Welcome back. You belong here.
I need your advice. I have a friend who is going to another extreme.
He feels that all churches teach legalism, all pastors have their own
agenda and churches should not have walls but “engage the darkside”.
For this reason, he has decided to not attend church at all. He has no
plans or possibly even no desire to seek out a church to be a part of
but he realizes he needs a mentor and he needs community, fellowship
with other believers.
However, his idea of fellowship is e-mailing me and other Christian
friends and talking about spiritual topics. He listens to people on the
radio and TV (and I know this is probably
confusing him more).
I see you and Erwin as my mentors although I have never met you. I probably have learned more from you than from my current pastor but I don’t separate myself from my local church.
Could this be considered going too far?
Could his desire to be missional lead him to a dark side that will bring
long-term effects? How can I encourage him to join a group of believers
who have the same passion for lost people as he does? How can I make
him realize that he needs to be part of a community of Christ’s
In some ways, your email reflects the mood of the age. There is among many a deep sense of angst and dissatisfaction with the whole idea of “going to church”. Some have grown tired of “going to church” and listening to campaigns to build bigger buildings. Others feel a loss of a sense of mission and community in the local church. Still others feel a disconnect with the institutional church and the celebrity Pastor.
This reflects a conversation that is going on today regarding the nature of the church. This branch of theological inquiry, called Ecclesiology, has many practical, challenging and relevant aspects for where we are today.
Personally, I’ve always told my kids that “going to church” is impossible because we are the church. If we “go” anywhere it’s “into all the world” or “to the nations”.
However, it is important that as we go, that we go together as much as we can. Unfortunately, your friend may have, in some ways, substituted one form of dead religion for another. However, the solution for him may not be “finding a church to go to”. For him, the solution may be to find like minded friends to join him in his quest. He seems to know he needs community. If he does this, maybe he can show the rest of us how it should all be done. Certainly complaining about how bad the church and her leaders are is not a solution. Sure, it’s fun to poke fun at others, but then what? In the end, it’s just whining. The real solution is for your friend to develop friendships that are like minded and missional, and then do something to make the world a better place in the name of Christ.
About his use of email and the internet…As you know, this is an age of connectivity. We are now all in the matrix of cyber culture and this reality offers both dangers and opportunities for the church on mission. Yes, there are new dimensions of relationships available to us via the net. We’re all feeling our way forward here. But still, courtesy and relational intelligence dictate that one cannot presume a relationship just cause we can send an email. Before the internet, I would occassionally meet guys who would say something like, “I belong to all churches”. How stupid is that? In the same way, we can confuse “feeling” connected with “being” connected. Your friend may be making this mistake. At least it sounds like he’s seeing you as part of his community and you’re seeing him as imposing a relationship on you that doesn’t exist. You are not his church.
In some ways, I share your friend’s feelings about “going to church”. I don’t like going to church either. Regardless of how great the show, I eventually get bored. Being the church, however, is an entirely different thing altogether. There isn’t anything more subversive and exciting than being the church.
I hope that helps. See you in the mystic,