5 Reasons Why I am Rethinking Church

I recently read a post entitled:  Top Five Reasons Why I Am Not A Progressive Methodist

I was drawn to it, because I am working with our Chaplain and two of my friends to start a covenant group and Bible study on campus that is rooted in a desire to repaint, rebuild and rethink the Christian faith in a way that understands the history and traditions of the church, the Message of Jesus Christ, and contemporary culture and finding where these intersect to show us the most loving and holy way to minister to people in 2013.

Our biggest problem was finding words for that besides “Progressive Christian.”

Because that phrase carries with it the trappings of denominational splits over hard-to-maneuver battlegrounds of post-modern politics and battles of books written on all sides of everything we don’t know about what Jesus would say about our lives.

So I’m not going to call myself that, just like Kathryn, Helen, and I are not going to call this group that when it starts meeting next week. 

I am instead going to tell you the 5 reasons why I am rethinking church, because I think that’s what I’m really doing more than anything. 

1. I don’t believe anyone holds “exclusive rights” to the Gospel (or even the “social gospel”)

2. I believe that Heaven and Hell are real and that Jesus actually came to teach us that it was not us who are to judge the quick or the dead or anyone else we feel like we need to.

3. I chose to apply ancient authority of the scriptures to modern context and culture, instead of squeezing modern assumptions of the scripture into ancient context and culture.

4. I also hope and pray to embrace the heart of the Wesleyan movement — a passionate belief in free will, a celebration of the assurance of salvation, and a promise to spread scriptural holiness,” but I remember that Wesley had to preach in some graveyards when things at church weren’t changing. I won’t mind preaching in a graveyard if that is where the Message God gives me to deliver can be heard.

5. I know that reading the Bible “literarily” means taking things like the commandment to love God and neighbor as literal, and to hold up everything else (in and out of scripture) to that as a litmus test, and to appreciate the historical and cultural significance of it as a God-inspired, though human created document. 

I’m Rethinking Church because I don’t have all the answers and I don’t expect to ever reach that point. I’m Rethinking because I know that if God brought me to this school, to meet the people who are now two of my best friends, and instilled in our hearts a common desire to rediscover and reclaim what it means to follow Him, then rethinking is what He is calling me to do. I’m Rethinking because I know that no amount of lengthy blog posts will change the world, and I know that I have to Retrace Jesus’ steps to find the way to the hearts of people of the 21st Century.

Road Full of Promises

“I believed it couldn’t matter what people felt. It mattered that this was what God wanted.”

This is a line from Megan Phelps-Roper’s blog, her first social media activity since leaving Westboro Baptist Church. She tells a beautiful and heartbreaking story about faith and doubt and seeking truth for herself. She talks about reading and talking and discovering how unlikely it is that WBC had a “monopoly on the truth.”

And I never realized what it was that stirred my heart so violently about this group of radical Topekans until today. 

When I was 16, WBC came to Arlington to protest some of the churches in the area, including their Catholic church where I had my first communion. I stood there, soaking it all in as I held a sign that someone else had given me with Romans 12:16 scrawled across it. This was the beginning of one of my deepest passions. I wanted to be a heart softener, an eye-opener, and people lover. 

Soon after I coined the phrase “I can’t stand intolerance.” This not only became a silent motto for me, but also something I spit out (and was made fun of for, of course) whenever I felt like I couldn’t carry the weight what I saw.

It weighs on you to hang onto that kind of anger. That kind of judgement. That kind of hatred. 

In Luke 9, we see Heaven open up and proclaim: “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”

And we say, “I will follow Jesus,” only to ignore His word over that of Old Testament law or the rantings of Paul or, the political agenda of whomever has the most booming voice, proclaiming what they feel to be the only message for this generation of Christians.

Later in the 9th chapter of Luke, Jesus speaks with his followers:

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

We can never become stagnant in what we tell ourselves, in what we show others. We can’t cling to those things that weigh us down, no matter where we find justification for them. We use our beliefs for the sins of other people to bolster up walls around ourselves. We build ourselves a home deeply inside of the assurance in our own salvation and our removal from the world. 

But if we aim to be instead Kingdom Builders, we have to realize that there is no home for us like that–have to understand that there is no clinging to these things–understand that we can’t look back.

Following Jesus means understanding that an encounter with him changes everything: for the world, for your heart, for your mind, for your mouth. 

Let’s drop the weight of our picket signs and pick up His plow instead.