Our world is changing. People are changing. The way people connect is changing, and church is changing too. The fact that things change is a constant in our world. Very little remains the same. We live in a world of corporate downsizing, where the “organization” struggles to take care of the needs of the individual. The Church has fallen into disrepute, with the moral failures of many, our nation has had awful tragedy where the government has struggled to protect us, and it has left people questioning. If there is one thing I know– that I know, that I know—it is that people in our culture are asking incredible spiritual questions, and that their hope is to have them answered within the context of relationship. People crave relationship, it’s hard-wired into us all, and the church in our time has struggled to meet the relational need. People walk in and out of the doors of churches all across our nation, hardly knowing anyone, and hardly known. Yet we have the same God, the same Lord, and the same Jesus, who died to meet the needs of everyday, ordinary people.
If you were to take the Church, your concept of it as you know it today, and were able to time travel back 500 years, you would find much of it markedly different. The MegaChurch concept hadn’t even been conceived, churches were, on the whole, reasonably small communities, and rural in most places. Time travel even further back to the early church, and there were no church buildings, no hymnals, no spiritual conglomerate, just people and God– people in worship and fellowship with God living out authentic relationship with each other. There were no building campaigns, no fund raising efforts beyond ordinary tithing, and tithes went to people and not things. More than that, church was an almost entirely relational endeavor, focused first on relationship with Jesus, and then on relationship with others in their church and world.
Church must change. And we’re not talking about just adding a couple of new worship choruses or some candles to the room. Church must become a relational endeavor once again. Our culture is asking spiritual questions, and if the statistics are true, they’re not even looking to the Church for answers. People are staying away from Church in droves, yet she holds the truth and the key to unlocking people’s deepest desires in the palms of her hands. People are searching, and they’re asking questions, but they’re doing so relationally. Relationship is the language of our culture, and fortunately, God has given us a model for meeting people in such a way, and He calls it Church, but we must restore her to God’s original design, which is relational in nature.
Have you ever wondered why we “do” church the way we do, whether you’re supposed to just walk in and listen to one guy preach while you look at the backs of the heads of everyone else? Have you ever thought, “is this what Church really IS?” What if Church is an “IS”, or a “BE” instead of a “DO”? What if it’s more than attending a weekly sermon? If you ask those questions courageously, not out of a malicious or bitter heart but from one longing for the genuine, just like you long for the Authentic Christ, Jesus himself, then you might just find that Church was meant to be more than something you simply sit through on Sunday morning. It was meant to be a relational experience, life on
life, friendship on friendship, “full-contact”—if you’ll pardon the analogy. We are the intimate bride of Christ, and we’re meant to be in love—full-contact — first with God and also with each other. We can not live anonymously from one another and continue to call it Church. Back to the Future wasn’t far from the truth; if you look back at Church, you might find a key to what lies ahead. Our generation of young men and women long for relationship, they don’t want anonymity, and they won’t fall in love with an organization- but they love people. To quote John Cusack, who played Lloyd Dobbler in Say Anything, “”I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed… or buy anything sold or processed… or process anything sold, bought or processed… or repair anything sold, bought or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.” And in our generation, we don’t want processed Church, we don’t want it to feel like a trip to Target. We hunger and long for the real thing, for the muddy, sometimes chaotic, always adventurous relational ride that takes place when you engage God and others deeply from the heart. It’s time.
The funny thing is that our culture knows all this. They’re asking better spiritual questions than we are. Question that? Just go watch your favorite rendition of The Matrix, or The Last Samurai, or Contact, or sit down and listen to 99.X or your favorite “secular” radio station. All possess deeply spiritual themes, and people are lining up to see or hear them. Without the authentic, without the relational, without the genuine article, people will continue to find the relationships they need in bars and in other community gatherings, because the Church has ceased to befriend the hungry. Church is not anonymous. It has been that for too long, and our world awaits.
I’m in this journey too. I’ve given my life to restore the Church, to restore the Bride to her husband who longs for her, to re-make Church first and foremost into a relational endeavor, and it means that I can’t “do” Church the same way any more. In fact, I’ve left it all behind, a great position that I served in for 8 years in a mega-church that I still deeply love to this day, and all the security from this world that might come with a position like that. I’ve risked my family and every relationship I and my family have created here in the past 8 years, and the only home my kids have ever known. But it is God who calls me, and it is He who compels me, to search for and to build a Church as he originally designed it, a relational organism, to plant a church we call Village Church, a church without walls that is on the corner of Church and everyday life.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know this: whatever the future holds, it is, it is good. I know that my life is given to restore the Bride of Jesus, that our world is hungry for answers, and that I can do no other than follow God’s anointed idea, because it is He who calls me. To infinity and beyond.