I made the following comment on his post:
I have had a somewhat similar experience but I also know of “organic” gatherings that are thriving. As for me, trying to find people who are actually serious about a more organic form of the church has been a struggle. A lot of people are fed up but it seems that inertia just keeps us going.Dan replied with an especially good comment:
I think the problem comes in when we try to replace one church model with another church model, without addressing the more important question of community. If we have a community of believers living their lives with one another, the church will happen fairly naturally. if we try to substitute a model of church, even one with lots of Biblical support, for community it is bound to fail.
I know that “community” is an overused word to the point that it has lost most of its meaning. It still is the right word to use to describe what we see in the New Testament and what we should see in the church today. Defining it is one thing, seeing it lived out? Quite another.
Arthur,That is borderline blasphemy! “Our entire lifestyle in America wars with Christianity”? Doesn’t he know that America was founded as a Christian nation and all we need to do is get back to our Judeo-Christian roots and all will be well?!
I have long written on this blog that the New testament demands a way of living that flies in the face of what we consider normal, societal living. Our entire lifestyle in America wars with Christianity. As a result, almost every model of church one tries is either going to be broken by that lifestyle or is going to make for some serious angst should one fight societal norms tooth and nail.
Where it becomes hard is that change only comes if we commit to it and simultaneously address the problems of both church models and societal models. That so few smart Christians are taking on greater societal structures and talking about it publicly makes it hard for the little guy to make gains.
I think Dan is on to something here. If we refuse to really consider the issues caused by our cultural and societal structures, are we ever going to be able to move past religiosity and into community? If my life as a disciple is competing, often very unsuccessfully, with my cultural preferences where is the self-denial, the sacrificial life? Denying yourself flies in the face of American culture while living the American dream while attending church on occasion gives the appearance of the best of both worlds. I get my public piety and get out of hell but I can still have all of the trappings of America affluence.
Can I go a step further and make this suggestion? The greatest cultural dangers to Christianity are not found in abortion or gay marriage or banning school prayer or removing Ten Commandments monuments or saying "Happy Holidays". The greatest cultural dangers to Christianity in America are the very things that generally are though to make America great: Patriotism. Self-sufficiency. Affluence. Success. The very things we love and give thanks to God for in our prayer meetings might just be the greatest impediments to Christian community and the most damaging to our Gospel witness.
If we try to modify the church model without also breaking down our societal norms and expectations as the church, we are invariably going to end up with an irreconcilable tension because the allure of the American dream. The American way of life, apple pie and flag waving America, truly is in direct conflict with the life of a disciple. As Dan says, if we address the church culture without taking a hard look at our cultural comfort, it is a recipe for conflict and division.
What say you? Is it possible to live and pursue some variation of the American dream while taking up your cross daily? Can we have community in America without turning our back on so much of what being American promises us?