i don't know why i feel a pressing need to share these thoughts, but i do.
in simkins most recent post, he talked about how he has "not walked away from the faith," but has "walked away from the institution that was born in middle America in the 1950's." as i thought about his provocative post i began to reflect on the congregational churches in which i was raised and later trained to lead. since i have been ministering in a non-institutional way for a little over three years now, i thought it would be helpful for me to create a list of the "top ten things i miss about the traditional church." i intended for this list to be witty, stimulating and, above all, honor the traditional church (which i still love deeply).
unfortunately, after ten minutes of thinking, my list only included two items.
in regards to the traditional, congregational church i really miss:
1. worshipping with and serving beside an economically, socially and generationally diverse congregation. in my home congregation a number of my grandparent's friends mentored me and loved me deeply and i am a much better person for it.
2. i miss traditional, monological sermons. my affinity for this form of proclamation is probably a bit self-centered, since i'm a decent "preacher," but there is still something about one person, who has thoroughly studied a text, applied the implications of the text to her heart, prayed over the sermon and loves her congregation, proclaiming and, on rare occasion perhaps even becoming, the word of God. just thinking about this form of proclamation reminds me of so many memorable sermons i've heard throughout the years - neil windham is still admonishing "careful preparations, holy rhythms, godly outcomes," sackett is going on about the brutal struggle between "better and best," and castelein is forging a long-lasting connection between me and "the deceiver."
i suppose at this point i could prattle on about how relieved i am to be working outside of a traditional church or perhaps i could reproduce a part of my b+ paper on the strengths and weaknesses of the seeker church, but i'm not going to do anything of the sort. instead, i'd like to offer a brief affirmation and confession.
first, i love the church. as i've told everyone who knows me well time and time again, "i didn't give my life to serve the seeker church/home church/christian church, churches of christ (take your pick), but to serve the Church." although i've had my moments of rebellion and reaction against any number of models, i do not condemn any of them. in fact, i harbor a deep love for them all. if god had led me into a congregation that embraces one of these models and/or un-denominational background, i would serve them with the same (flawed) dedication and (middling) passion that i serve sinners and saints.
second, although i am a bit removed from these structures, i still long for the stability and order that they provide. when we started s & s i was scared e.o.e.less, since we had little clue of what we were doing. even now, as we try to steward the resources god has given us and find ways to effectively incarnate christ's compassion and proclaim god's reversal throughout the world, i am often overwhelmed. i fear that we are failing to make "more and better" disciples. i don't know how we can reproduce a community as idiosyncratic as s & s or if we should even try. free from any traditional, denominational affiliation, i worry that i will fall into heresy. i cannot tell you how many times i have been tempted to seek a traditional ministry post or respond favorably to the few that have been offered.
but, i have become more and more convinced that god is not leading me down the latter path. so, here i stand, in and among people that i love, working with and in a community that i was not trained to lead. and i love it. but i do not claim a malicious bone nor harbor any enmity towards other forms of church. in fact, i think that every population base of any significance should have every form or model of church present. all of our unique strengths and perhaps even some of our weaknesses will be needed as we incarnate god's unexpected kingdom and together await its final consummation.
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