Thursday, January 01, 2015

On seeing hope for the church

Eric Carpenter is pretty encouraged by the state of the church and our future: A Pilgrim's Progress: Ten Reasons I'm Hopeful for the Church: Take a look at his Letterman-esque top ten list. I like the tone of hope more than what I often post which is usually what is wrong (although those posts are necessary).

As you might expect I largely agree with Eric, mainly for the top two reasons. There is always reason to be hopeful, optimistic and reassured as it pertains to the church because the church is the very Body of Christ and He simply will not, in fact by His nature cannot, allow it to fail. I also am a bit cautious.

I am encouraged by those who are leaving the worst excesses of institutional Christianity behind but I have to admit I am not as encouraged by what is replacing it. All too often it seems to be that nothing is replacing it. Perhaps that is just my experience but it seems that a lot of us, myself included, have walked away from the institutional church but continue to have a void in our spiritual lives due to the difficulty in finding Christian community of any tangible sort outside of the institutional system. I don't sense any sort of smug superiority over being right but being alone.

One of the reasons I liked the collaborative project Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity is that it was not designed as a polemic against institutionalism and an apologetic for "house church" but rather as an exploration of shared beliefs that ought to unite the church and should help direct our community of lives lived together as the church. I am coming to a place of being more concerned with how a particular group functions rather than with the form that it takes. A participatory house church that has a faulty understanding of the Gospel is not an improvement over a modest institutional church with solid orthodoxy. A plurality of elders that are Biblically unqualified to be elders is not an improvement over paid clergy. You get my point. I have more to say on this topic in the days to come but like Eric I remain ever confident in the promises of Christ as it pertains to His Body. Our best days, not our wealthiest or most powerful or influential days, are yet to come.


dle said...

Great stuff in that article/post, Arthur. That said, I keep going back to the one thing that seems to plague me: I hear about all these fantastic simple/house/organic churches, and yet there seems to be none within 100 miles of me, and I live outside a metro area of 3 million people.

How is that possible? Especially in a very conservative area with a large, active number of believers? And over the course of almost 15 years of looking? I just don't get it.

My pastor is talking about community right now, and yet for all our talk in the American Church of community, where are these thriving alternative Christian communities that last for more than a decade? I can't find them outside of the Amish and their spiritual kin.

Sometimes, I feel like I'll be more likely to spot a unicorn than to encounter these epic churches/communities I keep hearing about but never experience. It's downright depressing, actually.

Arthur Sido said...

Dan I am right where you are. In spite of also living in a heavily Christian area (Ft Wayne is unofficially known as the city of churches), it has been nigh impossible to find the sort of community I long for and write about. We have had some experience with a few small groups in our area but one was right on the fringe of orthodoxy (being generous) and the other exhibited many of the same issues I rail against in more traditional churches. It has been a pretty long, lonely time in the wilderness for us.