Monday, February 23, 2009

The Temptation

We live in the south, which means we live in the Bible belt. There are churches everywhere. In my county there are +/- 500 churches. Which presents some problems.

Matt Chandler says, Many of us don't even know what church even is. Church is just songs and sermons. But that's not Biblical. That's not church. Church is a group of men and women walking together, covenanting with one another, to do life together for the glory of God, and for the sanctification of their souls in the fullness of him.

I know I've said this before, but church isn't just something we go to. It's something we belong to. It's something to be a part of. I would go so far to say that most Christians in our area go to church but do not belong to one. The temptation for Hub City Church is that we become just another church that people go to... and we could do that. But then I'd have to quit because that's not what I want to be a part of and it's not what Jesus had in mind for his bride.

When church is just something that you go to then it has no power, no vitality and no strength.

The church is a body that we belong to. That means that each part must live in constant interaction and relationship to each other part. But this is hard. Most of us don't know how to do this. Heck, I don't really know how to do this... but I'm learning. It's messy. It requires transparency and openness. It requires acceptance and forgiveness. It actually requires us to love each other (profound thought).

But wouldn't be awesome to create that kind of transformational, disciple-making community, in Spartanburg?


At 7:58 AM, February 24, 2009 , Anonymous Jaimee said...

Hey Jonathan. I have some questions regarding your post. I ask because I want to better understand where you're coming from and because I know sometimes through mulling over these things we can come up with new insights and ideas...

You said:I know I've said this before, but church isn't just something we go to. It's something we belong to.

I am wondering... Why is "church" something we go to at all?

I understand your desire for it to be more than that... but I'm not 100% clear on why it is something that is even a factor in our Christian existence...

From previous conversations, I do understand and respect the idea that the church service can act as a tool, a bridge from the world to Christian relationship (i.e. small groups?). I think that is valuable and that it can and does work.

However, I guess I wonder if that is the best way? If we are merely settling for a cultural crutch because it is something that has always been there and whose success is physically measurable.

I love coming to church. I learn things in the sermons that are useful to my life. The music brings me closer to God. My kids get to play with friends.

But the church that the world knows is so dysfunctional... Are we really drawing them in with the same old venue that has turned so many away?

If given the choice between going to church on Sunday or having an additional evening per week with Christian friends... allowing the Holy Spirit to lead my friends in teaching, exhortation, encouragement, etc... I wouldn't choose church! As much as I like it, the opportunity to be open and living with real people is much more appealing to me.

I am open to the idea that perhaps I am ruined by past church experiences... or even just rebellious in nature... but there have to be others like me out there... How do we respond to them?

At 9:25 AM, February 24, 2009 , Blogger Jonathan Everette said...

I don't know why I start from the end of the comment and work backward's but that's what I do. First, I don't think your rebellious nature or your bad church experiences (which were pretty bad) are meant to be hinderances for you. They can be, but I think that all of that has contributed to who you are and who you are becoming and that God is using that "stuff' for your own discipleship.

Second, I love the question. It helps me think through why we do what we do. My first response is to go to the Bible. When I read the book of Acts I see the believers gathering in the synagoge as well as in homes. I also see in the Gospels that Jesus was often found teaching in the synagoges... a public gathering. It's a both/and, not either/or. Does that mean that a public gathering has to look like what we do? Not at all, but we exist within a cultural context, a specific time and a specific place. And I believe that our gathering is pretty relevant to our culture/context. I know that Frank Viola might disagree with me, but this is where I think we can agree to disagree and both still go to heaven. :)

In light of that, our gathering is just one part of bringing people into a relational environment. It's a very effective first step in our culture. As Americans, we're pretty anti-community, so one battle we face is getting people into community. That's why the gathering is such a great first step... but if you stop there, which many churches do, then you rob people of the opportunity to do life as God intended.

You ask if this is the best way... maybe not, but I think it is for us because of the culture and context in which we live. Go overseas to cultures that are more communal (China, India) and it doesn't work like it does in America. And, as far as success of our gathering goes... I don't measure it by butts in the seats. I measure success by how many people who come to the gathering are getting connected and moving through our discipleship process. I also measure success by how many people are bringing people. The gathering is for people who aren't a part of Hub City Church. We sometimes forget that.

But like I said, if you stop at the gathering then you're not being the church. Which brings me to another thought. We say (I'm guilty too) that we're going to church. That's a bad use of language. We're really going to the gathering.

Yes, the church is dysfunctional. Unfortunately, it's always been that way. Just read the NT. But I think therein lies the joy, excitement and draw of the church. Just like all of our marriages are dysfunctional to one extent or another, but we work through our dysfunctions to achieve intimacy, so we, as disciples of Jesus must work through our dysfunctions and learn to love and forgive one another so that we can live in community/relationship.

I think that the "others" (that would be a great title for a series) that are like you are mainly motivated by fear. They've been hurt and don't want to be hurt again. but that's unrealistic. Think back to a marriage. Spouses hurt one another all the time, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally, but if they are working towards intimacy then those hurts are just speed bumps along the journey. I would challenge your friends to take a risk... like you and Allen did. It was a big risk for y'all, but I can see Jesus at work in both of you and Liz and I so much value your friendship. Selfishly, I think about what Liz and I would have missed out on had you and Allen not taken the risk to get involved and connected.

Long comment, but great questions. don't know if I answered you well, but I tried. :) It's the best I could do with getting up every hour last night with Nathan puking.

At 10:03 AM, February 24, 2009 , Anonymous Jaimee said...

Thank you.

I don't necessarily disagree with you, so don't think I am trying to debate a negotiable! I am really confused as to what I believe or if I actually believe anything hard core right now regarding the church as an institution. I think I am actually at a learning point right now... perhaps permanently... so don't even consider myself qualified to debate much of anything!

The Others sounds like a horror movie... somewhat appropriate considering... It is different to be hurt in a church like what we have been in before and in a situation like Hub City. I'm not saying Hub City is like every other church out there... it's not. Hurts from friends cut deeper but are able to make us better people if we let them. It's easier to say that and know it than it is to live it out though.

I'm sorry Nathan is sick! I thought you guys were done... You might still avoid it by getting some of that GSE and hitting it hard. I hope and pray everyone is better soon!

At 10:05 AM, March 05, 2009 , Anonymous Fred said...

How about not going to church at all and having a virtual campus like Newspring?


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