Thursday, May 31, 2007

The "church" versus The "Church" -- Part I

Just to be clear, both in this post and others that may follow soon, I mean the "Church" as the BIG bunch of us--the believers, around the world and without denominational, or any other, line of demarcation except to believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior. I mean the "church" as a visible, local group, perhaps a denomination, a section of the whole.

I'm reading a book titled "Stories of Emergence: Moving from Absolute to Authentic." I found it on the bargain table at a religious book store--I think it cost me $1.99. I think the cover is dreary and tacky looking, and the book is printed on cheap paper. (Maybe that is more "authentic?")

I picked it up anyway, because it said "emergence" on the cover, because it was cheap, and because Dr. Earl Creps, who I link to in the sidebar, is one of the contributors. Dr. Creps is director of the Doctorate of Ministry Program and an associate professor at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, and is known for speaking and writing about postmodernism and the "emerging church." When I heard him speak a few years ago I began to hope that the Assemblies of God (my particular "church" branch of the "Church") might change in good and appropriate ways. Before that time I did not know that anyone of note in the Assemblies was even considering the major shift happening before our eyes.

As for the book, this is not a book of theology, not a book of answers, not even a book which will tell you all about postmodernism and the direction of the church. It is simply a collection of personal stories. Some of the chapters, from a variety of authors, are dry, some are funny, some are predictable, but mostly I found myself relating--and somewhat surprised that I did. I'm so glad I picked it up.

It started me thinking, yet again, about the nature of the Church. Here is an edited and condensed bit from the introduction by Mike Yaconelli. I am posting it because I find it fascinating, and I agree with it on a deep level, and I also disagree with it, and I'm struggling to navigate my apparently disparate views in order to find my way as a believer and a pastor, and a lover of both the Church and the church in the present age of transition. I'm going to write more in a day or so, but I'd love to hear others initial reactions to what Mike has to say.

I began my walk with Jesus 49 years ago...My faith sputtered and misfired, but in all these years my view of the Church has never changed. Institutional church is another story. I have criticized, challenged, avoided, rejected, rebelled from and ranted at I have been appalled, embarrassed, depressed, angry, frustrated, and grieved...But I've never lost my love for the Church, the glorious, odd collection of unimpressive, ordinary, flawed people who make up the community of God, the body of Christ...I have continued to find life in the the unorganized...irrelevant group of believers who are corporately trying to figure out who Jesus is and what it means to follow him in everyday life...During the last 40 years people have been captivated by the Jesus movement, the Calvary Chapel movement, the megachurch movement, a variety of Pentecostal movements, the worship movement, and now the postmodern movement...The longing...has always been the same--to find a place where people can worship God, learn about Jesus, share their lives in authentic community..."

Sigh. Yeah, I hear you Mike, but I also find it intriguing that a person who loves the Church but is frustrated with the church is a pastor of one, albeit of a somewhat unique nature.

More later, after some more reading and pondering.


Iris said...

This should be an inyeresting discussion. I look forward to what you have to say in coming posts.

Did you know that Mike Yaconelli died in a car accident a few years ago? He was a Presby and a prolific writer, especially of resources for youth ministry. But you probably already knew that!

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

I knew that he was a Presby and a writer of resources for youth, but I had not heard that he had died in an accident. Thanks for letting me know. Sad.

Anonymous said...

Reading this sent me to my briefcase where the 3x5 cards was stored on which I'd made notes for future writings. One said, "All the different modes of worship are but evidence we are still looking for God."

Now I'll have to get this book.

Anonymous said...

This is so strange,I just finished reading a book by Mike called Messy Spiritualality,Gods Annoying Love for imperfect people.It was really good,but I can't agree with everything.when I think about what you wrote and what Mike wrote.I get the feeling He likes to find a place to Worship that's new.Then after awhile people's personality and flaws move in and he feels trapped again and can't seem to Worship to talk about what you see and think about this.

much2ponder said...

To me is seems he has been on the edge or brink of something his entire walk. Some may be due to the fact that youth are his interest. That says a lot! When we are in it for the next generation we often look for ways to connect that will be real to them which is often out of the ordinary for the rest of us. I’m sure John can relate to that. I sure can. His struggles are not much different than my own it seems. (much2ponder)