Monday, September 12, 2005

Jumping the Walls

I'm not a "church hopper". Really, i'm not. Sometimes I feel like I have to justify some of the things I do because I know that certain people don't understand the journey i'm on or because I know that their paradigm of life and church and faith and things are a bit mainstream.

I do believe that God is sending me out - not necessarily with a message but to show me what He is seeing. (I know, i know, we're all called to be sent with The Message but that's not what i'm talking about). For too long, I've been isolated in the "safety" of the church culture and I realized that I was in "danger" of missing the point of it all. Okay, so maybe this journey of mine (along with all of its questions) isn't necessarily a quest for answers. Perhaps its a tour for understanding.

The protective walls of the local church have risen so high that I think my paradigm of the world and how God sees it has been shaped by what the church simply painted on the inside of the walls. What i thought were windows from inside the church looking out into the world was actually a wall mural painted by the interpretations of those who may not have even seen what really is out there . . . .

I don't even think that there are windows in the "House" of God. I think we were meant to go outside - to exit through the draw bridge across the protective moat surrounding the castle and experience life in the King's wonderful but uncertain Kingdom. Okay, so i've got this whole medieval times flavor in my head right now. Nevertheless, when I go out and walk about I see that the land is peppered with these huge castles filled with people with huge walls and closed draw bridges and surrounded by moats of water. The funny thing is - as much of a stronghold from invading armies these castles are (or try to be), there are people jumping the walls and swimming across the moats and running through underground secret tunnels to escape the confines of the castle. These are people fleeing the protection of the castle's lord. The only ones who get to exit through the draw bridge are those officially ordained and recognized to leave and slay the dragons. Those are the "missionaries".

I set out on my journey, having jumped the wall, not to find a new church - a better castle than the one that i was currently in - but to find out what God was doing out there. God is working and moving both outside and inside of these castles so my journey includes seeing what's going on in some of these churches. I'm not church hopping. I'm church watching - not with a critical and judgmental eye, but rather with the lens of looking for life. (I just happen to see a lack of it in some places).

But I'm seeing so much life in some of these churches that I used to believe were not churches at all - or at the very least, competition. They love God. They worship Christ in their own way. They have different flavors - black and white and asian and hispanic and pentecostal and evangelical and liturgical and creative and expressive and Jew and Gentile and male and female and gay and straight and republican and democrat and calvinists and arminianists. But they all love Jesus. I'm sure they do. Yet from castle to castle they sometimes forget their common denominator - that thing that binds them in unity. If they only knew the life that was going on from inside neighboring but expressively different churches (and yes, even with different interpretations and view of certain things), they'd have a different attitude about "those" churches. They'd interact differently. They'd function differently. They wouldn't settle for the excuse of 'well our church is busy enough with our own programs and events and activities that we don't have the time to do something with them'.

I'm not suggesting that all the churches of a city combine together to form a huge mega church - a monolithic fortress on a hill. But how about tearing down the four walls of a church, brick by brick, so that when looking upon the land one could see actual people. Pockets of people - different people - worshipping the Lord and loving each other. But in this, without walls, people would have the freedom to come and go from pocket to pocket to worship and experience other fellow brothers and sisters of the land without territorial protectiveness or co-dependent attachment. People may have their "home" pocket - a community of people they grow with but they have the freedom to experience other communities.

Further, other people of the land who have never been a part of a Christ-centered community can explore, inquire, and participate in the worship of the King as well. There are no walls or moats to cross or hoops to jump through in order to be a "member". The people can live with each other and among each other. Our fellowship and community and worship and struggles can be a lifestyle to be witnessed by others - both by fellow Christians and by those in the land.

I've really enjoyed The Tab - the first "gay-friendly" church that i've been to and been a part of. It's been just over two months. But my intention was never to stay and become a member. While I continue to nurture relationships with people i've met, I may not show up for a Sunday because I may be at another church worshipping with them and getting to know them. Yesterday, a friend and i visited another church that happened to have lots of gay people there. I discovered another Christ-centered community! Christ-centered gay people. In fact, my friend and I really enjoyed the time - the "service", the meeting of new and friendly people, the music, the message. The statement of faith was consistent with all the other pockets of Jesus worshipping people that I've been a part of. And after connecting with the pastor, a genuine and humble man, he shares with me that he would love to connect with other pastors of the city.

One day. One day they'd accept him as their brother - their neighbor.

I'm looking forward to developing relationships with people here at this new church - which i'll refer to now as ODM. But i'll continue developing relationships with people at The Tab just as i'll continue developing relationships with people from the old house church. Yet, i'm also looking forward to developing relationships with people at the gay and lesbian center and at the coffee shops.

Am I grounded? Sure. I'm in the Word daily and i'm talking to Him daily. Do I need a "home church" that I'm a "member" of? Is that even biblical? I don't know. I'm exploring that theology. I still don't have the answers. But what i do know is that I'm getting a clearer picture of what God sees. I understand God's love more and more because I'm beginning to get to know the kinds of people He loves. Differences, imperfections, hurts, paradigms, and sin. I'm one of them. And with the sacred and the secular mixed up in one hodge-podge, the world, I realize that here I am in it. Salt.


Brandon said...

Glad you're finding people, Eric!


Anonymous said...

Eric -

Wow, what a fantastic post. I loved your analogy of the churches being set up as fortresses, and what you envision instead - looking across the land and seeing people, pockets of people even, but people, moving and living and breathing and interacting. The whole idea brings tears to my eyes - *that's* what I want, and you described perfectly why I "jumped the walls" of the castle to swim across the moat and see what's out there.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

unfortunatly, the walls of the church have been built by the hearts of the people within it. and, i don't see those wall coming down anytime soon nor do i think you should wait for them to.


Eric said...

yeah, i get it eddie. i don't expect the walls to come down anytime soon and i'm not waiting for them. but what i am doing is living out my faith. the vision of seeing churches without walls....that is how I intend to function as the church - with you and heidi and brandon and anyone else that i come in contact with. this doesn't mean that i'll be perfect or even my interaction with others will be perfect. on the contrary, it means that perhaps it'll all be imperfect - and in that, we'll still learn and practice to love each other anyway.

bless you!

Anonymous said...

now that's what i'm talking about :)


Anonymous said...

I'd be interested to see what you find in your study on the theology of the "command" to be a part of a local church.

Anonymous said...

"I'd be interested to see what you find in your study on the theology of the "command" to be a part of a local church. "

i'd be interested to know what your understanding of the "command to be a part of a local church" means to you.... okay, no i wouldn't :)

Eric said...

i don't think there is a command to be a "member" of a local church. i've never found it in scripture.

we are the Church.

i think that there is value in fellowshipping with other believers, but do i think that it has to be in the context of a local church (in the traditional/institutional sense)? No.

do i think that there is value in the local church? Yes. There's people within those walls.

but if we maintain a paradigm that we "are" the Church gathering together, rather than that we "go" to Church, then we can "be" the Church as "members" of it in our home, the park, a coffee shop, a bar, in school, at the office, in jail, stranded on the side of a road (or freeway), or even in a building on a Sunday morning.

that's a Church without walls.

Anonymous said...

It is great to hear that Gods is using you as a tool to forward his message to the people. I am very much amazed by the idea. For once I thought that my faith is not just an necessity but already a part of my life.

Anonymous said...

What church is this??