I want to explore something here. The emerging church, not as a new unattached model of church existing in a tense opposition or competition to the inherited model, but rather as a hybrid, a convergence of old and new, inherited and fresh, old media and print based, liturgic and spontaneous, house and cathedral, a new kind of hybridity existing in a complex web of life in which it is increasingly hard to see people as either church goers or non-church goers. And something that creates tension with previously established authority structures.
An email was sent to me last month and the author (i will call her Bertha) gave me permission to blog it here. Its just one email but it represents the questions of millions of young people who are thinking similar thoughts. I run into them all the time and I dont always know the right answers. You may want to ponder her questions and add your own sentiments.
"Hey Andrew, it was really good to see you in _____ a couple of weeks ago, I know it was brief, but it was a breath of fresh air to chat with you.
It's been a few years since I've been involved with the church, I've been floating around on the edge for a while, and it's hard to know who to talk to as people tend to be either in church (and tell you what you should think/do) or out, and most of my friends are also in the same position on the edge and so don't really know how to help each other, we just talk about it and agree! I hope you don't mind if I get out abit of what's in my head, as I just had a brainwave that you might understand.
I've been brought up to believe that Church leaders are God-appointed and you should submit to them, and to be outside of their authority is to be wrong. I am finding it impossible to separate God from the church, and as I feel at the moment I am not able to have a relationship with the church I am also not able to have a particularly funtional relationship with God. I know this is bollocks but I am so indoctrinated I can't shake it off, so I am in limbo. I'm not in or out, I'm not with God or against him, and can't see a way forward. I just live in a place of this tension, and every now again, I hear something about church which really puts my back up or I hear something from elsewhere which questions some part of the Church's faith and it makes sense, and that throws me.
My faith is quite fragile and I'm not sure about much at all, but my experience tells me that that God is not about fear, and I'm full of it so I know something about the belief I'm stuck with is not right, it's just hard to figure out which bit and how to get rid of it! I don't feel like it's going to be possible to move on and be free to try out other ways of going about trying to live a spiritual life until I've shaken off this great obligation to the church and the way they think things should be done.
What do you think? Is it important to be connected with the mainstream church? Is this useful? Is it possible to have relationship with them and retain your own beliefs and do things your own way without being seen as rebellious and anti-authority (and therefore not submitted to God)? And if they think this about you does that matter? And when the church has such a strong personallity and opinions, how can you be sure of yourself in spite of that and reject their opinions if you disagree with them, especially when like me you are very susceptable to that kind of control, no matter how well-intentioned it is?
Ahhhhh. I think you probably get the idea. I appreciate you taking time to look at this. I think I felt a bit strange meeting you in the pub, as last time I saw you I felt like I had a very strong faith, and I felt like I knew what I was about, and I felt very comfortable around people connected with church. In recent years it has been hard to be around people with faith, as my own faith has been non-existant at times as I've not even been able to hold on to the idea of there being a God, and when you're brought up in the charismatic evangelical faith the worst thing you can possible do (maybe apart from smoke and have sex before marriage) is to not have faith and I'm sure you'll know that for alot of church goers if you can't talk about your faith, then there's not much else to talk about. (Incidentally I think I'm a much more interesting person now, and certainly a more loving and accepting person - isn't that ironic?!).
If you have any good advice or know a book or something that you think might be relevant, then I'd appreciate it. If not then no worries, it's been helpful just to write some of this down.
I hope you are all well, give my love to Debbie.
(not her real name - since on this side of 1953 has named their daughter Bertha)
Here is my cold, heartless response in the form of a book list. but its the beginning of a conversation.
Great to hear from you and to see you last month. Its a big issue and I would like to work through it with you
Here are some resources. 3 Books that come to mind:
1. A Churchless Faith by Alan Jamieson [who is in London May 2)
2. Revolutionaries by George Barna (see my review)
3. Frank Viola’s Who is your Covering?, I have heard, is a helpful resource for those thinking through the role of church leaders and the flock.
Also, my good friend Reinhold has some blog posts that are worth reading - Churchless christians 1 and 2
have a read and get back to me and lets have a chat