October 24, 2017

What If? – A Few Dreams for Today’s Church

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What if?

What if churches and Christian organizations had a vision to be “countercultural” in truly meaningful ways?

What if we woke up and realized that all our talk about “changing the culture” is empty because we are just as culture-bound as anyone?

What if we realized that ideas don’t matter as much as we think they do, and that practices mean a whole lot more?

What if we understood that the power of God’s Word doesn’t depend on us talking all the time, that expressing our opinions and judgments is not the same thing as letting God’s Word loose in the world?

What if we stood against the busyness, noisiness, activism, do-gooderism, media-saturated, virtual reality style of our contemporary world and instead offered churches as places of true sanctuary, true humanity, quiet, and peace?

What if our consistent invitation was: “Come to a quiet place and find rest”? What if we saw it as a primary contribution to our world to provide sacred times and spaces where weary, exhausted people could find true solace and retreat?

What if our church campuses were no longer dominated by functional buildings designed to be busy beehives of activity and pep rally enthusiasm? What if, instead, we cultivated gardens and glades, created walking paths and forest trails, developed lakeside amphitheaters for regular outdoor worship gatherings and church buildings that were essentially glass houses designed for contemplation of God’s works?

What if we, as congregations, refused to have any church programs other than providing opportunities for retreat and holding regular worship gatherings?

What if we sent people out at the end of worship with the simple admonition, “Go in peace. Be Christians!” and then just let everyone go live their lives?

What if pastors and “leaders” in the church saw their duty in terms of presiding over worship, and then spending the rest of the week out there in the midst of daily life with people, listening and encouraging, apprenticing them in the life of Christ, and caring for the poor and sick?

What if, as the monks understand, we taught each Christian that his/her whole duty was “Ora et Labora” — prayer and work — in the love of God, to bless the world?

What if we told believers that they shouldn’t wait for “the church” to develop “ministries” to help their neighbors, but that they are free to work with others in the community to formulate ideas, strategies, and programs for the common good?

What if we prioritized slowness, quietness, listening, contemplation, prayer, minding our own business yet being sensitive and available to those in need around us, a devotion to serious study and thoughtfulness, a charitable spirit, respect for all people and a willingness to engage all people in love and service?

What if?

Comments

  1. Great post. Brings Galatians 5:22-23 to mind. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

    Seems to fit the points of your post, and isn’t that what church should be about?

    • Liberal Utopia; never accounts for the resilience and staying power of sin.

      • What would your dream for the church be then, taking into account “the resilience and staying power of sin”?

      • Oh stop. The Kingdom of Heaven is a spiritual utopia. Will never work on earth.

        So do we stop trying? It’s called a goal and an ideal for a reason.

        Quit throwing up your hands and being a grump.

        • senecagriggs says:

          Grump/curmudgeon – I live the life. smile

          • David Cornwell says:

            “Galatians 5:22-23 to mind. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

            This is your liberal utopia? Then we should all be liberals!

            • –“This is your liberal utopia? Then we should all be liberals!”

              My thoughts, exactly. I was astounded that someone who calls themselves a Christian would actually think Galatians 5:22-23 isn’t an ideal that we’re called to aim for, that a Christian would actually find fault with pointing to those as a church ideal/dream.

              • senecagriggs says:

                The church had problems from day one: sinful congregants, sinful leaders.

                Has anything changed 2,000 years later?

                Nah

                I cheerfully trudge on despite my cynicism; God is good; everybody else; not so much

                ON Earth:

                1) They all lie

                2) Nothing works

                3) You can never win – and –

                4) Pond Scum inevitably rises to the top.

                Now tell me it’s not true

                • Dana Ames says:

                  It’s true. AND: the Saints. Pick any one, look at them all. Nothing can explain their lives except that they threw themselves on God’s mercy AND lived like they had received it.

                  Dana

                  • Dana, Many of us on a daily basis personally encounter (including in ourselves!) the evidence for what senecagriggs is saying; but we’ve only read about Saints in books. As a result, our experience leads us to be far more certain about the Pond Scum than the Saints.

                    • Pond scum is the best evidence I know that we don’t make much, if any, progress – at least the way we normally understand it (sorry Charley – I have a blog friend who tracks the real betterment we have achieved in cutting world poverty, etc. and while I appreciate that, it takes political will to accomplish such things, and I’m not sure that’s in the offing these days…)

                      I bet you do know a saint. He or she is probably a quiet person who spends a lot of time in prayer and will help anyone who asks, sometimes to their own detriment. They’re not perfect, but they Know God in a way that those who advertise that they “know God” don’t. Most are hidden; ask God to show you.

                      Here are some, not long departed:
                      St John of Shanghai and San Francisco
                      Blessed Olga Michael of Kwethuk (not yet canonized but widely venerated, esp in Alaska)
                      Father Sophrony Sakharov of Mt Athos and Essex, England (not canonized, but widely venerated and, like Mother Olga, his canonization is in the works)
                      St Alexander Schmorell (one of the anti-Hitler White Rose group in Munich)

                      There’s plenty of testimony by people yet living regarding the devotion of these people to God and to giving all kinds of loving help to people out of love for Jesus.

                      What else can we look to – that is not theoretical or in books – for plausibility of the message of Jesus except people’s lives? Not just bare morality, but real self-giving love in humility, often in the midst of suffering?

                      Dana

                    • I asked God to show me today. I will try to remember to continue asking. I hope you’re right, Dana, because I have a need for signals from God that tell me he’s still there, and I can’t think of any better such signal than finding out that someone that I know personally is a Saint.

                • I’m very much a cynic like you, Seneca, but…

                  –> “God is good; everybody else; not so much”

                  Yes, but even humans have their moments of goodness. I strive to bear fruit of the spirit. That has to help, right?

                • David Cornwell says:

                  Read the story Jesus told about the wheat and the tares. and what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. There is a lot of good in this world. A lot. But we have to have eyes to see. It’s easy for any of us to be overwhelmed by all we see that’s wrong. But God has it in hand.

                • Christiane says:

                  sometimes for it to be ‘true’, we silly folk need a ‘reason’ …….. and then, we CAN be what we were made to be and it all comes together as it should 🙂

                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuRn2S7iPNU

        • Christiane says:

          But we are dreamers who SEE in our hopes that which is to come, and we cannot forget the dreams our kind has kept from Eden, no.

      • I live in constant communion (well, at least once an hour, maybe a day) with the Holy Spirit, asking Him to help me bear the fruits of Galatians 5:22-23. I believe I’m more Christ-like today than a year ago, since I began that focus.

        If all churches had that same focus, might they/we be more Christ-like than if they/we didn’t?

        Liberal utopia, nothing. Christ-like…Yes.

      • If you’re worried about accounting for sin, why do you keep a blog which is dismissive of those who are taking sin seriously and calling people to be accountable?

        (FYI, it’s anti-Wartburg Watch blog)

  2. What if we realized that ideas don’t matter as much as we think they do, and that practices mean a whole lot more?

    But it seems to me that ideas, whether implicit or explicit, cause, support and sustain practices, no? Even the most traditional practice, the reasons for which we may not fully understand or remember, originally came into being on the basis of some idea-seed, some thinking, that was watered by the practice, however invisibly implicit that thinking may now be, and however unaware we may be of it.

    • What if I
      look out my kitchen window
      and see the nearly full moon?

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > ideas, whether implicit or explicit, cause, support and sustain practices, no?

      Maybe, I believed this for the first half of my life.

      It is not so, at least not as directly as the good so-many-times times reformed protestants told me it was.

      There is something more primal than ideas; and that is culture. Stress, urgency, prejudice – they are not ideas, but they are far more binding than the ideas we claim. Failing to grasp this is one of the reasons the Church fails so badly at being “countercultural”.

      Be different, then your ideas will change.

      • But why be different? Why have a counterculture? How do we decide which practices in our given culture should be kept, and which should be changed, in our counterculture? It seems to be that a lot of thought and intentionality are required to move from our given culture to a counterculture.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > But why be different? Why have a counterculture?

          Discontent. Everything starts with discontent; not ideas.

          > How do we decide which practices in our given culture should be kept

          This is where established religion **hopefully** steps in. When it doesn’t people either see no where to go, or find a path somewhere else. Established Religion has had the time to have Ideas, think about, things; but it didn’t start there; the Scriptures do not provide a systematic theology.

          > It seems to be that a lot of thought and intentionality…

          But that is not the goal “to move from our given culture to a counterculture”. The goal, IMNSHO, is to move, because one is discontent where one is. If one is not discontent – nothing will happen/change [don’t we see a lot of that?].

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            Culture, or my own term “the Over Culture”, is a place. Counter-cultural is not a place; it is the act of self-displacement, hopefully finding – or creating – a new place. That place is certainly cultural, and it has the attribute of being counter-culturAL as it in some distinct way does not conform to the Over Culture. And that attribute may be good or bad [there are certainly dark counter-cultural spaces/communities].

            All that goes into the weeds [I read a lot of sociology] as often a church [especially] hasn’t really settled on what distinctives of the Over Culture it actually dislikes. So that debate devolves … and nothing happens. It is so much easier to come up with a Vision to go towards than to split hairs about what to abandon. If you go towards a Vision that which does not conform will naturally fall away.

            • >> [I read a lot of sociology]

              Adam, do you read Christian Smith? I hope you do. I consider him required reading for 21st century Christians. Basic stuff, not overly academic, too often ignored.

              • Adam Tauno Williams says:

                Not recently; maybe I will have a look again.

                In general I admit that I have written off anything specifically Christian in recent years [decade?]. So much shoe-horning of theology/ideology and hand-waving when the data doesn’t really fit… I couldn’t take it any more. I turn much more to the economic side of things these days – – so much can be consistently explained from that perspective… much from other angles feels like people trying to push their agenda into the data [No! No! Really! This matters too!]

                Deeply ideological people find support for their ideology when simpler explanations exist, with less baggage. Beyond that deeply ideological people always [they must?] perceive everyone as acting based on ideology – – – when they just aren’t. That is one thing civic engagement has taught me – most people are NOT ideological, but ideological people always perceive other people as ideological. And in America at least there are a good number of people with closeted ideology [they are fiercey ideological, but they won’t admit they are, nearly everyone in America asserts they are centrist majority.].

                But he looks interesting, I will put him on my list.

      • Why be different at all from our given culture?

        • Andrew Zook says:

          Maybe this is a both/and, not an either/or? Or maybe it could be phrased this way, “What if we realized that [our right beliefs] don’t matter as much as we think they do, and that practices mean a whole lot more? I get the post’s point, but I get yours too, Robert. There are a lot of bad ideas infecting the church and they are making people do bad things – at least that’s what I see.

      • I’m probably against the whole idea of having or forging a counterculture. I’m in favor of finding the deep and promising places in our given culture(s), and exploring and extending them with our Christian convictions. This would involve intentionality in both thought and practice.

        • Every culture has its good points. And every culture also has its points where it directly contradicts the greatest commandments (love God first, love others as yourself). Sometimes those bad points HAVE to be confronted. The German church on the whole failed that test last century. Now it may be our turn…

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > This would involve intentionality in both thought and practice.

          Certainly. But how many times in my own short life have I seen that; groups called themselves out only to fizzle? So many devote little religious groups have evaporated in mere months, if not weeks. In my mega-church days something like that was launched regularly; often resourced and researched, with “qualified” leadership… very Intentional … only to disappear beneath the waves. The disappearance would, maybe, be lamented, but often the whole endeavor was forgotten. Rinse, repeat.

          Perhaps we are disagreeing on what is an “idea”. I am skeptical of having an idea – like a theology – and building on it; whereas I see much more success in people having a “vision” and going towards it. Mostly the later is not Religious [as the “religious people” in my region are obsessed with Ideas], but the later is succeeding in creating new spaces which have demonstrated some durability [and economic viability]. Some success verses nearly none is a demonstrable reality I cannot ignore.

          I was an Ideas Man, and I am stubborn, but a couple decades of evidence – – – I have admitted Ideas do not “work”. Show me a “way”.

          I will grant ideas, like Theology, are important. Like rails are important to a train. But rails on the ground will not take you anywhere; you just stand there in the cold, waiting…

        • David Cornwell says:

          ” I’m in favor of finding the deep and promising places in our given culture(s), and exploring and extending them with our Christian convictions. ”

          Really like this. I’ve never thought of it just like this before.

  3. That’s a beautiful vision, for sure, but I’m lonely and useless I want to find people to work with and journey beside and even fight alongside, though that metaphor is certainly risky. The world doesn’t offer good enough spaces for true rest and contemplation, but it also hasn’t offered me any where to find people willing to work with me to do anything real or meaningful.

    I would like the church to be a neutral ground where Christians can meet and discover what visions they have in common, so that they can then go forward to do great works for the world — not necessarily coordinated by the heavy hand of Ministry. I’m an introvert, and I’ve never really had friends.

    • Speaking also as an introvert, your observations are correct. The evangelical church here, on the whole, has absorbed American cultural extroversion so thoroughly that it doesn’t know what to do with us.

      But there are quite a few of us here at IMonk, trust me. 🙂

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        No room for anyone other than the back-slapping, glad-handing, SMIIIIIIILING used car salesman.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > it also hasn’t offered me any where to find people willing to work with me to do
      > anything real or meaningful.

      Indeed, it is crazy hard. When I decided, as an affluent childless person, that I should do **something** it was rather difficult to find something to DO. I wandered all over the landscape before I found something concrete I could take on. Sure, that was in part because I had no network, … but it did occur to me that all my years of Church Activity had failed to provide a network.

      • A network including close friends who are fellow travelers is what we all desire. We intuitively think we should find it at “church”–and are more often than not disappointed.

        Earlier, someone mentioned Christian Smith. I know of Smith because of my exploration into house/simple church beginning around 2006. Smith wrote much about relationships/dynamic of house churching.

        Even house churching with 5-6 other families for 6 years didn’t do the trick for us. It is hard to impossible to create/nurture close relationships with people who have been “inculturated” in “Christian Church Life”. I doubt I’ll ever do it again, but from my experience I’d say the only answer is to be unreservedly sacrificial to/for others. Don’t count the cost, demand nothing, give yourself as much as possible to others.

  4. What if? 38 years and membership in 3 local churches that ended in disappointment,anger, confusion, doubt. Part of the unofficial culture seemed to be 1) Show Up-that’s what being “faithful” is-attendance to services 2) Pay Up-tithes & offerings, for which there is never a end of needs 3) Shut Up-questioning any given program is likened to being a tool of Satan.
    So “What If?” What if I just att:-) 🙂 emp to follow the counsel that is written in the book of Acts chapter 15 verses 19-29? (abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood) KJV. And followed the example of the shepherds that Chaplin Mike wrote about on 2 Jan 2017. They returned to their fields and flocks. ( Returning to our work) What If? Does that please and honor our Lord?
    Thanks IMonk. You are a help and blessing to me at this stage of life.

    • Excellent insight, Mike, with the Show-Up, Pay-Up, Shut-Up.

      –“Does that please and honor our Lord?”

      I think our Lord is pleased and honored just when we give a cup of water to a person who’s thirsty. The other day, as I was shopping at various places, I tried to be as kind as I could to every clerk I encountered. The exchanges that day were truly wonderful. People laughing and joking and sharing with me. I’d like to think the Lord was pleased and honored by my attempts to lighten people’s days.

  5. “What if we told believers that they shouldn’t wait for “the church” to develop “ministries” to help their neighbors, but that they are free to work with others in the community to formulate ideas, strategies, and programs for the common good?”
    How true. Just last week I was part of a discussion at my church during which several people expressed frustration that we aren’t relevant enough to suit them. They expressed concern that their kids find church dull and don’t find anything to engage them. My thought the whole time was “What are YOU doing to be relevant? What are YOU doing to engage your kids in the faith?” Apparently, very little. That must be the church’s job.
    Call the local nursing home and see if you can visit residents. Volunteer at the local soup kitchen. Make it known at church that you’ll drive anyone who can’t where they need to go. If you hear of someone in your neighborhood has a baby or surgery or any major life event, take them a pot of soup. Don’t wait for the church(TM) to start a program to get this stuff done. Just go and do and surprisingly, you will find that relevance you so desperately seek.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > Just go and do and surprisingly, you will find that relevance you so desperately seek.

      +1,000

      > If you hear of someone in your neighborhood has a baby

      Sad truth – would they have heard if that happened? 🙁 Survey data says the majority of Americans cannot name more than one of their immediately adjacent neighbors; and all the talk about “being relevant”…

  6. Jesus sayeth, “I am the intellectual idea, the doctrine, and the dominant middle-class culture. No one cometh unto the Father but through me.”

    What if churches were unlocked and open during the day all week and anyone could go in and be in the Presence of God for as long as they wanted and no one hassled them. Oh wait, that’s how it was fifty years ago.

    • I know. I miss that.

    • –> “What if churches were unlocked and open during the day all week and anyone could go in and be in the Presence of God for as long as they wanted and no one hassled them.”

      When I became a Christian back in 1986, I lived near the University District in Seattle (University of Washington, that is). The first church attended was University Presbyterian, a huge building with lots of wings and a wonderful sanctuary with wooden floors and wooden pews and a big organ. And here’s the incredible thing: I think the church was almost always open. Those first couple of formative years, learning about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, I would sometimes enter that building and walk into that sanctuary, and I kid you not…being in huge sanctuary when you can hear a pin drop…the silence, the quiet, the peace…it’s astounding. I felt overwhelmed by God’s presence a number of times.

      I miss that a lot.

      • “I miss that a lot.”

        When I was a young child (6-10, or so), I would sneak off to the church we attended and enter the sanctuary and find God there. Like you, Rick, there were times I was overwhelmed by God’s presence. Intellectually, I know that God’s presence is with me even at work, but there is no denying that I felt his presence more strongly in that place than at almost any time since and yeah, I miss that a lot.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > that’s how it was fifty years ago

      Not even that long; I can remember that, and I am not 50!

      The Catholic churches around me are still that way. Having a parish probably makes that easier, logistically. How much of this ended with the end of church provided housing?

    • senecagriggs says:

      I miss it too but……LAWSUITS

      Now you dare not leave your property unattended or unsecured. Sure, some people will steal things if you leave the doors open but it’s the lawsuits that will turn a thriving church into an empty shell.

      Some vandal sneaks in to steal something, breaks a window, ends up with a major hand wound – LAWSUIT.

      It’s a crazy world, these United States

    • flatrocker says:

      I find these What if’s intriguing by playing out the hypothetical implications. And yes there are all kinds of practical roadblocks that will talk us out of doing any of this. But hey, we can dream.

      Sooooo as long as we’re “What if-ing,” let’s expand on Charles thought from above (and senecagriggs lawsuits be damned). Here’s one I’d like to add.

      What if our churches were unlocked and open all hours, every day and anyone could go in and be in the Presence of God for as long as they wanted. And if the church was damaged in some way because of it, we simply repaired, cleaned and opened again the next day. And the next, and the next.

  7. Michael Bell says:

    I like the whole outdoor service idea. Here is my vision of what a Baptism in Canada could look like: http://media.jrn.com/images/b99175563z.1_20140101161819_000_g3l46gh4.2-0.jpg

    😀

  8. Dana Ames says:

    “What if we understood that the power of God’s Word doesn’t depend on us talking all the time, that expressing our opinions and judgments is not the same thing as letting God’s Word loose in the world?”

    What does this mean? Serious question.

    The rest of the “what ifs” are to the point.

    Dana

    • Traditions like evangelicalism tend to equate the Word with the Bible and talking/teaching/preaching as the way of communicating it (or their views purportedly based on it) and having “effectiveness” in ministry. End of story.

      I believe God’s Word is bigger than that. Ultimately, Jesus is God’s Word. And he works in and through a whole lot more than our talking.

  9. Yes that does sound like utopia and we all know that utopia will not occur as long as sinful humans like us are at the helm. Nonetheless I think it is profitable, if we release the notion of utopian perfection just as we must in our own personal lives, to put the ideal front and center and occupy ourselves with it. The dream is essential to any great thing. It brings back the focus when resistance is met. We are the temple and the sanctuary of the Lord so I guess we must start by being willing to welcome people in to the silence and sanctuary of our own souls if indeed we have found it ourselves.

    • I’m not sure I’m describing anything utopian here. I’m describing churches that would rather focus on being retreat centers than activity centers.

      That’s not some idealistic unachievable fantasy — except for the fact that in our overwhelmingly activist culture few are going to buy it. Heck, when I was a worship leader/pastor I couldn’t even get people to observe a moment of silence to prepare their hearts for worship on Sunday mornings! We love action, sound and fury, and lots and lots of talking.

      All I have to do is take the 3-hour journey down to Gethsemani Abbey and I can have the thing I dream anytime I want. I just wish pastors and churches could see that providing this kind of silence, prayerfulness, and rest might be the best thing we could ever give the world instead of the constant drive I see to compete with the world’s programs.

      • I love the vision. So much so, I want to task the question: How do we fund a vision of a church that is more retreat-like? Because we know by now what “sells,” and what raises money.

        • Ah, the pin that always pops my idealistic balloon.

        • David Cornwell says:

          There might be more demand (or need) for it than we know. The problem, partly, is to know how to get the word out, or how to advertise. Almost all advertising appeals to the extroverted, and consists of one loud voice out-shouting another. This idea (a quieter way) has great appeal to me, however. I visited a church that aspires to be like a megachurch, but has a long way to go in reaching this goal. In the parking lot I could hear the band playing, or at least a loud recording (don’t remember for sure). It was loud enough to make me want to get back in my car and drive home. However, because it’s a relative”s church, I gritted my teeth, wished I had some cotton to stuff in my ears, and went inside. Here it was far worse. The music not only was way too loud, but also of a genre that felt like a sharp chisel driving into my brain, the drummer helping to strike the tool. For me there was no worship. I did not hear the Word of God. I just sat through it. Well, actually we stood a lot, through miles of the same loud words repeated mostly by the worship leader.

          When I go to church I need something different. Not the same old loud, grit your teeth noise that helps make our culture. I come to pray with others who need prayer; to hear once again the Word of God, that old story we tell week after week, because it never grows old. I come to recite the old creeds of the Church once again; to sing it’s great hymns, and to join in our holy meal once again.

          Without this my life loses it center, veers off course, and makes me lonesome for God and his people.

      • I sense a big push toward that right now in some circles. Of course it starts with more and more individuals embracing it. Then it takes root in the wider culture. Just finished reading E Stanley Jones’ The Christ of the Indian Road. We could use some ashrams but again, they would go unused unless people begin to embrace the specialness of it. I see you are saying that Gethsemeni doesn’t have to be an isolated thing. It could be brought into sanctuaries without building ashrams. The whole thing is a very tough sell.

        • You’re right, it’s a tough sell, Chris.

          And the people who really have to be persuaded are the pastors and church professionals whose livelihoods depend upon maintaining the activist infrastructure.

          • David Cornwell says:

            And church professionals have been trying to sell the same strategies since at least 1975. I think some pastors would feel relief if something else were suggested. Many that I have known did not sign up to be high pressure, extroverted, sales people. Many are/were of a naturally quiet and more introverted personality. But they succumb the pressure. And eventually it takes a toll on body, mind, and spirit.

        • ChrisS, you may not even see this, but if you google United Christian Ashrams, you will find they already exist. E Stanley Jones started them all over the country in the 1950s and 60s. It’s a wonderful tradition to get away from work and spend time listening to God and attempting to live in the Kingdom of God.

    • –> “Nonetheless I think it is profitable, if we release the notion of utopian perfection just as we must in our own personal lives, to put the ideal front and center and occupy ourselves with it. The dream is essential to any great thing.”

      I agree, Chris. It’s one thing to say, “You must be perfect,” which is completely unhealthy, but I think it’s good to contemplate perfection, or the dream of perfection.

      • senecagriggs says:

        Rick Ro, I dream of just being minimally adequate.

        • I dream of facing inevitable dissolution and death with a modicum of courage.

          Like you, senecagriggs, I’m not sanguine about reforming the church in the ways outlined by the what-ifs listed above, but not because of I’m cynical: I just don’t have the energy.

        • –>”Rick Ro, I dream of just being minimally adequate.”

          Okay, I see what you’re saying there, and Yes, there are times I’m there with ya.

  10. What if we, as congregations, refused to have any church programs other than providing opportunities for retreat and holding regular worship gatherings?

    But…
    What if you lose the economies of scale and benefits of specialization that come from the organization of church programs as opposed to people doing it alone and maybe connecting w/some others to help out? Especially when those programs serve real needs? (feeding homeless, supporting new/single mothers, Sunday school, etc.)

    • SRS, ok. Questions must then be asked. Here are a few examples:

      1. What things can the church as an organization do that no one else can do or will do? (not just in general, but in our local context)
      2. What advantages and disadvantages are there to doing this ourselves vs. encouraging people to participate in something already taking place in the community?
      3. Do we actually think we can do this and do it better, or are we really just concerned about having control over the program?
      4. Have we been blessed with any particular advantages, such as a sub-population of people with certain experiences or skills or a building that lends itself to certain uses or a location that makes it possible to have a unique ministry?

      I’m not saying no churches should do organized ministries. I know it’s stated that way, but that’s for rhetorical effect. But there may be a whole host of churches who could turn off the hamster wheel in whole or in part and become churches intent on providing rest and spiritual refreshment. And many of the churches who could be doing effective organized ministries aren’t asking these kinds of questions enough.

      • The BIGGEST reason this “privatization” for lack of a better word doesn’t happen, and you know this CM, is the powers that be then lose control.

  11. Have you engaged with David Fitch’s recent “Faithful Presence?” I’d love to see a review. I think it scratches some of these “what if?” itches.

  12. William H. Martin Jr says:

    What If the what ifs were already happening and we just couldn’t see it because we were to busy looking everywhere but where it matters in our own hearts. The sanctuary is in my heart and it wasn’t sanctified by me or made perfect by me. He came and has residence as He chose to. I still sin and He still overcomes and His residence is forever. Anywhere I am I can have relationship with Him and His burden isn’t heavy. In my get away and rest there is peace but it isn’t mine as much as shared with me. Once long ago now the colorful leaves of fall over head seemed like the most beautiful stained glass windows I have ever seen. I long for that ………His presence……..The Garden. Just a w……

    600 ft of tile laid today in a cut up layout Went to sleep on couch as soon as I got home got up to read this at 7 and am going to bed now. I hurt and with no supper I hope for better tomorrow but I know it will hurt a lot like today. I will feed the cats before they sneak into their warmer spots for the night. It’s cold on the mountain lately where the autumn leaves once were. How symbolic that winter can do that to me at any time in my life. Maybe tomorrow I could spend some time in the garden for awhile too. Wish in one and oh hell…….been there too much already. Wishes can come true sometimes right?

  13. The last thing in the world I would want would be to assigned to live in a city, which is how Paul operated. However I have thought about the possibility, and this is what I always come up with. A small cheap store-front in what is euphemistically called the “inner city” where I could have a separate basic living quarter and the main room off the street would have tables and chairs and bookshelves, like a little library, and the books would be Christian oriented for all ages but non-denominational. Some would be for general consumption, some would be for mavericks like me. Perhaps a little chapel if there was enough room. It would be a place you could get warm in the winter, get out of the sun in the summer, would have a public toilet, and a combination coffee/tea/juice bar, maybe a mini soup kitchen. This would be funded off my monthly social security and whatever donations came in. You could ask questions there, but there wouldn’t be an agenda other than being of service. I might learn as much as anyone else, if it lasted more than a month.

    This could be done in a mall, but not by me because the budget would be much higher. A church that wasn’t on the ropes might be able to fund one there. It would need a full time, what shall I call it, caretaker.. At whatever level, the idea would be to provide a sanctuary from whatever was outside the door, a service, not a means to acquire church members or make a profit. I have thought about my own house out here in the sticks as doing this, but there isn’t the kind of need that there is in a city. I still think about it here.

    • William H. Martin Jr says:

      Sounds like a good idea Charles. Hmmmmm an idea what a starting place. Place you a bet that it is happening somewhere already. What you think God doesn’t honor you and your heart. I think he does.

    • William H. Martin Jr says:

      Sounds like a good idea Charles. Hmmmmm an idea what a starting place. Place you a bet that it is happening somewhere already. What you think God doesn’t honor you and your heart. I think he does.