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Posts Tagged ‘Church’

Churchianity

Sometimes it’s important to get back to basics.  Sometimes it’s important to de-clutter.  Sometimes it’s important to leave behind things to find things.  I’ve been thinking lately how church can get in the way of finding Jesus.  Lately I’ve been thinking that some churches just really put roadblocks in the way of discovering who Jesus is and what this actually means for those that want to follow him. I read a book last year called Mere Churchianity that explores this idea.  Here’s a summary of what the book is about:

Have you left the church in search of Jesus? Studies show that one in four young adults claim no formal religious affiliation, and church leaders have long known that this generation is largely missing on Sunday morning. Hundreds of thousands of “church leavers” have had a mentor and pastor, however, in Michael Spencer, known to blog readers as the Internet Monk. Spencer guided a vast online congregation in its search for a more honest and more immediate practice of Christian faith. Spencer discovered the truth that church officials often miss, which is that many who leave the church do so in an attempt to find Jesus. For years on his blog Spencer showed de-churched readers how to practice their faith without the distractions of religious institutions. Sadly, he died in 2010. But now that his last message is available in Mere Churchianity, you can benefit from the biblical wisdom and compassionate teaching that always have been hallmarks of his ministry. With Mere Churchianity, Spencer’s writing will continue to point the disenchanted and dispossessed to a Jesus-shaped spirituality. And along the way, his teachings show how you can find others who will go with you on the journey. (Source: Amazon.com)

I’m going through a season at the moment of being disenchanted with church.  I know it’s important to get together with fellow believers, but sometimes church just really still gets in the way, especially when it just becomes all about the speaker,  the music, and the coffee. I’m not advocating that people should stop going to church, but what would it mean if church stopped being a place and started being a way of doing things, a way of life?  After all, Jesus didn’t go to church?
So what do you think?  What’s your definition of church?  How do you church?


Churchianity

The church is one stagnation,
Its music is obscure.
It longs to heal the nation,
But it can’t find the cure.

The cross is forgotten silver,
Its steeple is too high
And the problems to its answers,
Will keep the church at night.

Perhaps church is not a building,
Maybe its walls are just our lives.
The good, the bad, the ugly,
And all we are to do is try.

To love God with every fibre of our heart
To pray until we weep.
To worship with our searching soul,
Maybe then we’ll find what we seek.

Maybe in our eternal wandering,
We’ll reach the final goal.
Then unity will bind us,
So God might make us whole.

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It is quite possible that this post may get me into more hot water that I’m currently in. It may end up with more people passing me by, more silent stares, more head shaking, and even more people trying to get their hands on me – to lay hands on me and pray out my spirit of unbelief and rebellion.

What have I been up to? Well it all started with a simple email.

I wrote an email to one of our leaders at our church and asked what I thought was a simple question. “Why don’t have an empty cross in our church?” I had noticed the absence of one and the comparative starkness of our auditorium and had wondered why.

I have to say the response shocked me. It was not anticipated, it was strange and bizarre. His response is also shared with a few others in the leadership team and among some of the elders. Once I had picked myself off the floor – because this response had floored me. I responded and thanked him for his views and explained mine, and how that would we need to agree to disagree on this. After a couple of weeks I was still troubled and decided to write a letter to the elders of our church to perhaps open a dialogue on the empty cross.

I haven’t had a formal response from them yet, but I have had lots of informal responses, from leaders, some elders, other people, and a feeling that I have been put into a box. You know the one, the box that’s labelled, “handle with care and grab him when he next comes to church so that we can pray with him and cure him of his rebellious nature”. It’s a long label, but then so was my letter.

Here are some of the responses I’ve received so far about my email and letter about why we don’t have an empty cross in our church:

  • “Why we would want an instrument of torture on display in our church?”
  • “Why, David, do you need a symbol [crutch] for your faith?”
  • “What does this say about how much faith you have [or don’t have]”?
  • “If we put a cross up people will leave”
  • “It’s a pagan symbol”
  • “It’s takes the focus of the speaker, and the worship team”
  • “It would be too distracting”
  • “Lots of people came to this church because we don’t have a cross”
  • “It’s not important – it’s not central to Christianity and what we believe”
  • “I think it’s really about time we had a coffee and a chat . . . MATE”

Remember – these are the responses from the people in leadership and governance roles at our church. They are views of some of the leaders, and not all the leaders. Some of the leaders and elders have equally strong opposing views – this is encouraging, but also divisive.

I’m appalled, disappointed, angry, upset, but most of all sad, very sad about all of these responses.

At some level I may have a deep need, a desperate need to look at the cross, to cling to the cross with every fibre of my being, maybe it is a crutch for my faith – but oh what a support it is, what hope it represents, what life it symbolises, and what courage it gives me.

Courage to speak to gospel, courage to share my faith, and courage to take a stand about what I believe in the face of such opposition – opposition from those who would take away the cross, take away the symbol of life, light, and hope. Take away the symbol of the resurrected Christ – the cross.

So why the cross and why would it be important to display one – in a church?

For me, the empty cross represents belief that, after his death by crucifixion, Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and that his atoning work is finished and complete. Therefore, the empty cross does not depict emptiness, but quite the opposite. It proclaims Christ’s victory over death, for which the cross was the instrument not of torture – but one of eternal and relentless hope.  It proclaims hope and assurance, for Christ is risen and lives today.

An empty cross is common as a point of reference, of focus and of attention, not as an idol, but as a symbol of Christian events. The image of an empty cross is symbolic of Christ’s death and resurrection. Without the resurrection the life and death of Christ is of no use to anyone. Everything Jesus did and said make no difference if He didn’t rise from the dead.  A dead Christ can’t save anyone.

For these and many more reasons many churches choose to use an empty cross as a symbol of Christianity’s highest ideals. Therefore the empty cross symbolizes the risen Christ. Throughout history, the cross has been the common and central faith focus of Christians, not because of what it is, but because of what it represents.

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
the emblem of suffering and shame;
and I love that old cross where the dearest and best
for a world of lost sinners was slain.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
and exchange it someday for a crown.

~ George Bennard, 1913

So later this month, I’ll get a response to my letter, I expect that we still won’t have a cross in our church. I expect that I won’t be able to sit, stand or worship at the foot of the cross in our church. I may do what I did this week, and go to our National Museum and visit the war memorial display, sit down on the comfy seat, pray, reflect and meditate and set my gaze on the white glowing cross they have on display there. How I wish I could do this at our church.

Here’s what the cross mean to me. What does it mean to you? I’d love to hear your comments on the cross, the symbol of where life and faith intersect.

Lift High The Cross

At the cross I bear my soul
The emblem to which I cling
Your life, my hope, my legacy
My all, Your everything

At the cross I bear my heart
The symbol to which I sing
O Jesus you have saved my soul
To you my life I bring

At the cross I leave my sin
The sign to which I kneel
At your feet I fall down
I am covered by your seal

On that cross you paid it all
The hope for all to see
That empty cross, the sign of life
For you, for us, for me.

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The Church

The church is one stagnation,
Its music is obscure.
It longs to heal the nation,
But it can’t find the cure.

The cross is forgotten silver,
Its steeple is too high
And the problems to its answers,
Will keep the church at night.

Perhaps church is not a building,
Maybe its walls are just our lives.
The good, the bad, the ugly,
And all we are to do is try.

To love God with every fibre of our heart,
To pray until we weep.
To worship with our searching soul,
Maybe then we’ll find what we seek.

Maybe in our eternal wandering,
We’ll reach the final goal.
And unity will bind us,
And God might make us whole.

Read Full Post »