I love the whole Church...I really, really do. I try not to belittle how others go about church but I know at times what I believe to be real can come through in a negative way. I despise that really...if I make a comment it is not to disparage or to discredit but to challenge, as I have been challenged. If we are not being challenged we may be in trouble because I am sure we are not doing all things perfectly.
I was out walking the other day and I began thinking about a wedding Barb and I were attending. We met three or four couples that evening that we knew from prior church experiences and the others were people that our friends a the table knew from their prior church experiences. We were all from different charismatic type churches and we are still in that type of expression. As I thought about it was kind of odd as every couple that we connected with somehow of course the question would come up, “Where are you attending church now?” All of the couples were now in what we refer to as “seeker” churches. Most in the biggest one nearby. A great church, growing and expanding. But I find it so interesting that you would kind of go away from a worship setting where there is freedom and the things of the Spirit. I know they will tell me about all the people being baptized and we surely cannot over look that...but still.
Again please do not read this as a critical essay on the seeker church...it may be more on what the charismatic churches did to to drive these folks away? First I can say this...most of the churches these folks were part of do not exist today. What we experienced back in the day was a lot of young leaders who did not know what they believed and they experimented on many of us. There were some dynamic churches and leaders, don’t get me wrong, but little theological framework for many of them to lead from. So there was a lot of strange things taught and practiced...and much good also. I suppose the bad outweighed the good in many instances. But some of these people were immersed in it and to walk away...just seems strange to me.
As we came into a more charismatic experience, and I choose these words over “Spirit filled” because I think much of the trouble came from some elitist, divisive terminology. But as we came into the experience the object that captured me was worship...the active, intimate worship of God. I love the prophetic and the practice of all the gifts...for me they all flow from having hearts of worship...His presence...I cannot imagine leaving that behind to attend church. Now I can hear some saying we worship...and I am sure you do...even in our own Vineyard family there are groups that limit worship...time wise...experience wise. Sad.
I do know that the more seeker church does strive for excellence, as we all should...but I cannot wrap my mind around a program driven body over a presence driven one. I guess I wrestle with “what is the Church?” Is it a Sunday meeting? A building? Is it bound to a personality? Do programs make the church? Does liturgy? I think this is my hearts burden to know “what is the Church?” Micah 6:8, “What does God require of you?” I so wish Jesus or the Father had simply said this is church...this is what I expect. He does not really, although I suspect much of what we do as Church is not really Church. I wish a dialogue could happen where we could sit down and talk about this subject...where we could get together and not defend what we do but look and see what does God require. Do we do church? Or are we the Church? Why the terms clergy and laity?
We have taken on the task of being presence driven or steered for a lack of a better term. We want His Presence to direct where we are going and what we put our hands to...I suppose that could lead to some programs and it could also lead to stopping some programs. I suspect some of the people I met were driven away by the busyness and demands of those old churches. I do remember being in meetings a lot..lots and lots of meetings. I regret how many times I left my kids with sitters, mostly their grandparents which was a plus. But still...meeting after meeting. Then I saw the whole hierarchy kind of deal going on...titles being handed out or taken away..new titles monthly. A kind of corporate ladder to be climbed...at the cost of family and friends. That was sad for sure. Maybe I do get it. Our heart is to not keep people busy doing things in the church but to give them the freedom to be the church, on the job, in their community and, most important, in their family.
Now I am drifting...but I do think on this a lot...who are we? Did Jesus leave us here to do a church service? Or does the Church gather to celebrate? Are our times of getting together to win the unchurched? Is every meeting evangelistic? A friend of mine nearby has a church where they are going for all the things of the Spirit God has for them and they are seeing people confess Jesus every week. Is it really either/or? Can’t it both/and? Are we looking for converts? Or disciples? Is there a difference? I understand Jesus never said to anyone bow your head and pray...but we all need a starting point I guess. I told you I had questions! Paul talks of confessing Jesus as Lord...Bonhoeffer ran with what he called the “confessing” church.
I am not here to promote what we do or how we lead...but I will say we all need to be before God everyday seeking His face and His will. We all know we can do church without Him...that is the scary part of what we do and who we are. I remember John Wimber saying that in one encounter with the Holy Spirit he heard the Spirit say, “I have seen your ministry...would you like to see mine?” (that may not be the exact words) John replied that yes he wanted to see the Lord’s ministry. So do I. I know what I can do...it is not much...I want to see what the Lord will do.
So, as Paul would write in 1 Corinthians about some following Apollos or Peter or Paul and some even saying they followed Jesus to the point of much division, I don’t want more division or to be seen criticizing another part of the body. I only want to be found doing what the Lord has asked me to do...and do it well. I need the liturgical Church, the emerging church, the seeker church...I need it all...so I can continue to lead where I am called. I learn from all...this is what a leader does I think...I know a follower of Jesus is like this...a student...a learner. At the end of the day don’t we all want to see Jesus ministry? His Church not ours?