Whose House Is It Anyway?
Calling a building that Christians gather in on Sunday morning "God's house" is not a cute story we tell children; it is an abusive image that disfigures the God of the Bible and keeps people from actually engaging his reality in the places he most wants to share his life with us. Brad joins Wayne for a conversation about how we define the church and view our life in it. Is our engagement with the church an obligation we must fulfill, or is it an irresistible reality for those who engage God as Father? Do we get together as a matter of routine, or a matter of purpose? When we define church the way God does, can we embrace its reality and free others to as well.
BreakPoint Column on Being the Body of Christ.
Great Joy in Kenya
I really enjoy the conversations between you. There is an energy that flows and that is contagious. I am always happy when your schedules coincide!
I’m on a God journey. I am starving to learn more about how my faith is a relationship. I recognize that for 50 years I have erroneously centered my faith around a building and its traditions. I’ve read several of your books, including Jake, and I thank you for your message! However, the continuous cackling laughter is causing me to push the stop button on this podcast. While I recognize the format of your show is two guys casually bantering, I’m struggling to hear you through the mindless hysterics, and sadly, the loss is mine.
Checked out Eric Metaxas April 30 pcast (Being the Body) on Break Point, and I must admit that I agree with Chuck and Ellen. Without a top down institutional church, how else could you organize an efficient bake sale or Crusade or Inquisition?
I love the line “you can’t just live freely in the body of Christ if someone’s got to make a living!” It reminds me of a sign I saw recently (I think I shared a picture of it with Wayne) outside a local Baptist club building. Catching a glimpse of this sign as I passed by I said to myself, “No, surely it didn’t say what I think it said”. I had to go back. Sure enough it read “Tithe if you love Jesus, anyone can honk”. This so amazed me I stopped, got out of my car and walked over and took a picture of it. I was sorta hoping someone would see me and ask what I was doing – no such luck! This sign happened to be in a mild curve so passing by at 40+ mph the top line is really all you get, so the message most people get is “Tithe if you love Jesus”, and the implication therein is? Obviously, if you don’t tithe, you must not love Jesus! I’m thinking the pastor of this club must have been having trouble making the payment on his Escalade or Mercedes that month if he felt the need to shovel shame on every passer-by, not just his members.
Wow…Father’s timing in these conversations Wayne and Brad! He is walking me through a period where as I become more and more honest w/ family…I know that they will see things very differently than I do. I love Wayne’s analogy of speaking another language. It’s as though after all of these years within the institution and wearing ourselves out to perform…it’s me speaking Japanese to explain what I’m being invited into. As I see the importance of honesty, laying my fear down and living with the confidence of Father’s presence within me. This means that His presence is not frantically looking for Him but coming to know that He is already there with His arms firmly protecting me and holding me…walking through periods of doing without their support and knowing He will provide all that I need. This encouragement is so helpful. Blessings to you.
“I’m anti-going to a building and thinking that’s it.” Amen!
And sometimes we’re marginalized just because others don’t want to feel guilty about not following where the Spirit may be leading as opposed to following the status quo. So, they make us feel bad (or try to) for doing what’s right for ourselves. It takes a while to learn to be comfortable in your own skin and with your decisions and retaining your individuality without giving in simply to avoid sticking out from the crowd.
I’ve been outside the walls of the box for over 6 years. Approximately 3 years ago I was invited to a typical institutional Sunday gathering. Internally there was a great deal of kicking and screaming going on. After calming down, I considered that this was probably an overreaction. However, I was quickly brought back to reality by the first words spoken from the pulpit, “Welcome to the House of God”. As I sank deep into my chair I thought “Here we go again, nothing has changed.” I haven’t been back since.
It is humbling to consider the waywardness of Christian thought, theology and practice that has plagued Christianity over the last 17 centuries. We are all infected by this ailment. The common misrepresentation of the word “church” is part of the infection. This word may have great significance because it possibly represents a graphic illustration of who we are.
The New Testament writers used various words to describe the followers of Christ. We are of One body, a holy nation, a lighted city on a hill, ambassadors, inheritors that have become members of a new kingdom; we are temporary residents (sojourners), fellow citizens, and finally pilgrims. There are three common threads in this mix.
The first is that secular words (non-religious) are being used to describe us. The word ekklesia (church) also falls into this category. To the 1st century hearers of this word, it represented an assembly of a regularly summoned political body. In other words it had no religious connotations. We have so spiritualized, and thereby bastardized, this word that it has completely lost its meaning.
The political nature of the above grouping of words is the second commonality; citizen, kingdom, nation, ambassador, sojourner, etc. Ekklesia, a political assembly, fits firmly into this category.
The third is separation. Separation from the way the world operates and accomplishes its politics. The world uses the coercive force of law and military might to carry out it goals. Christ has called his ekklesia, His political assembly, to a new and radical way of changing the world.
I don’t claim to have a corner on the truth, especially when it comes to an understanding of the word ekklesia. But I do believe that the original meaning of this word is significant. Somehow we need to peel back the layers of time in order to recognize the writer’s intent.
Is “pilgrim” a political word?
I’m thinking of a pilgrim as someone who journeys into a foreign land. If it is foreign, then this person is traveling into a land that is not part of their political identity.
I think that we’ve reached the logical conclusion of the reformation. What gave Luther (and others) the “right” to start new churches or denominations? And why were the new denominations and/or movements started in the last 500 years considered to all still be “the church”. What has happened is we just kept expanding on Luther’s premise and we have finally reached what is (IMO) the truth – that WE are the church and that the institutions are for the most part an illusion. But this transition that we are in now (as the body) is certainly painful. It is sometimes lonely for those that see through the illusion (and are in the minority) and also painful to those that are stuck in the illusion as they feel betrayed by those that are calling their castle a hologram.
Great stuff guys, love the banter. Have been very much alone here in Beijing China since I stopped going to a club house. Often it has been just Jesus & me with my only fellowship being with mates online or with local believers by txt message.
But I’ve found He is enough and as I have sought to follow His promtings day by day (badly..?) I’ve found Him leading me (despite me..?) and opening up doors I just could never have imagined.
I haven’t ruled out ever going back into a Sunday place, but it would have to be as He leads, not as a habit, and I’d have to be sure to take a sick bag…
Truth is, Father has His people all over the place and till recently I also was actively trying to make the Sunday thing work, and to some degree it did.
However, what I find pewk-worthy is the energy, effor,t time, and money that goes into building the club, for the express purpose of perpetuating that club, and to the exclusion of all other clubs.
Really its all about sharing the Life of God with God’s people. I love that bit.
What are your thoughts on this quote?
Jesus in Mathew’s gospel says “How narrow is the gate that leads to life.” Mistakenly I think, we’ve come to believe that this is about restriction. The way is narrow. But it really wants us to see the narrowness is the way. St. Hedwig writes. “All is narrow for me. I feel so vast.” It’s about funneling ourselves into a central place. Our choice is not to focus on the narrow, but to narrow our focus. The gate that leads to life is not about restriction at all. It is about an entry into the expansive. There is a vastness in knowing you’re a son/daughter worth having. We see our plentitude in God’s own expansive view of us, and we marinate in this. by Gregory Boyle
Al’s Axiom # 231: “The church is never manifested in anything but human flesh”
I love what you said, “Our choice is not to focus on the narrow, but to narrow our focus.” It’s definitely got me thinking, sorry I mean refocusing.
Thanks for the podcast, I really enjoyed this conversation. Check out this cartoon by mick mooney about The House http://searchingforgrace.com/webcomic/the-gospel-of-the-house/
I am being encouraged greatly in Christ through these podcasts. Thanks guys!
Paul’s post finds the ‘continuous cackling laughter’ off putting, and while I appreciate there is a time for this and the to and fro bantering, I have to agree that at other times, Brad your laughter seems to be inappropriate. It’s one thing to hear you laughing about funny stuff, but I wonder why you laugh at serious issues? if you were sitting with someone who is hurting, and they asked you what they should do about a vexatious person who is causing them grief, would you burst out laughing? I don’t quite get why you laugh at so many of Wayne’s answers, which to me are simply not funny, but healing.
I imagine you are a guy that laughs a lot and is fun to be with, but maybe you could be a little more sensitive to the ‘person’ asking the questions, and the people who are going through a lot of angst.
After all, you are on the ‘other side’ of the journey and just maybe many of your listeners are not in the ‘time to laugh’ season. I am absolutely sure you don’t mean to mock and be insensitive, but I feel you can come across that way occassionally.
I recommend your podcasts to friends, but I do always ‘warn’ them to ignore the bantering and listen for the wonderful, life giving message.
Regarding the art of cackling, I am reminded of the famous proverb: It takes a big man to cry, but it takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man crying (Jack Handy). Apologize if I have inserted one too many cackles into the blog.
“It is easier to stay out than to get out”. – Mark Twain Read this after the podcast and snickered, as a former minister (22yr)
” a bunch of people in a building does not a church make..” 🙂 Love the fresh Brad Cumming-isms! That one gave ma a satisfying chuckle!
Shame on you, Wayne!!! Trashing that book for children was really inconsiderate. You have years of experience as a pastor whereas children learning the Bible need to start somewhere. I have taught Sunday School for 25 years and worked with children professionally for . Only in the past three years have I left organized religion. I cannot impose my views on my grandchildren until they have learned enough about the Bible. When they are of an age to form their own opinions then we can discuss “So you don’t want to go to Church anymore.” But first they need to attend Sunday School to form a foundation.
That little book is a great way for children to start learning as they can only think in concrete terms rather than in abstract idealogy like adults do. It is not child abuse to encourage chldren to learn about God. You need to show a liitle more patience with children. If you told five year old children that they don’t need to go to church because God lives within them….they would be totally confused. My daughter and her family attend Church and she works at a Christian School yet I am walking along side them on their journey without pushing my ideals on them. Patience Wayne…patience. God will show them the way when they are ready.
Listening to this I realised how much I’ve missed Brad! You’ll have to make sure that Brad doesn’t stay away too long in future discussions. I’ve listened to Wayne and Brad’s discussions now for just over two years and I can honestly say that they’ve had a big, positive influence on my life – thank you!
This was an awesome discussion, dealing a blow to the iron-clad taboo of church attendance and control. This is essential listening to anyone still struggling with the pressures of organised religion.
My take on the “cackling” is that it comes from things that we cannot see and experience by simply listening to the podcast vs. being with Wayne and Brad in person. I’m thinking there’s some body language and facial expressions going on that elicits the laughter. Also, Wayne and Brad have history with one another and I would imagine that at times they anticipate what the other one is thinking and going to say. It’s like listening in on a private conversation and not being privy to all the nuances.