Church: Loving It, Leaving It, Reshaping It
Have you noticed how many books have come out in the past few years about leaving the church? In Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith (http://www.christianbook.com/leaving-church-memoir-of-faith-softcover/barbara-taylor/9780060872632/pd/872632?item_code=WW&netp_id=474976&event=ESRCN&view=details) (HarperOne, 2006), Episcopal priest Barbara Brown Taylor explains what drove her to leave the familiar behind and ultimately what she rediscovered about her faith in the process. In Quitting Church (http://www.christianbook.com/quitting-church-faithful-fleeing-what-about/julia-duin/9780801072277/pd/072277?item_code=WW&netp_id=625844&event=ESRCN&view=details) (Baker Books, 2009), Washington Times religion editor Julia Duin shares some of the reasons her interviewees have fled: shallow sermons, the desire to be more than a spectator, feeling devalued as women or singles, etc.
Then there are the books that examine what church is supposed to be about, challenging the body of Christ to answer its true calling. In Embodying Our Faith: Becoming a Living, Sharing, Practicing Church (http://www.christianbook.com/embodying-becoming-living-sharing-practicing-church/tim-morey/9780830837298/pd/837298?item_code=WW&netp_id=648240&event=ESRCN&view=details) (IVP, 2010), for example, Tim Morey asks, “Is a church really a church if it exists only for itself?” (http://tjhoiland.com/wordpress/2010/05/is-a-church-really-a-church-if-it-exists-only-for-itself/)
That’s an excellent question. And it can be taken a step further by asking, “Why do YOU go to your church, and are you only going to benefit yourself?” Donald Miller goes so far as to wonder if it’s ever a good idea for a pastor to ask congregants to move on. (http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/features/21580-asking-people-to-leave-church)
What gets you to church? What are you looking for there? More importantly, perhaps, what are you bringing to church with you? What is your church known for in the community? Is it known at all? These are questions that the small house church I participate in can hardly help but ask ourselves. With so few people (about 12 adults and about as many kids) and only shared lay leadership, we are constantly inventing and reinventing our little body. This summer, for example, we’ve decided it’s time to shake up the routine a bit and think about what Sabbath really means by looking for ways to make our Sundays delightful times of joy, play, and rest. Guided in part by Dan Allender’s book Sabbath: The Ancient Practices (http://www.christianbook.com/sabbath-the-ancient-practices/dan-allender/9780849901072/pd/901072?item_code=WW&netp_id=555201&event=ESRCN&view=details) (Thomas Nelson, 2009), we will be taking turns over the next two months leading the group to places of beauty (parks, streams, the ocean) and inviting each other to taste and see that the Lord is good. I’m excited to see what we all come up with, and I’ll be sure to let you know what we discover along the way.
In the meantime, check out the work of Love Granbury, (http://www.lovegranbury.org/index.html) a network of about 20 churches in Texas. They encourage Christians to have as many out-of-church experiences as they can by reaching out with some splashy love to the community. Check out how they recently put sticker shock to their advantage (http://lovegranbury.blogspot.com/2010/03/getting-your-church-noticed-sticker.html) and ended up blessing a whole lot of folks in a fun, memorable way.