On last week’s TNT podcast, we were asked (via Twitter) a question about the possibility of being a christian or christ-follower if you are sick of ‘church’.
It was a great conversation that began with Steve Knight taking issue with the term ‘church’. If you see ‘church’ as a once a week gathering, then the question goes one way. Steve wanted us to take a much bigger scope of the church by defining it more broadly as those who participate in the mission with you.
I had seen the question earlier and could not stop thinking about this analogy:
It’s like asking “can you eat if you don’t have any money?”
The answer is, of course, yes … but … it will cost you something. Either in relational currency or energy, you can make your way without money.
My thought is based on the fact that there is so much christian residue in our culture – so many influences and scraps left over from Christendom – that one can be a sort of spiritual ‘freegan’ in our society and make it.
In that context, I don’t think one has to be a part of an organized ‘church’ in order to be a christ-follower. Having said that, I think it un-Jesus to not be intentionally relational. The christian way can not be done alone. Following Jesus is simply not a solo-venture.
So if the person asking the question is doing so while sitting alone at a laptop, after have read Kierkegaard by themselves for hours, drinking green tea and making snarky comments on Facebook and Twitter – then that is one thing.
If however, the person is asking do I have to belong to an organized institution and help pay the brick and mortar mortgage, where one person does the lion’s share of the talking and cares all the authority … then it is quite a different question.
My only point is that in a post-christian culture, there are enough scraps laying around that one can be nourished quite well on the spiritual left-overs, scraps, and un-used riches of surrounding generations and congregations. We are just that saturated that one can be a spiritual freegan.
My favortie part of the chapter was the story of that small group that met to ask tough questions.
After a few weeks of trial and error, we laid out a series of questions to discuss, which included: What is God like? Why am I so screwed up? Why is the world so screwed up? What does it mean to be a “good” person? What made Jesus unique? Why is the cross such a powerful symbol in human history? What is the nature of religious devotion? What is conversion? Can I be spiritually free?
It was a ball.
It is in this kind of a questioning community that prizes free exchange and genuine open-endedness that I could imagine being quite happily nourished.
Thoughts on community, belonging and questioning?