Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I think it is time

We have been resistant to going fully into the organic/simple/house church thing. I have been very leery of leaping into something out of concern that I am doing so out of pride. My preference has been to try to work from within existing groups that are more open to asking the hard questions and changing where necessary. That is has unfortunately proven futile again and again, leading to frustration and often contention that is not healthy for anyone. Most local churches, like any entrenched organization, are very change averse and religious traditions have an even deeper hold on people than other groups. After our most recent experience, a pretty bitter disappointment although not a surprising turn of events at all, we find ourselves ready to take the plunge.

If you read here at all you will know that my study of Scripture has clearly left me desiring something very different from what our religious culture has to offer. All of the different denominations and movements offer slightly different versions of the same basic thing. We have tried a number of iterations of more traditional churches but none have really captured the spirit of what we see in the New Testament and further none have really seemed interested in going down that path. In every group we have tried there are barriers, places they would not go, traditions they would not challenge, entrenched interests that would not budge. This far and no farther seems to be the motto.

You might be reading this and thinking that I am just a perpetually discontent person who needs to quit searching and just settle. Actually as I type this I sort of feel the same! Perhaps this is just a personality flaw on my part. Regardless I feel like this is where we have been heading for a long time.

What are we going to do on Sundays? I am not sure. I don’t really have an order of service and that is kind of the point! I would expect that sharing a meal and breaking bread would be the centerpiece of the gathering. Maybe a study and discussion of the church from the New Testament to draw together the pieces. I suppose some singing and definitely prayer. Really wherever God leads. That sounds scary. What happens if no one has anything to say? That might happen but that is also OK. We have this almost pathological need to fill silence with something no matter what that filler is. It seems to me that sometimes silence is OK, the whole be still and know that I am God kind of silence. I wouldn’t even have a problem if the church gathered and nothing super religious went on, just spending time talking and praying together would be fine as long as the end result is that Christians are encouraged, loved, edified and equipped for the work of ministry.

Practically speaking, we have a number of outbuildings on our property including a pretty nice workshop that I think will be perfect for a gathering of the church. It is a decent size with a heater when it gets colder and good lighting. I can easily see 6-7 families able to gather together without much trouble. If God blesses this work and it grows past that, we simply will have meetings in two locations instead of one. I never intend for this to be “The Arthur Show” or for us to meet in the same place or the same way every single Sunday (or even for certain on Sunday at all!)

I really believe that there is a desperate need in our area for a simple church gathering that permits people the room to mature in Christ and that still maintains good relationships and cooperation with other more traditional groups. Our area has a lot of people that are very gun shy about organized religion having come out of the Amish or other heavily authoritarian religious groups, fundamentalist or legalistic or “conservative” backgrounds. We need a gathering where people from different backgrounds can come together without preconceived barriers and grow together in Christ. We have made a lot of contacts with other local churches and feel quite comfortable in reaching out to them as needed. I am not sure how receptive they will be but that really isn’t up to me.

In the final analysis, the main reason for making this move is that I just don’t see an alternative. I don’t believe I can be a part of perpetuating a system that I think is unbiblical and harmful to the Kingdom mandate but I also don’t believe God is calling us to be a force for division and conflict. Our best option in my estimation is to seek to work with other Christians from more traditional contexts in the work of evangelism and mercy ministries here locally wherever and whenever we can while gathering in a simpler context. I have no idea what this is going to look like. We might be sitting around in a couple of weeks by ourselves.

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8 comments:

Brian said...

I am in the same boat as you are. I do not want to divide, but my attempts to gather with already functioning traditional groups has proved futile too.

I still do not know what my family will be doing a year from now, but I pray that the Body of Christ is exalted up there in Indiana!

Keep us posted how things go.

Swanny

dle said...

Arthur,

I hear your lament and pray God will bless you. I'm struggling with exactly the same issues you are. I'm really burned out of the "drama" and the "our way or the highway" that define the institutional church.

That said, I'm not finding the answer in the organic church either. It's not that the theory isn't great, it's just that the leaders in that movement have a certain smugness and condescension I can't get past. It's like they have a little club and they'll let you in if you somehow prove yourself worthy of them and their ecclesiology. I don't understand that at all.

Robert Rouse said...

I do pray that God will bring others to your home to build a strong biblical fellowship. Our hesitation has been (an continues to be) that we'd be "doing church" all alone as a family. We have lived here for three years and find it hard to make the kinds of friendships we would expect in a vibrant, spirit-filled gathering. It makes me weep, not only for the state of American "churchianity" but at my feeling of powerlessness to do anything even as small as building a home fellowship.

Aussie John said...

Arthur,

I know full well the battle you have had, and are having, never-the-less, you are one in a large number these days.

"I have no idea what this is going to look like". In my opinion,that is a good thing!

Of one thing, of which I'm certain: God will honor those whose purpose is to honor Him!

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid".(John 14:27 ESV)

Arlan said...

I've never been on any church's membership rolls & never been a pew-sitter for more than a few months at most. I did go to an IC Sunday School for a few years but I thought about giving it up all the time.

I'd LIKE to insist on house church (organic church, pick your flavor). In practice, I sort of do insist. But philosophically, the fact that Jesus DOES keep his church gives me a lot of pause. I've heard people talk in the HC/OC movement about how church has been screwed up for thousands of years and how much better it would be if things were done God's way and it always makes me think, "Well, what happened to Jesus these past 2,000 years?"

What if the barren IC is the wilderness God has called his people to walk in? Not saying you are wrong to step out (as I hope you pick up from my introduction), but I challenge myself whether my vision for "church done right" is God's.

Eric said...

This sounds exciting. I'm not surprised it has come to this for you. It's almost impossible to live biblical church life within the context of the institution. Much better for you to depart and start fresh than to feel disgruntled in an existing local church. May God bless your efforts!

Arthur Sido said...

Swanny, I know exactly what you are saying.

dle, I agree that there can be a sense of prideful "we have it figured out" among certain leaders in the organic church but I would recommend doing what I do, namely use what is profitable from these teachers and ignore what is not.

Robert, your experience is all too common. Regardless of what happens we will continue to reach out to other believers around us. I know all too well how difficult it can be to find community in our religious culture.

John, I am sure God will use this to His glory!

Arlan, my desire is not to simply start my own thing in opposition to the IC but to provide an outlet for those who are outside of the IC and desperate for fellowship. I am quite certain I don't have it all figured out but I hope this will provide a context to continue to figure it out with others.

Eric, that is really the crux of it. Being constantly disgruntled and at odds with the defenders of tradition is not healthy for anyone but that doesn't mean we can't continue to fellowship in other ways and cooperate in the work of the Gospel.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. That was the word that I heard when I read this.

Beautiful.

Arthur my spirit leaped for joy when I read this.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit are out of the man-made box! Let the Holy Spirit lead your gatherings...
Todd