move brings you many deep and faithful relationships.