“My friend Bob Goff says when we study somebody without getting to know them, it’s called stalking. Bob says Jesus is getting creeped out that we keep stalking him. He’d like us to bond with him in the doing.” –Donald Miller “I don’t Worship God by Singing. I Connect With Him Elsewhere”
While I definitely agree with the first part about stalking God, I wonder about the second part.
Donald Miller obviously doesn’t like singing, which is fine. Worship is more than our singing. But what about this bonding “in the doing?”
While we certainly get to know someone better by doing things with them, does it mean we actually ever get to know them intimately?
Is it any better than “doing” things with people we work with or study with at school?
Does this reveal that we tend to define our relationships by what we do together rather than by who we are as people?
True intimacy requires bare-naked open and honest vulnerability. I know we, men, tend to have issues there–whether we sing or not.
I’ve always liked Donald Miller (“Blue Like Jazz” author). He’s a brilliant writer and I think he’s put his literary finger squarely on some fundamental problems with modern evangelicalism. And this is why writers like Miller and others are correctly assessing and addressing the reasons behind the growing exodus from traditional evangelical church gatherings.
About church para-dig-ums
I totally agree with Miller’s assessment in another blog post about how our traditional enlightenment paradigm of sermon-centered services compare to that of the New Testament church…
“The modern traditional church sticks to the part about the elders, very loosely nods towards the financial stuff, but is basically a large school system.”
I also agree that God is not even particular about how we “do church.” For, as Miller points out, there are no direct instructions on how a service should go when God’s people come together.
But I think we should be honest and admit that the normal “church” experience in the West has very little resemblance to that of the New Testament. Of course, there are some deeply entrenched theological assumptions at issue there also.
So, in this light, I probably agree with why people are leaving the traditional churches in droves. They probably should.
But here’s my point.
I believe the needed change–reformation, if you will–is not about singing, not singing, big buildings, house churches…or any of those things.
It’s not about the structure, it’s about sonship.
It’s not about Jesus being our moral example, it’s about our living His life.
It’s not even about “going to church” on Sunday. It’s about the supernatural Kingdom of Heaven expressed through the Father’s heart on the earth by His people in the everyday ordinary world around us.
Because all this current energy for “organic church,” to meet in homes, or any other non-traditional venue, can still be with the same identification disconnect–just the latest attempt to put the same “old wine into new wineskins.”
Now we’re just spiritual orphans meeting in homes instead spiritual orphans meeting at institutional churches.
But we are doing more things together.
And while this may be an improvement over the former traditional church experience, it still doesn’t touch the heart of the matter.
We’re still seeing ourselves as though somehow separated from God “up in heaven,” like homeless children still fighting for survival, jockeying for one little scrap of affirmation, still groping in the dark to find purpose and meaning by what we do instead of living from a place of rest as beloved sons and daughters at home in the Father’s constant embrace.
For it’s not just what God did for us, but what He did to us and with us–and where He placed us–as Paul said, in this “mystery of the fellowship” (Eph.3:9).
This is why we don’t need a venue revision, we need an identification reformation.
For when we cultivate a corporate atmosphere where people are touched by God at a deep heart level, baptized in the Father’s love, totally rocked from the inside out, where now we see through His eyes instead of our own–from heaven to earth instead of from earth to heaven–then, and only then, are we truly reforming anything.
And that’s only the beginning.
Until we actually do what Jesus did–being focused on and seeing life through the Father’s eyes (John 5:19; 14:7-14)–we haven’t really changed anything. We identify with Him but still have not identified ourselves in Him.
So, let’s not have the proverbial “tail wag the dog.” Our structure must serve this intimate connection as fully affirmed sons and daughters–it cannot create it.
All the hip venues, neo-liturgical practices or repackaged teaching styles in the world will not change this–only an open heart encountering a supernatural God.
And we should meet together. For the word for “church” (ecclesia) means GATHERING. An assembly of believers. You cannot be the “church by yourself. Only a foolish person who always wants their own way isolates themselves from others (Prov.18:1).
No, much of your spiritual growth requires living in authentic community with other believers.
Beloved, God has not called us to small groups; He’s called us to His Kingdom. And it’s a heaven-oriented government with a King who ordains gifted leaders–it has defined structure, but it operates on mutual love and affection (Eph.4:11-16).
It’s organic, yet structured by the Spirit. For we are both his building and His field (1 Cor.3:9).
We, corporately, are the body of Christ with all our diversity of gifts and callings–God’s interface between heaven and earth. Jesus is Jacob’s stairway, the very “Gate of Heaven” (Gen.28:12-17; John 1:51; 10:9). And we are placed in Him (Eph.1:3-5; Gal.2:20; Col.1:27; 3:3).
In the final analysis, it makes no difference how we meet. It matters why we meet. Whether in a huge church cathedral or in a living room, God will use both. And both are equally bad if we’re still thinking like religious orphans. Or worse, if it does not result in God’s transforming love being incarnated in human form.