In January, I was consulting with a group of doctors who specialize in obesity education. As über intelligent people are prone to do, they were speaking in a high-level code language that reminded me of my systematic theology courses. To make it even more confusing they had just reviewed several recently released studies about obesity treatment. I will readily admit I was lost in the conversation and unsure how I could help them with their project.
I interrupted. “Can you please, in two or three sentences, explain to me why physicians have a hard time treating obesity in their practice? Can you translate all of this into plain English for me? I can’t help you until I wrap my arms around what the problem is.”
It’s such a good comment, and it’s almost like a 95 theses calling me out, that I asked him if he minded if I posted it as a stand-alone blog post. I’ve been getting to know T.C. and his unique view on what the church ought to do/be. Adams Avenue is not your typical church. My own description of their ministry would be that it is a Christ-centered unchurch. Unlike me, T.C. is more of a do-er than a talker and he’s someone I’d label as “Crazy enough to change the world.”
Be the Church:
another good post and now i’m praying we can move past theory and see more practice, everywhere, every city, as adam envisions.
i/we’ve been doing it for 2 years now: no building, no long sermons (7 minutes max); lots of conversation; no music, except on a couple occasions with a guitar and singer unplugged; lots of picnics, meals, coffee, picking up trash, tutoring kids, walking around, volunteering with organizations. it’s actually very confusing much of the time so i am not speaking as a paid expert or anything (ah yes that’s another thing, this does not attract a whole bunch of money or people, by the way). there’s no guidbook, other than maybe hirsch’s forgotten ways handbook and a few others; lots of material out there on theory and many ideas but indeed the workers are few and the enemy is dead set against the kind of movements that adam is inferring.
a few interrelated opinions as i work this out for myself in collaboration with people like you who i love and appreciate so much:
– do it. stop talking about it. leave your church and do what you are saying. that’s the message i keep getting, and increasingly i have less time writing about church reform because there is, as you say, so much work to be done. people want this but we are on the leading edge and it is hard work. nonverbals are the message – what is our message – go out and get it done and build it; know that it will take a long time so you have to start now, stop writing about it folks.
– remember that jesus resisted the temptation of feeding everyone. it’s about more than just feeding hungry people. it’s about feeding some hungry people, but it is about more than that. man does not live on bread alone. there is a ministry of the word. how do you do that in the context you are imagining? don’t answer, do it. let me see how it looks. this becomes the riddle to solve once you jump out of the building. you have to create things, against people’s comfort and habit; how do you minister the word out there in the world? this isn’t haiti, this is the usa – how do you preach, when only 5 percent as adam says, are listening to the preacher? go for it. get it done. it’s possible. hint:the people who need the word are not reading this blog.
– can you really go to a church and not give money? like NOT giving money will cause them to do what you say? perhaps, but why are you following a pastor who won’t listen to this message without such coercion; when will he get it? you are feeding the problem just by being there; your vote is your butt in the chair, more than your money. … this is just devil’s advocacy. i know the line about reforming from within. yet we really need more people who flee from their church and see it as more than an opportunity to just go to the beach. we need warriors building this new kind of thing. reform from outside.
– a big trend that has to be bothersome is this rising chorus of critique against the church without a rising army of folks living out the alternative. gen x got its name from being meaninglessly, non-committal, and complacent. and i know too many of us who are not really engaged and fighting the good fight with a covenant community, we’re just saying things like “church is everywhere” and “love your neighbor” and yet it looks like a ministry of convenience more than anything. i like to write so i blog; i like to feed the hungry so i do that. i like beer so i drink with my neighbor. … all fine and good, but: are we becoming a generation of disciples and disciple-makers? is this generation being shaped and formed into Christlikness against he prevailing tides of individualism, hard-work, consumerism, well-touted charity, etc.
– i really suggest we all tithe and then some, just simply give everything we can; and see the tithe more than just giving to the poor but also giving to the word; i would uphold a levite + sojourner/needy/hungry tithe. don’t throw the baby out with the bath water is what i’m saying. yes stop paying for pyrotechnics and excessive a/v and megabuildings (or buildings at all) but do pay your pastor. have a pastor! have a church! be the church! commit. covenant. be a family. share everything.
– to sum up folks at some point we really have to turn these diatribes into something that we can show the world and be accountable to the broader church and say, “this is what we’re talking about. it’s a work in progress but here it is. join us. work with us. help us. fund us. serve with us. get messy and live dangerously too.” there must be very soon a large network or web of such churches all around, every city, so when folks like daryl are asking the question, “where is this?”, there will be many options.
– i’m reading Eugene Peterson’s Practice Resurrection which uses Ephesians as a launching pad to discuss ecclesiological issues. i suggest it as a tonic to the missional material so prevalent today. let’s not worship mission or create an idol out of food or coffee or anything else. let’s not just react to what’s at hand. let’s endeavor to be the church in all it’s fullness.