Those who know me will attest that I’ve been on a rather strange kick about church over the last year or so. Specifically, I’ve become disenchanted with what we call “church” and have become frustrated with how little resemblance there is between what we see in the New Testament about church and what most of our churches look like. I’m also experiencing an identity crisis of sort because of successes with church growth. Does that sound weird? My problem is that it is relatively easy to grow a church. What is not easy is growing disciples. My successes, while good at growing churches, have not had the same results with disciples.
For the last few months I’ve been on an introspective journey about what church should look like. I don’t know the answers, but I do know that our tendency to focus on the external features of “church” is pervasive and difficult to overcome. It is the natural tendency for us to resort back to what we know, and what we know is not very healthy for growing spiritually deep congregations. It seems attempts to focus on the deeply spiritual things about church and discipleship don’t make a lot of sense to people that are immersed in a consumerist mentality, so speaking those types of words make me feel like I’m speaking a totally different language.
I got a haircut today, which I do about every 3-5 months. I’ve used the same hair-cutter-person (what do you call a person that cuts a guys hair that isn’t a barber? Beautician doesn’t sound right, and I definitely don’t want to say “my beautician”) since we’ve moved here, partly because I’m a creature of habit and partly from “intentional consumerism”, which some of you will remember from an evangelism strategy course you may have taken. She is a married mother of two young children and is active in the church she grew up in. She runs the food pantry there and has been over to tour and work at our food and clothing distribution ministry a couple times.
Understand, I’ve never tried to recruit her for our church. I think Christians are found in lots of churches, not just ours, so to know she was plugged in somewhere was great. Quite abruptly in the midst of our conversation, however, she said, “I’m bored with church.” She said she’s considering trying another congregation. She loves knowing everyone at her church and knows that the food pantry would probably close if she left, but “church” doesn’t seem real to her and she is bored. She felt guilty for saying and feeling it, but also felt good to talk to someone about it.
I still didn’t recruit her or tell her to come check us out. She knows she is welcome if she wants to visit. Our church has warts, too, and I honestly don’t know how well our warts and her warts line up. The thing that struck me, though, is how pervasive issues with church health are, no matter the denomination.
I was simultaneously sad and thrilled at our discussion. Sad in that I knew what it meant to be disillusioned with church. Thrilled, though, that the Spirit was moving in her and pointing her toward something bigger and more real than she’s experienced in the body of Christ.
Maybe if we all get bored we can get together and do something about it.