There is a path of detox and deconstruction that leads to an understanding of the underlying problems in the system of church that Christianity has functioned in for many years. Most who follow this path still have an appreciation for the traditional church although they can no longer wholeheartedly embrace the packaged religious experience.
To be honest, I tire of the assumption that those who come to this place are simply bitter and critical. The reason that Bill’s post, The People Formerly Known as the Congregation, hit the blogosphere with such a splash is because there are so many people who sense the validity of the issues he addresses in his post.
There are many who find themselves in agreement with Bill’s post, not out of a critical attitude, but because of a deep conviction that God’s Spirit is moving within the hearts of his people to bring about the transformation and reformation required for the church – His Church, which we love deeply – to become the vehicle of redemption that will impact the world in our generation.
This is not a simple case of “for or against.” There are specific issues that we are convinced have been a hindrance to growth in the maturity of the church and the advancement of the kingdom of God.
Do we have a better way? Oftentimes not. However, we have placed ourselves in a position of learning and experimenting. We will boldly or perhaps foolishly go against the status quo in our attempts to follow the direction of God’s movement.
If you read through the list of issues covered in Bill’s post, you will see traditions that are being deconstructed. You will also see values presented that we hope to express in our lives in a positive effort to re-imagine who we are as the people of God.
We are convinced that a church system which allows believers to fulfill their weekly spiritual obligation by listening to a sermon creates a consumerist audience who have not been encouraged to step into the responsibility of being a disciple and discipling others.
We have seen that the false distinction between clergy and laity has led to a professionalization of ministry which contributes to the passivity of congregants.
We believe that tithing has been taught as a method of obligatory giving in order to create a permanent source of funding for institutions. We believe that we are to develop a relationship of obedience to the Holy Spirit concerning our giving rather than simply paying our dues to a religious system.
We are convicted that the millions of dollars spent on buildings for churches has not been wise stewardship of the resources that have been entrusted to church leaders.
We understand from Scripture that it is our duty and mission to go to the lost rather than to expect them to come to us.
We are convinced that becoming busy with programs within the church removes us from developing relationships with those who aren’t involved in church. We no longer equate service in church programs with faithful commitment and service to God.
We no longer see a Sunday morning service as the complete expression of our sacred lives. We have developed an understanding of our role as the people of God that requires being the church in all that we do.
We purpose to minister in the opportunities that our daily lives present, and we are intentional about involving ourselves in the lives of others in deeper ways than a Sunday service allows or requires.
Following the spirit
We are convicted that dependence on the Holy Spirit is required to move forward into becoming the people we were created to be. We are also convinced that the Holy Spirit is leading us away from the systems and structures that provide a comfortable complacency rather than the challenging mission we are called to.
Lastly, we see clearly that the hierarchical structures of leadership that have been taught through tradition are not scriptural. We know that the methods of leadership that are so often defended as biblical are at odds with the type of relationships that Jesus intended for us to have with one another.
We have not come to these convictions carelessly or casually. They will shape and inform our spiritual journey whether we continue in the traditional system or find another expression of church. Whether or not we ourselves are written off as reactionary, the church will eventually have to address the validity of these issues.