So, today we took a break from visiting churches and we stayed home and watched part two of EPIC (not the disney version but a John Elderedge video series I mentioned a few weeks ago.) When we met at Dion’s with other Lifesingers working out their own pilgrimage for next I joked precisely that we had visited a house church, my own. It was a joke because they know that I have concerns about the typical house church. I understand (but don’t entirely agree that scripture teaches) the argument that the early church was comprised of house churches. I also understand that at least some house churches are probably healthier than some non house churches. I’m also not concerned about the location or structure or size of a church. What I am concerned about is that in many cases a house church becomes a way to avoid being challenged. I have the same concern in general about the Christians who tell me that they get enough fellowship and bonding with their Christian friends without having to attend an actual church. In one sense I trust that what they say is true. I too find fellowship in places outside of “church.”
What is missing in both these cases, is challenge. It is possible to find a group small enough and monolithic enough to rarely be challenged in our own thinking or ideas. None of us are smart enough, or immune to deception enough to be confident that left inside our own minds we will never go in error in our understanding of doctrine. The smaller a group is, the more uniform, the fewer questions there become. This may seem comfortable and safe, but it is precisely questions, and the ability within a group to ask questions and challenge answers, that leads to us to real safety, to reliance on scripture and prayer and faith and dependence upon God.
I’ve seen this thread over and over this week. Let me briefly share a few of them with you.
- On my brother’s site today, he posted a blog called Questions (and yes i stole the title directly for my own) where he discussed how his family responded to a sermon by asking and discussing numerous questions. My own experience going through the Epic video series with my family has been the same. I’ve been encouraged precisely because instead of simply trying to force comfort in pat answers, I’ve seen my kids gain some freedom to ask real questions, tough ones that theologians and philosophers have wrestled with since before Christ. There is comfort in the answers of scripture and in a better understanding of God but these are often arrived at through the questions, not in spite of them and certainly not in avoidance of them.
- One of the Lifesingers has been visiting and become fairly committed to a church which has numerous good points, but at which questions are not exactly in vogue. This particular movement happens to be lead by primarily one man and as almost always happens, even when this one man is decent and honorable (as this one is) the structure that flows from such circumstance is one that doesn’t allow for a great deal of question or exploration. A certain inability to explore questions about certain traditions which have developed in this church has lead her to wonder if she should move on. This discussion reminded me why I’ve always been a strong proponent for plurality. Even when I’ve pastored alone I’ve always been sure to surround myself with leaders who are willing to disagree and even argue with me as needed. It doesn’t matter what our role or level of maturity is, we need to be open to being challenged and we need to put ourselves in situations (plurality, community) that make this likely to happen when it needs to. This is not to say that we need to surround ourselves with unpleasant disagreeable people. Absolutely not. Nor do we need to always be looking for people who make us feel “convicted” or guilty. No, again. WE need to be surrounded by people who are willing to think and question and who care enough about us to share concerns in loving ways.
- I’ve been pastoring for 23 years and I’ve often been the guy pushing the envelope. Now as I’m undergoing my pilgrimage, I’m beginning to wonder if I still have not been challenged enough in my own grasp of what church is. Interestingly one of the churches we’ve visited recently is the favorite of at least half my family and it’s much more traditional than I would have expected. So on the one hand I’m wondering about the benefits of pushing the envelope a little less, or at least in a slightly different direction. And on the other hand…
- …I’m reading The Tangible Kingdom. If you look at the Amazon reviews for this book, you’ll see that it is not a book people feel neutral about. Some all them prescient and brilliant, others heretical and crazy. Personally I like what I’m reading. Here’s a link if you’re interested: The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community
My three former deacons from Lifesong and our wives and some of our kids are all going to be going through this book together on Sunday Evenings for a while. I am looking forward to how it shapes the coming journey for me, precisely because I think it will cause questions and challenges and even an old 45 year old pastor (perhaps especially and old 45 year old pastor) needs to be challenged now and then.
And that brings us back to this new website. I really hope that you will challenge, encourage and exhort each other, share your stories and join the discussion both here and on the Facebook page. Thanks for visiting and thanks for being part of this community. We need you and your story.
(BTW, When mentioning books I particularly like, I’ve always provided links like the one above for convenience, but now as an Amazon affiliate I actually get paid if you buy it via this link! Likewise the box on the sidebar which claims to be “pastormac’s favorites” really does list handpicked favorite items of mine. I will keep this updated and new and if you see something you like click through this box and by doing so you become a supporter of this website and the ministries therein while buying things you actually want! Looks like a win/win to me!)
Smiling at the Future,
David (Pastormac) Megill