Monday, August 6, 2007

great questions - what curious wanted to know

in response to my post on the purpose of a church, it's not really that big, Curious left this comment:

Success is ultimately achievement of want or desire or an acceptable or good outcome.SO I want to know
1. What do the worldwide denominations say they want? What do the worldwide denominations really want? What does their leadership want?
2. What do the mega-churches want? What do their leadership want?
3. What does your Journey want, what do yo want? What's your measure of success? How will you ever now you achieved success? Is it Joel Olsteen type money. Is it Pat Robertson type power and influence? Is it Pope-like reverence? Is it reaching the one million saved mark on your golden arches?
Don't give us some easy pastor-like (political) answer either? Why are you a pastor and why have you traveled the [path] you are on?

that rocks.
lemme take a stab at this.
i don't know what the worldwide denominations really want. each denomination, each church concept, each model, has its own purposes - stated and unstated. i like this book, avery dulles's models of the church. it's a resource journey ifc used in bible study when we were first starting. we spent a lot of time with this book, thinking about the different models of what a church overall, and an individual congregation/group can be. we wiped the slate clean. what's the model we think god is leading us to? what do our souls tell us? what have we brought with us, from previous churches, or no church - that worked, that didn't work?
and the big question was: what do you think god dreams of, if god had a group of people who just asked, over and over, What do you want us to be?
we boiled it down to what jesus said the most important thing was. love god, love other people, learn to be loved. we figured if it was good enough for jesus, it was a good thing to put at the center of everything we did. so that's our model.
we chose NOT to be an institution. NOT to be a club. NOT to be a tool for proclaiming salvation through formulas or doctrines. instead, we chose to be a serant community. our understanding of "love" as jesus meant it, was to serve, forgive, be present with, show compassion to. feed. clothe. listen to. to heal and be healed.
that's it.
so, i don't know what other denominations/churches/models choose.
if i had to guess, here's an example.
so, let's say a local congregation is part of a larger movement/denomination/association. people become part of it because it attracts them, for whatever reason. maybe it's the building. maybe it's friends who've brought them. maybe it's the children's programs, or youth programs, or some other thing that meets a personal need or life stage they're in. maybe it's a message the church proclaims about god, or people, or the world. maybe it's just how it feels. maybe it's how the group worships together.
here's the trick: what does the church say it's about? define that. learn that. read it, ask about it, listen to it.
then, what is the church really about? watch. listen. ask people. pay attention. live in it. feel it.
when those two things are congruent in a church, or denomination, or whatever, then you've got integrity and that's a good place to be, a good group to be part of.
if those two things are not congruent, there's a lack of clarity. integrity. focus. honesty. whatever.
every church uses the tools that serve its purpose - either stated or unstated, either consciously or un-. are the tools clear in their usage?
and, are the people dealing with their own shit - and their beauty - or are they in denial about it?

i don't know what the largest churches want, but i bet it's about money and success and size, and they use whatever tools serve that purpose. maybe it's that they use size to do what they believe in - build healthy community, reach people, whatever. that's fine. i don't know what an institutional/hierarchical church wants, but i bet it's about laws and doctrine and order. maybe it's that they use order to do what they believe in - build healthy community, reach people, whatever. that's fine. i don't know what a proclaiming church wants, but i bet it's about the primary role of words, and scriptures or sacred texts, and rituals supporting that. maybe it's that they use words to do what they believe in - build healthy community, reach people, whatever. that's fine.
what do i want? i want to be with a group of people who do what they say they do. i want to be part of an organization that has the balls to stop and pray and listen to god - and to do what they understand god to tell them, whether that fits our cultural training or not. i want to be part of a group of people who are humble and are dealing with their own shit, and accepting their own beauty. i want to serve among people who genuinely give a damn about other people. and about loving other people. and about loving god. and about learning to love themselves.
my measure of "success" is that that's happening, in little or big ways, every day.
that's why i'm a pastor - to be part of something that believes in that. and that's why i am a part of journey.
there is no objective way to measure or track that. any more than there is to measure or track love.

journey's prayer labyrinth for our easter vigil. it rocked. those stripes were made out of shredded prayers at our maundy thursday service. wow.


Andrew Peacock said...

You know what the cool thing about God is? Its that no matter how much church leaders get absorbed into the things that don't really matter, the money, the size, the doctrine, the prestige, whatever.... no matter if the leadership is WAY off track and have agendas... no matter how political a 'church' can become... and no matter oblivious they can become to what God really wants them to do, God has this freaking AMAZING ability to use the 'products' they create to change people's lives and bring them closer to Him. That might be hard for some people to swallow since we like to point at churches from our past and say 'they got it all wrong'. I mean those other people.... not us. :)

lisa carlton said...

I have been thinking so much about this lately...what is church? what would followers of Jesus really be doing when they were hanging out if they weren't trying to prove their points or polish the silver and the stained glass? Yes, I have some institutional church baggage/ just wore me out used me up and I'm not even sure for what. Yet, the yearning for God and connecting with others around God and growing still runs deep. Good thoughts. thanks!

revrin rick said...

Andrew - absolutely. god is always at work. it makes me sad when anyone gets too caught up in the things that don't help, don't last. church people too. but you're right - god's always working! inside and outside the church, and anywhere else. period.

lisa - i'm with you! i've got my own church stuff, baggage, anger. it's not easy to let go of. i'm really lucky and happy to be part of a faith community that's doing this differently. i do believe that god is always at work. i'm glad that the only place that works is not religion.

Barnabus said...

There's a specific part of a book I read often that says the following: Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas(also known as what we are socialized into as we grow up)and the result was nil until we let go absolutely, I have not let go absolutely, when I choose not to hold onto old ideas, I serve, forgive, be present with, show compassion to. feed. clothe. listen to. heal and be healed. When I choose to hold onto old ideas I get to create and experience chaos by spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Revrin, I am grateful Journey is a safe container to bring all of my shit, btw, URASTUD!!

revrin rick said...

barnabus - right ON! letting go absolutely ... it sounds like a good idea but it's so damn scary. and yet you're right - when i do let go, and trust that there is a god after all, and that i can be present and compassionate, all that fear melts away.
til the next time it comes and bites me. ha.

bring it all, stud!
woo hoo!