I'm sorry there was no Weekend Wanderings post this weekend. Jan and I were volunteering at a music festival put on by a local camp and were very busy Friday night and all day Saturday. Sunday was a full day as well, so I ran out of time. Next time.
From time to time, I like to let all my loyal readers (or maybe that's reader) know what's going on in my journey. Some of you know that I have had issues with the institutional church. I grew up in fundamentalism, earned a Bible college degree, and taught for years in Christian schools. I have seen the operation of churches as a member of the congregation, a very part time youth director, a worship leader, a deacon, and an elder. I have taught Sunday School, preached in the pulpit, and performed special music.
About two and a half years ago, we walked away from the institution. I helped a friend begin a "simple" church that met in a bagel shop. At first, things were great. We were building community and beginning to learn how to disciple and love one another. By the end of the second year, that community had ceased to exist. Some of the folks went back to church, some left completely, and some of us began to meet in another bagel shop. Again, things seemed to be going well. After about four months, without warning, things fell apart. Again, some went back to church, and some just walked away.
Due to the circumstances surrounding the end of this second community, I was devastated. Jan was also hurt, and we both had a hard time for a while. We couldn't figure out what had happened, and had no clue what God wanted us to do. After a lot of prayer, we felt the Father was telling us to rest, not to do anything but rest. There was still one individual who wanted to continue meeting with us, so we have been meeting in our dining room on Sunday mornings for the last four months. It has been good to meet with this person and do a chronological study of the life and teachings of Jesus, with the goal of being transformed by what we learn.
Four weeks ago, I felt the Father was telling us that it was time to be going. We had learned about a new church from our son, Josh and his fiancee, Alicia. The church meets on Sunday evening, so we were able to continue what we were doing in the morning. We checked it out, and decide we liked it. The group meets for a meal before the service, and celebrates Communion every Sunday. Those are two things that I have come to believe are essential in the life of a church. The music is good, and it's not a show where the congregation does more watching than anything else. The mission of the church is to be a community that helps each other follow Jesus, and to reach out for the betterment of our city. Two more things I see as essential.
There are a couple of things that are not quite what I believe a local assembly of the church should be. Each Sunday there is a sermon, and the church is part of a denomination. I believe a participatory meeting is better for making disciples, and I also believe that a lot of denominational policies are extra-Biblical and can distract a church from its mission. I also have come to believe, however, that although I am not a fan of institutional church, the Church can be found anywhere God's people gather, even in church.
So, we have taken a step toward what we think may be where God wants us to be. If we have found a community that is focused on Jesus, on helping each other to follow him, and on being a blessing to our city; if we have found Church within a church, then we will probably stay awhile.