Last night I sat on my front patio, with its cracked cement and gravel laden corners, and drank wine and ate hot dogs with my dear friend, Jon the Rebel. Jon, who has undergone significant changes in his heart and spiritual journey in the last year, sat catty-corner to me in a lawn chair and pleaded for me to recognize the working of the Holy Spirit. Jon, his wife, my wife, and myself, have talked many times over the past couple years about alternatives to the American church format. We have all felt a deficiency in how the Western church functions. Jon and his wife recently took a trip to Uganda for five weeks. With a couple of weeks left in their trip, Jon’s wife Keisha was offered a job and a place to live in Uganda. They had a little more than a week to make the decision to stay. Jon has been back in the U.S. now for about three weeks while Keisha begins her job with a non-profit healthcare organization there in Uganda. Jon is tying together loose ends here in the states before heading back to Uganda in September. This has allowed us time to reconnect, and I have found Jon to be a more confident, and convicted individual.
As Jon sat and debated with me, he mostly wanted me to see that we had all (his family and mine) arrived at a point where we needed to act; we need to do something about the stirring in our hearts, he said. Jon and I feel the church we see in the U.S. has become removed from the original intentions and purposes it had in the New Testament. My hang up about acting on these convictions has always been a feeling that we are in an underwhelming minority of Christians who feel similarly about this issue. Jon, on the other hand, patiently reasoned with me and surmised that perhaps there are more Christians out there– ones who feel as we do– who want to try something different (though we’re not entirely sure what that looks like yet).
A couple of nights earlier, Jon and I sat at his kitchen table around midnight talking about the same topic. However, during this earlier encounter, Jon made the argument that the stirring in us about the deficiencies of the modern American church were not going away, and were therefore legitimate callings. Perhaps, he proposed, this feeling inside me is so deep and won’t go away because it’s a “thing.” A “thing” we need to give credence to.
Now I have a complex friendship with Jon. We’ve been everything from acquaintances to confidants, mentors and pupils, brothers to enemies. Honestly I’ve often looked at him as an ongoing ministry in and of himself. Yet, I have watched Jon grow in leaps and bounds this past year, and last night Jon made me realize my attitude toward him has been wrong–that we can all learn from each other, no matter the perceived degree of spiritual maturity we each posses. Last night, Jon humbled and taught me. Jon had me realize that we all possess convictions, and those are not accidental. Sometimes convictions are off base, and people get into trouble when they don’t seek out wise men and women to bounce those ideas off of. But these convictions I’ve been speaking about– the ones about the church– we’ve been talking about them for years, and with many, many different people. Almost all of those people agree with what we’re observing too! Yet, for some strange reason, I had dismissed the possibility of exploring these convictions in action because I felt it improbable that anyone else would join in. So, basically I was guilty of exercising the type of logic that I want to see the world freed of: the logic of basing our actions and lifestyles off of what is acceptable to others. This realization made me wince.
Jon pointed out how all along this road we’ve been traveling along, in both our friendship and our spiritual journeys, we’ve both had a small voice speaking to us, prodding us, beckoning us not to settle for the mediocrity that we see so many Christians settling for in their churches, and subsequently in their spiritual walks. I am reminded of Elijah on the mountain, finding the voice of God, not in earthquakes or fire, but in a gentle breeze–a still, small voice. What’s more, this voice was speaking to both of us separately, but at the same time.
For almost three months now I’ve been toying with the idea of a blog– a tool to seek out others who feel that something is missing, that there is more we’re not experiencing in our churches. I’m not saying that all churches in the U.S. are bad, or that nobody grows or gets anything from being a part of them. In fact, I know that many, many people do have great church experiences, and many churches are wonderful facilitators of growth in their members’ lives. But, what if our modern approach isn’t the BEST way? What if we changed the paradigm we think in when we think of “church?”
That’s what the small voice has been telling me for a few years now. It’s the same voice that Jon has been hearing. And if both of us have been hearing it, maybe there are others out there who are hearing the same voice.
God isn’t like us. He doesn’t have to go to people one at a time or call an assembly to tell us what’s on His heart. So that small voice, it was telling me that a blog might help to connect me with believers who are hearing the same voice. Maybe, just maybe it can.
It’s a theory.