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There’s a lot of cynicism about the Church today.  And while I am stimulated by argument, by addressing something I identify as wrong, I don’t think of myself as a cynic.  Rather, this confrontation with status-quo is inherently hopeful.  I invest energy because I think Church could be better.

Before I left my last church, a few people were leaving slowly.  And my friends who were staying, they wondered why.  “There’s no such thing as a perfect church,” they argued.  “So why search for another kind of bad?”  Which reasoning rather baffled me.  What were they praying for?  Why did they do anything in the Church?  Didn’t they believe our community could be better?  And if we can get better, isn’t it possible that something better already exists?

Now, there may be other arguments for hanging around a church that is not as close to perfect as you hope.  But to say that leaving a church is for people with unrealistic expectations is silly.  Whatever your choice, your reason for staying should be the same as your reason for leaving: hope.  If you stay, be hoping to see God grow your church to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.  If you go, may it be because you hope that God has more designed for the Church than the divided and sterile institution you’re leaving.

I didn’t leave the institutional church in despair.  There was hurt and disappointment over the group of people I had been congregating with.  But there was joy over the release God had given me – not release from fellowship or love or truth, but release from schedules and structures and enduring a view of Church that I no longer believe.  I went out looking for people of God doing life together, praying together, participating together in teaching and worship and celebrating Communion.  My search has been for a high view of our Bridegroom as the Head of His Church, of a supernatural (but orderly) view of the Spirit of our God as He orchestrates lives and relationships and meetings.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.  And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.  But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” – Hebrews 11:13-16

I am persuaded that there is something better than what I have experienced.  And I will desire it and pursue it.  The things I write on ChurchMoot really excite me.  What I read in the Bible about Church excites me.  The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.  Christ is purifying and strengthening His gloriously beautiful Church.  He’s preparing a place for us.  There are visions of unity and purpose and power.  A joy in knowing that we believe in, serve, and wait on an Almighty and Good God.

What’s more, I have hope that the people of God are being awakened to the biblical descriptions of Church.  Now when people realize church is broken, they’re seeking answers from God, and acting on them!  No longer will they betray the Body of Christ by their silence, by their tacit approval, by being accomplices.  They don’t want the world to think that what it knows as Church is the Beloved Bride of a Radiant Savior.  He purified for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works!  They want the world to see a light set on a lampstand, not some pitiful ember fading into darkness.

We are not a cult.  We are the Redeemed.  Joyful.  Saying so.  Hopeful.  Believing it is our God who builds His Church.  Waiting for our Messiah to come back – begging Him to come quickly!  We are loving, caring for each other, not afraid to weep or to rejoice.  The God who created the universe, the Spirit who raised Christ from the dead, indwells us.  He speaks through us, comforts us, guides and instructs us.  The same God who rattled the Early Church prayer meetings with mighty rushing wind is among us.  Let that be known.  Let it be proclaimed.  Don’t contain it in schedules and corporate models.  Joy might be practiced, but not rehearsed!  Truth should be so familiar that it can be ad-libbed.  We share in a life that is saturated with God, with no distinction between the times when we are doing ordinary work and when we are worshiping.

God called His people to abundant life, life in Him.  My hope for the Church is that we embrace it.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I started a new blog.  Every six to twelve months, that’s what I do.  A blog or another kind of website.  Join Facebook; join Etsy.  More WordPress.

This one is WordPress.  It is for as much of my notes and essays and research on Church as I can get to.  Searching this blog and all the documents on my computer didn’t need to happen more than twice.  I much prefer the organization of having them published online.

If you’re curious, check out my tree-themed, nerdy blog: ChurchMoot.  Coming soon: more posts, of course.  Links and reviews of the websites so indicated.  And occasional comments on posts for yours and my reconsideration.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Need

Lately I’ve been learning about needs.  And learning to admit that I have them: to myself, to God, and to others.  I was homeschooled in a way that taught me to be rather self-sufficient in my learning.  Usually if I read something in a book and thought about it hard enough, I could figure it out.  There are dictionaries and encyclopedias, all examples of removed dependence. Now we even have Google, where with a click and a pressing a few keys, I can access a world of help – and never have to admit that I did.  There have been times when no school books, long thinking, dictionaries, or websites could help me.  When I wanted my grandpa’s desk moved to my room, I needed help getting it down the basement stairs.  Often I have read the Bible and been unable to make heads or tails of it, even with the help of concordances and commentaries. But asking a friend, or a group of friends, has been enlightening.

I’m hungry right now.  It is about 1 o’clock PM, and the only thing I’ve had all day is a bottle of orange juice.  So my stomach has that familiar ache that asks to be fed.  Hunger is part of our lives because we are responsive creatures.  Though there are things we can discipline ourselves to do, typically we eat when we are hungry, drink when thirsty, sleep when tired.  We blink when dust flies at our eyes.  And those impulses are good, because we need food, drink, rest, and defense to stay alive.

Just now I have another sensation.  I want to be held.  Not given a hand-shake.  Not a quick hug. The desire is for prolonged contact, tightness blended with gentleness.  And the feeling is so much like hunger and thirst and weariness that I cannot think that it is unnatural or purposeless. Perhaps the need is less urgent…  Perhaps I will even survive if I am never held.  Do I NEED my mommy?  A husband?  I think these longings point to that.  Were they not balanced by morality taught in the Bible, I would just go after gratification.  Outcomes don’t change the fact that the sensation is related to the other need-based instincts.

The philosophy is going around the Christian community that the only thing we need is God.  I suppose this is true if you are saying, “The only thing we need FOR salvation is God.”  Just like the only think we need FOR hunger is food.  The only thing I need FOR good grades is to know the right answers for the test.  But we live in a cause and effect world.  God made it that way.  So to reach certain outcomes, we NEED certain prerequisites.

To say, “I don’t need food; I have God,” is nonsense.  It is possible to starve to death while “having” God.  With such a being as God, it is possible for Him to maintain life without food – but He rarely does so, and has not promised it.  From a certain point of view, God was all that starving person needed – to accomplish God’s will, to bring God glory, maybe even to be happy. But God was not the sole need if the goal was continued life.

As Christians in the Church Age, God has seen fit to put us as individual members of one body. Without those individuals functioning as ears, where would the hearing be for those of us who are eyes?  Such is the metaphor Paul uses.  To accomplish the good works God has prepared for us, we NEED other believers.  Use of spiritual gifts demands at the very least, objects.  Teachers have students.  Shepherds have sheep.  Most often cooperation is also required.  Discipleship is not accomplished by one person.  Repentance is much more successful when it is confessed to a community.  “One another” fills the teachings of the New Testament.  We NEED others.

In a similar way, husbands and wives NEED each other.  If God wants me to be married, I need a husband to obey God’s call.  To function as a wife, I need a husband.  Husbands are not God. They are not sufficient for all a woman’s needs.  They cannot give her purpose like God can. Wives do need husbands, though.  To “be fruitful and multiply,” a woman needs a man – unless God is going to miraculously intervene like he did with Mary, but that was a very special case not ever to be repeated!

The reluctance to acknowledge these needs leads to weakness, as we attempt to live the Christian life in independence: praying by ourselves, serving by ourselves, confessing alone, studying alone.  It leads to the thinking that church is where we serve, but not where we are ourselves built into servants.  After all, if God is the only thing we need, we don’t need the discipleship offered from a community of believers.  And other believers don’t need us, since they have God. So when we gather, our purpose is either all about God (a sensory worship experience) or all about non-believers (let’s make it fun enough that they’ll stay to hear when we mention Jesus, the cross, and belief).  Problem is, that isn’t how the Bible describes church.  Believers gather for edification, fellowship, teaching.  Worship is rarely mentioned.  The possibility of non-believers present is addressed once.  Read Ephesians.  Read Romans, and 1 Corinthians.  Even the passages about pastors in 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and 1 Peter have the emphasis of building up.

When we think God is all we NEED, we reject His good gifts.  We do not ask Him for what we need.  Those people God has called to walk alongside us are not esteemed.  Our failure is discouraging, for when we fall, who will lift us up again?  I believe that God works in my weakness.  I do not believe this always manifests as a miracle.  There have been experiences in my life where I was trying to teach something, and my communication was weak or distracted. But other believers, equipped and brought forward by God, have joined with me and completed the lesson.  If I denied that possibility, I would have to believe that the lesson I was trying to teach never got taught.  Do you see?

God is rather fond of means and middle men.  When His word accomplishes universes, yet He creates angels to do His bidding.  Cooperation is not the most efficient possibility for the Almighty.  But then He created time, too.  God does not need anything more than Himself.  Since He set us in a world, not alone, with tasks to do by work and not by miraculous proclamations, we do NEED some things.  Some people.  And God.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I’m in between churches right now – between congregations. All summer and fall I’ve been casually attending the meetings of various friends. I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to not be obligated to make an appearance at any one building on a Sunday morning. I might tell a friend I’m coming, or I might decide Saturday night. Some Sundays I sleep in. Sunday morning heathenism is rather refreshing.

Except it isn’t heathenism. A lot of what happens in those buildings on Sunday mornings is of heathen origin. But heathenism is a lot more than skipping a sermon and praise concert. It is a lifestyle of rejecting God, and that I certainly have not done.

I believe the Bible teaches Christians to gather regularly with each other. That isn’t something I have abandoned either. My recent experience is filled with times of fellowship and encouragement with other believers. We do ministry together, hold each other accountable for our walks with God, philosophically tackle the dilemmas we’re facing, study the Bible, and pray. During these times we also tend to eat, to play games, to laugh and tease, sometimes to work. Kids running around get swept up by disciples of Jesus, who – like Him – love children.

About a month ago some friends invited me to their church. I went that weekend. This week they asked me what I thought, and didn’t I like it (since I hadn’t been back). And I froze, because, well, I did like it. The people were friendly and the teachings were biblical and stimulating. But I don’t think I’ll join. This Sunday I did go back there, though. And my friends’ thirteen-year-old son confronted me, “I thought you said our church was just ‘ok’.”

Hard to explain. This particular church is on the good end of mainstream churches. They have good doctrine. A lot of their money goes to missions. Kids are with parents in church for most of the time, and youth aren’t separated from their families. The music isn’t too loud or too self-centered. With a congregation of about 50, the pastor and teachers can know everyone.

After pondering for a day or so, here is my answer to the thirteen-year-old friend: (it’s alliterative so I can remember!)
1) Plurality. There is only one pastor at the church. He’s the head man. I believe Jesus is the head of the Church, and that leadership beneath Him must be shared among more than one equal. Whenever real life cases are discussed in the New Testament, the word is used in the plural. (Elders) In this way they can model cooperation and problem solving. Congregations and pastors are kept mindful that Christ is the true head, and that the Church is His project. Also, when one is weak, there is another to be strong, the proverbial man to pick you up when you fall. Two are better than one and a cord of three strands is not easily broken. Pastoring is a lonely job, being at the top instead of a part of your congregation as friends and brothers. My Bible describes a different sort of dynamic, where pastors are respected for being respectable and where everyone is exercising his gifts for the good of all: pastors, prophets, discerners, helpers, administrators, on and on.
2) Property. This was quite confusing to my friend, who expects people to scorn his church for meeting in the club house of a condominium complex. Whether you own a building, rent it, or have borrowed money from a bank to claim that you own it, all represent instances where the Church of God has used resources God entrusted to them not to do what He has instructed: caring for the poor, widows, orphans, and missionaries – but to have a separate place to meet. I believe churches are meant to be gathered in homes. Limited in size, surrounded by hospitality and everyday life, the atmosphere of house church encourages the participation of everyone, the familial fellowship of believers, and the synthesis of sacred and secular.
3) Preaching. The New Testament describes and even commends preaching. Except almost always the lecture style sermon was delivered to an unsaved audience. It is a tool of evangelism. And evangelism is not the purpose of the regular gathering of believers. In fact, the church meetings described in 1 Corinthians are much more open and unstructured than what we usually think of as church. No one was scheduled to speak. Anyone (any man?) was allowed to bring a word, be it a prophecy, a teaching, a tongue – as long as he spoke it for the edification of the group. He may share a testimony of God’s work or an instruction or challenge the Spirit laid on his heart to give to his friends. A teaching might be towards an identified deficiency of understanding or may flow out of the studies individuals are making during the week on their own. Prophecy may correct the direction the congregation is going, may identify weaknesses and strengths among them, may warn them, or may give them hope and vision for the future. Some verses indicate that individuals may also bring songs of their choosing to the meetings of believers, with which to encourage each other.

Now that I’ve said those things, I do believe that there is a place for the lecture-style teaching we call sermons. I really enjoy Bible conferences, and am not opposed to worship concerts where the band has practiced and is intending to honor God. When I visit my friends’ churches, I usually view those services as conferences, and I look for the Spirit-driven gatherings elsewhere. At this stage of my life I’m not content with the small groups and Bible studies that have been getting me by. So I’m still looking, reading books and searching websites from people who are practicing what the Bible teaches about Church. I’m excited to see where that leads.

Some questions remain, stronger tensions between the familiar and the ideal: how is authority supposed to work in the church? Is it important? Is it a matter of exercising authority or of submitting to authority? How much should we submit? What shall Christians do for evangelism? Wouldn’t it be better to team up? But is it wrong to invite people in to hear the gospel, or should we go out to them? Are women to speak in the church meetings? If not, why on earth did Paul say so? – Just to prove I don’t think I know everything!

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Treebeard, as an elder of Fangorn forest, takes a walk one morning, engaging the wood’s word of mouth network to call a meeting of the Ents.  Some Ents won’t come, too busy with their own thoughts and existence to heed the call of community.  Others will surprise Treebeard, waking and walking as they have not done for decades, to mark the importance of the moment by their presence.  The cause is that which the whole forest has been awaiting to arouse them. 
 
The tree-herders, shepherds of the forest, gather for a moot in the dingle.  A moot is a gathering for deliberative purposes.  So the Ents spent three days deliberating.  They took their time getting the facts and feeling the urgency of their participation in the world’s events.  At last they made a decision, and the conversation stopped.  Then it erupted in a communal shout, which echoed into a chant as the Ents left their little dell that seemed so remote as to be not part of the real world, and marched. 
 
No more waiting.  No individuals left to ponder whether they were with the group in the action.  All of the tree-people swung themselves over the hills in the gentle descent to their doom.  The decision had been built into their nature, and the making of it at last was only a matter of being clear that the need was legitimate.  So they went, making war on Isengard and breaking down the wicked stronghold that had harried their defensive borders for so long. 
 
Contrast this with the two days the hobbits spent in the House of Tom Bombadil, also in a forest that shares many parallels with Fangorn.  In that house they were protected and refreshed.  The hobbits heard many stories of history and the way of the world in the land where Bombadil is Master.  But when they were sent away, it was a thorough departure, not a continuation of the fellowship begun in the house, or even of the instruction given in the house.  And so they surrendered to temptation and deceit, almost losing their lives to the Barrow Wight.  Bombadil was willing to come to their aid, but not to go with them, having, as Gandalf explained, withdrawn into a little land within bounds that he had set. 
 
The nights with Bombadil and Goldberry comprised a vivid experience for the hobbits, opening their hearts to history and destiny in a way that little else could.  But it was disconnected from the rest of the quest.  Frodo and his companions could no more return to the House under hill than they could spend their eternal rest in Valinor before the tale was over. 
 
I think church should be like the Entmoot.  Don’t you ever sit in a gathering of believers, praying, singing, sharing the word of God, and just imagine everyone getting up and rushing the doors to take on the world?  What if we actually did? 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn
 
(quotes taken from that all-three together Lord of the Rings that came out right before the first movie)
p. 467 – Entmoot = an assembly of the people in early England exercising political, administrative, and judicial powers.  Also an argument or discussion, esp. of a hypothetical legal case.  An obsolete definition (therefore the most likely intention of Professor Tolkien), a debate, argument or discussion. 
 
p. 467 – “Entmoot… is a gathering of Ents.”
 
p. 468-469 – “The Ents were as different from one another as trees from trees… There were a few older Ents… and there were tall strong Ents…”  
 
p. 469 – There were about 48 Ents present (and no young Ents or Entwives, due to the tragic history of the Ents).
 
p. 469 – “Merry and Pippin were struck chiefly by the variety that they saw: the many shapes, and colours, the differences in girth, and height…”
 
p. 469 – “standing in a wide circle round Treebeard…”
 
p. 469 – “a curious and unintelligible conversation began.”  (In jest:) Were they speaking in tongues??
 
p. 469 – “they were all chanting together”
 
p. 469 – “gradually his [Pippin’s] attention wavered.”
 
p. 470 – “But I have an odd feeling about these Ents: somehow I don’t think they are quite as safe and, well funny as they seem.  They seem slow, queer, and patient, almost sad, and yet I believe they could be roused.”
 
p. 470 – “But they [Ents] don’t like being roused.”
 
p. 471 – “However, deciding what to do does not take Ents so long as going over all the facts and events that they have to make up their minds about.”
 
p. 472 – “…but now they seemed deeper and less lesisurely, and every now and again one great voice would rise in a high and quickening music, while all the others died away.”
 
p. 473 – “…the voices of the Ents at the Moot still rose and fell, sometimes loud and strong, sometimes low and sad, sometimes quickening, sometimes slow and solemn as a dirge.”
 
p. 473 – “held conclave”
 
p 473 – “Then with a crash came a great ringing shout…”
 
p. 473 – “There was another pause, and then a marching music began like solemn drums… before long they saw the marching line approaching…”
 
p. 475 – “It was not a hasty resolve… we may help the other peoples before we pass away.”
 
p. 475 – “songs like trees bear fruit only in their own time and their own way: and sometimes they are withered untimely.”

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Already Gone by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer with Todd Hillard

Britt Beemer’s America’s Research Group was commissioned by Ken Ham to survey 1,000 former attendees of conservative Christian churches, who are now in their twenties, to discover why they left.  Already Gone is a summary of the survey results, and a challenge to the church to heed the warning and make the radical changes required to remain relevant – not only to the younger generations, but to everyone. 

Do you believe in the authority of Scripture?  Does your life demonstrate it?  Ken Ham poses these questions to young adult Christians both in and out of mainstream churches, to pastors, Christian teachers, to parents, churches, and educational institutions.  The subject of Already Gone is the generation of Christians my age (20’s), many of whom have left the church.  Of those who have left, there are two main groups: one whose worldview is mostly secular and skeptical of the Bible, and one that believes the Bible is true and applicable but has found the church irrelevant.  How is the church failing to deliver a biblical worldview to the children and youth who faithfully attend Sunday school, church, and youth group?  Of the twenty-something’s who remain in the church, are they submitted to the authority of Scripture, or is their search for a worship experience prevailing over God’s teachings about the Body of Christ? 

What about the parents, pastors, youth pastors, and Sunday school teachers who make up the older generation, the church establishment?  Have they sold out God’s teachings on the church for their beloved traditions?  How much of what we think of when we hear “church” is actually biblical?  Why is the most common accusation against the church that it is hypocritical?  The church in America is losing members so drastically that we need to radically reevaluate our practices and teachings.  Compromise cannot be tolerated. 

As founder of Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham must touch on his favorite subject: the foundational importance of Genesis, and how compromise on the historical and scientific truth of Genesis undermines all of Scripture, faith in God, and even the gospel.  He calls the church back to teaching “earthly things,” the correspondence between the Bible and reality.  Christians need to be equipped for apologetics from an early age, to guard against doubts and to answer inquiries from a godless culture.  This, more than music or games or attractive activities, is the only way to be relevant to people living in the real world and desperate for answers.

Already Gone is a fair, factual, and interesting treatment of the systemic problems in the church today.  Lest we become like post-Christian Europe, where church is a marginal pastime for a few elderly people clinging to vestiges of tradition in empty cathedrals, we must take action now.  Several reactions to the problem are presented, with their disadvantages and perks, but ever a challenge to study for yourself what God says about church and training up children. 

As a member of the generation under the microscope, on the edge of the traditional church and ready to flee, I was impressed by the willingness to take us seriously.  Some of us are leaving because we see the problems and want a church that does what a church should, and loyalty isn’t strong enough to keep us from looking outside our experience.  Ken Ham acknowledges, with some surprise, people in my situation.  I appreciated this book.  Even though I’m pushing for the more extreme reactions mentioned (abandoning Sunday school and traditional trappings: buildings, sermons, and orders of worship), I have a lot of respect for the way Already Gone ties the whole malady to the failure of Christians to teach and obey the authority of the Word of God.  If a person is faithful to study and submit to that, he will be led to the mode of meeting and discipleship God intends, strongly equipped for the Christian call to evangelize our world. 

Already Gone

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Unveiled Hope: Eternal Encouragement from the Book of Revelation by Scotty Smith and Michael Card

Written primarily by Pastor Scotty Smith with interludes by Michael Card essaying the inspiration behind each song in his album, Unveiled Hope is a different approach to Revelation.  Although it deals with controversial interpretation points (in controversial ways), the focus is on encouraging Christians through the hope offered by the unveiling of our Savior as Creator, Redeemer, Warrior, King, and God.  The Church, as Christ’s waiting Bride, is strengthened throughout the centuries by God’s work in the past, present, and future.  We are warned to worship God alone, who is revealed as all-worthy of our praise.  Praise and singing are themes of Revelation, along with suffering, sovereignty, and holiness.  All of these are addressed both directly through the instructions commissioned to the seven churches and in the imaginative (but true!) narratives that follow.  While I am disappointed in the everyday-will-be-like-today interpretations of the judgments in Revelation, which seem to leave off the supernatural nature of the things described.  One thing for which I appreciate Unveiled Hope is the way it demonstrated the relevance of what is taught in Revelation, as well as what is believed about it.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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So young people are leaving the church: a disastrous omen for the future of Christianity.  We must do something.  Something different than what we have been doing.  Because the church is failing this generation. 

 

It is common to point to the pizza and games youth-group-without-accountability-or-education program as the culprit for the apostasy of college students.  Church should not be about entertainment, say the pious parents who with the next breath criticize the musicians on the praise team and complain that the worship style at their congregation doesn’t suit their tastes.  Perhaps we are not sheltering youth enough.  Maybe they need more authority figures, a connection with the whole church, including their parents. 

 

Some on the conservative side of the question point to the content of what we teach young people.  Survey after survey reveals that teens don’t know the basics of Christian theology, and certainly aren’t decision-making from a Christian worldview.  These kids have no foundation to abandon, Christian leaders rightly argue.  They’re hungry for answers.  And when we don’t equip them in the realm of apologetics, high school and college professors have little difficulty refuting the shallow traditional faith of their students. 

 

Maybe the church is too legalistic, parents and pastors suffocating kids with expectations of holiness, that ever-imposing scale of good deeds versus bad deeds on which to measure God’s favor and wrath.  When at last free of the oppressive constraints, these young adults bust out with a liberal longing for pleasure, enjoying an affirming group of friends that encourages them to stop stifling their own feelings.  So we the church ought to offer more grace, somehow imparting to the up-and-coming generations the relationship aspect of Christianity.  Like so many who have been in the church for decades, these teenagers just want to know that God is love, and He wants to be your friend, to give you your best life now. 

 

“These are the leaders of the future,” is quoted, by some with hope, by others with dark foreboding.  But our model of ministry leaves a wide gap between involvement in youth ministry and being incorporated with the rest of the congregation.  Smaller churches have no college ministry.  Even those with college ministries have merely moved the disconnect to a later date.  Those in the club of grown ups are unwilling to speak to or invest in the younger individuals – let alone take their advice – trying to move into life and faith that is overwhelming without examples.  There is truth to the protest that kids are irreverent and disrespectful and self-absorbed.  But listen to what we’re saying.  Those are the kids.  What toddler have you met who knows anything different than irreverence and selfishness?  Yet the older people attempt to train them, not fight them.  Church has failed to welcome the post-education demographic; can we be surprised they leave?

 

Yet maybe that is exactly what the young adults ought to do: leave.  An institution so divided and impotent as the evangelical church, so lacking in love or substance, is more likely to inspire bitter memories of religious hypocrisy and to shore up doubt in the power of a God mostly ignored in the actual workings of the organization.  I will say more: perhaps the adults should leave, and the young parents who feel they ought to raise their children in Sunday school should never come back.  Christians should take on the personal responsibility of living a communal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: embracing grace as a gift both received and distributed; trust in the power and authority of the Creator God of the Resurrection; loving, serving, and discipling their fellow children of God; humbling themselves before the voice of God coming through Scripture, teachers, and youths; pursuing fellowship with God and with each other; and living out a life so different from the world that those exposed have no doubt that only the miracle of God could give such abundant life! 

 

And just maybe when we see such a symptom of desperate unwell in our churches, we should repent, falling on our faces before the Lord of Wisdom, desiring His healing and direction rather than the empty programs and various solutions proffered by man. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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A friend was telling me about a book the other day.  She said that in the first page not only had the author stated his thesis; he had also persuaded her of its truth.  The following hundred fifty pages were spent reiterating the point and adding evidence with which to convict the audience of the need for the final third of his book, advice for applying the concept.  My friend has always been more interested in writing that was more practical than philosophical, and essentially agreed with the premise of this book before she began to read it.  So she sloughed through the repetitive, unnecessary chapters getting quite bored and wondering if the book was worth her time. 

And today, while I pondered her conversational book review, I realized something.  When I read, I cannot wait to share what I have learned with someone else.  I want to discuss the statements, to criticize them or exult in them, to take every piece of information from the book and draw conclusions from it.  I am rather bored by a book that is a list of how-to steps, because inevitably my situation is omitted, and I chafe under the restrictions of specifics.  As a little girl playing with legos, I always altered the instructions that came with the little car kits.  During a lecture, I much prefer taking my own notes to filling in blanks.  When I read, I am not merely receiving what the author intended; I am springboarding from there to further conclusions, adding the information to everything else I know and experience, in order to richly apply the new ideas. 

Not only am I blending each new piece of media with the others of my experience; I am contributing to the community knowledge and awareness.  Were I to read the book my friend was describing, I would not only be gaining information useful for my life, but also things that I could transfer to my friends, some of whom might benefit from all those tedious persuasion points.  I could write about the subject here (except I already have, when I read reviews of the same book by other bloggers – sharing their knowledge with their community).  Think about reviews and quotes, the work of one man in reading an entire volume in order to bring you a concise summary and sample. 

Have you an idea of the impact on your world when you read a book or watch a movie or listen to a song – or even have an experience?  We are, when living in community, all something like the feared and almost unstoppable Borg of Star Trek invention.  Our understanding is assimilated into a collective.  Except in our case, instead of our brains being hacked and joined to an impersonal super-computer, we are a collective by reason of our relationships: our compassion for others, and wisdom in choosing when to share and what.  Communication is key. 

Imagine a person who was reading, thinking, watching, and living – but who never communicated any of what he learned.  Though his experiences would shape him and his decisions and so impact the people around him, how much more could they all benefit if he was using his time not selfishly, but for what it could offer neighbors, family, and friends?  What I do not have time to read, watch, or do might be in the realm of the experiences of my acquaintance, who could give me the relevant parts or the most interesting parts. 

Worse than someone who will not communicate is a passive member of the community.  All he does is absorb media, blinking at a screen, fiddling with a video game, settling for mediocrity in all of his pursuits, never aspiring to innovation or improvement.  Such a person is not contributing to the community, is wasting his potential, while benefiting like a parasite from the efforts of others.  Even if he is a hermit, excluding himself from the community, by residing in the vicinity of communities (even in a macro situation like the large geography of a state or country) he will be the recipient of at least a few good things brought about by the selfless enterprise of others.  A country is strong when the people are united.  It will be profitable, creative, defensive, and resilient. 

So, too, is a church that is united.  God did not place His children as individual hermits to meditate on Him and reach full potential of godliness, testimony, or understanding.  He placed us as a people, in an organism called the church, made up of many members that the world may see our love in community, proclaiming not that God is near them, nor that God is in them, but that God is truly among them.  It is almost redundant to say that church is community.  But it is counterintuitive to today’s citizen.  He is taught to think of church as an institution, a collection of programs and “services,” which the religious attend and in which they ritually participate. 

The Bible teaches that the people redeemed by Christ’s grace are to walk in the Spirit, to live by faith, praying without ceasing.  We are saved individually, each bearing God’s image, each a man for whom Jesus gave His Life.  But that salvation and faith and Spirit pours into the collective when the “members” gather.  Then that which a person has read, learned, or experienced should be brought forward and discussed: questioned, projected, contrasted, added to the knowledge and circumstances of others, and then applied.  What esteem we should have for those with whom we fellowship, embracing their words whether encouraging or correcting, for we are all benefiting from the voice of God on many ears! 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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If you happened to come at the Church dilemma from the same direction as Pagan Christianity, meaning, you started to suspect there was something wrong with the way we “do” church, this book is the next step. In Reimagining Church, Frank Viola describes his conclusions about God’s intention for Church meetings, using the tool of contrast with our normal church experience. Not hierarchy, but consensus. Not stage-centered, but participatory. Not merely intellectual, but spiritual. Not program-driven, but organic. Not Pentecostal or cessationist, but charismatic.

Three points stood out to me in Frank Viola’s book.

1) He believes that the Trinity should be the model for our church: unity in diversity, and applies that belief to his theology and ecclesiology. How should our leadership be? How does the Trinity do it? How should our fellowship be? How is it between the Trinity? I don’t see that this method is taught by the Bible, but it may not be false.

2) Theology should be contextual and Christ-centered. He advocates for a chronological order for the books of the New Testament, the order in which they were written set alongside the timeline and history found in Acts. Also he believes the
meetings should be Christ-centered in that the product of every gathering is a better love for, trust in, or knowledge of Christ.

3) We need fellowship with other Christians. There is no excuse for excluding any of the redeemed from our fellowship unless they are unrepentant about habitual sin or demonstrably only professing “Christianity” without any familiarity with what that means. (We don’t have to fellowship with cultists or heretics, even if they say they’re Christians.) The Bible emphasizes the group-ness of the Church over the
individuality of the Christian. Community is essential for biblical interpretation, for evangelism, and for our personal spiritual growth.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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