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What the...?

So, I'm excited to report that I've discovered,  in order to church the unchurched, what we need are churches designed and staffed and marketed for people who don't like church.

Yep, a church for people who don't like church.  What kind of church do get you when get a church of people who don't like church?  Think outside the box.  
After all, the reality is that there are a lot of people who are looking for God and seeking a spiritual dimension to life, but just don’t want to go to church to find it.  And come on, let's face it, from pagan Roman Emperors to the Bolsheviks to the terrorists, it was never really Jesus they hated.  It was, you guessed it, the church all along.  And, in case no one's noticed, a lot of Americans are already lining up to join that club.  Talk about a market!  So......

We'll do music that isn't religious because, let's face it, a lot of people are out there who don't like it.  Don't like worship music?  Hey, we've got a place for you.  That is, unless you like church. Because we are definitely the place for people who don't like church.  In fact, if you're a Christian from another church, there's a good chance you won't fit in.  So, go somewhere that you'd like and that likes you.   'Cause we ain't and we don't. Why not try, say, Alabama.

Think of the opportunities we've been missing.  Face it, there are a lot of people who don't like church.  And, let's be honest, who can blame them? Most churches seem judgmental and holier than thou. They make you wear your Sunday best, play music from the 1800s, and are too into politics. And they seem to care more about people’s money than people.  (side-note: Hey, we just wanna say thanks Mom for giving us life and raising us and teaching us and sending off to Bible college and giving us lots of stuff all along the way.  But now, old lady, wake up and smell the Budweiser. Take a hike.)

Got some serious doubts about Christianity? Even more negative towards church?  Join the club.  And, to all those so-called friends who told us in Christian college if we didn't like rules, didn't like authority, and didn't like getting up and going to church, we had no business going into the Christian ministry...gotcha!

Hold me down!  I'm on a roll!

Listen, apathetic, unsaved, disinterested, immersed in sex and sin America:  We're just what you've been looking for.  No rules.  No limits.  Just love.  Lots of love.  You'll love us.  And, why not?  We love us.  So, come as you are.  We're not holier than thou.  We're not holier than anybody.

Don't stop me now.

Think of the market.

This is going to be big.  Really big.

So, let's see.   What can we call it?  No worship music. No rules.  No preachy messages.  No long boring scripture readings.  No judging.  No table.  No body and blood.  Come as you are.  There's got to be a name that would work.  It's go to have that kind of earthy real-world..

No, wait.  Wait.  I've got it.

"What the Hell"

Yes, that name would be just about perfect.


Kirra said...

Tom, I have included your blog on my resources page. I am trying to add images to each resource listed. Do you have an image you would like included with your blog's listing? Please email me your file as an attachment.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Lawson,
Because you have written "What the Hell" instead of "What the Heck," the Institute of Weblogology regrets to inform you that your diploma of certification is being withdrawn. If you will write a sufficiently humble apology and grovel at our feet, we will reinstate said diploma.
Kenneth L. Boles
Supreme High Poobah of the Institute of Weblogology

Tom Lawson said...

Dangit! Heck, I had no idea I was getting in deep doodoo with the Weblogology board. Before I get in serious trouble, you have my totally sinceriest niciest bestest and humbliest apologia. [insert sound of whimpering and groveling here in the reader's imagination].


Tom Lawson said...

I sent you an email with some possibilities. Thanks for being interested in my stuff...

Greg Johnston said...

Tom, Gordon Lawrence pointed me at your blog through a Facebook post. I think I understand you to be saying that you don't share much sympathy with those who dislike church. At first you had me going. As I read the first part of your post, I thought you were onto something. (I didn't notice that the sign in the photo at the top was signed by Satan himself. I suspect it was forged, because I doubt if he hates church. He didn't hate the synagogue.)

I tend to sympathize (if not empathize) with those who don't like church. I think Jesus may have sympathized with those who didn't like synagogue, or at least synagogue as it was conducted in his day. I would bet that he also sympathized with those who didn't like Temple and what had become in his day either. But his mission was to the lost, so he "hung out" with them and gave them an alternative.

Since you used the term "market," I'll stay with that metaphor. What we are marketing (or defending) should not be "church," or at least not church as we have chosen to do it (worship music, preachy messages, long boring scripture readings, communion, etc.). And the more barriers we erect between ourselves and the "apathetic, unsaved, disinterested, immersed in sex and sin America" - within our own hearts, our posture, our rhetoric, and in the way we do "church" - the less likely we will be in a position to offer them the alternative that Jesus has to offer.

Or so it seems to me.

Tom Lawson said...

I really do not see any evidence that Jesus was particularly critical of synagogues or of temple worship (assuming you are a Jew). He was critical of making money in the courts. But, the gospels make it clearly he was a regular attender in synagogues.

I'm not sure we have anything to offer people that allows us to separate the church, in some sense, with salvation. I know the Americanized version of Christianity is very individualized, but that is really foreign to anything we see in scripture. Paul doesn't talk much about having a personal relationship with Jesus. He talks a great deal about getting along with and caring for other people in churches that seemed to have lots of problems, lots of problem people, and lots that required patience and mutual forgiveness. John (1 John) also doesn't give us any room to wiggle. The degree you love God (since you've never really seen Him) is measured by how you love your brother (a term John would use only of fellow Christians).

So, I have to differ. There really is no salvation outside the church and we cannot redesign the message of the gospel to make it sound like there is.

Now, there is some real flexibility in how the idea of church might manifest itself in a local level. House churches. Intentional Christian communes. Traditional buildings. Store fronts. Whatever. But, the characteristics that would make any of these a church would be welcoming inclusion of believers, regular gatherings the focus on community, scripture, prayer, and Eucharist, and regular "scatterings" to live out the kingdom of God among those who live in darkness. But, if it really is church, at some point, it may be boring and it certainly may have people-problems.

Like I said, it's just not up to us to tell people they can opt out.

Greg Johnston said...

Perhaps we don’t disagree with each other as much as our initial comments suggest. Your second and fourth paragraphs are really key to my understanding of “church” and the point I was attempting (perhaps feebly) to make.

Anyone reading Ephesians will understand that what God is doing in the world through his messianic son he is doing through the body of the Messiah, the church. “Salvation” is not apart from the people of God. So I completely agree with your second paragraph. In the Western tradition, and especially in the Reformed tradition which tends to set the theological paradigm of evangelical Christianity, there is perhaps an unhealthy overemphasis on the “personal relationship” with Jesus and individual “calling” and ministry at the expense of harmonious corporate mission.

I was trying to distinguish between “church” as an essential element of Christian life on one hand and church “as we have chosen to do it” on the other. The criticisms of those who don’t like church which you cited (worship music, preachy messages, long boring scripture readings, communion, etc.) are examples of how many have traditionally chosen to “do church.” I would argue that none of these are central to Christian assembly or to the areas of focus which you identify (community, scripture, prayer, and Eucharist). In fact I would suggest that the way we “do church” often subverts one or more or (in some cases) ALL of these. So I am sympathetic to those who don’t like church, or at least church as we have chosen to do it, since how we have chosen to do it is almost certainly the only experience the critics have. If I am right, then we should not be too dismissive of their contempt for “church.” It may say more about us than it does them.

As for Jesus’ critique of the synagogue in his day, I agree that it is more implicit than explicit. He certainly disagreed with much of what was being taught there, and he considered the leadership to be “the blind leading the blind” (Mt 15.14). And inasmuch as the synagogue was an extension of the temple, his critique was a bit more explicit. To Jesus, the temple had become a corrupt institution which actually subverted Yahweh’s purposes for Israel and the world. I would suggest that the business being conducted in the Court of the Gentiles was merely symptomatic of a deeper sickness. I would also suggest that the temple was more to Israel than simply the place where sacrifices were offered. It had become a conspicuous symbol of what Israel had become in Jesus’ day. Instead of symbolizing the “mount of the house of Yahweh” to which the nations would flow (Isaiah 2:1-3) and which would become a “house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:7), it had become a cave of lestes which symbolized the self-righteous contempt and hostility Israel had for the rest of the world (Mark 11:12-23), a volitile militancy that was ready to erupt into violent revolt at the right moment. Accordingly, Jesus pronounced its destruction. When a city on a hill has lost its light and its salt has lost its saltiness, that is the only thing it is good for, and great will be the fall of that house.

I would suggest that “church” as an institution is very much like synagogue and temple. It can either be light and salt, or it can symbolize the self-righteous contempt and hostility many Christians have for the unbelieving world. It might be advisable to listen a bit more sympathetically and reflectively to the critique of that world and not dismiss it too quickly. I suspect you would agree.

Thanks for your response.