There’s a new church plant in my neighborhood at our local school. They moved here with a whole bunch of people from another state, started two services out of the chute, have mailed us multiple big expensive postcards, put up flags and signs lining the street, and even have parking attendants in bright orange jackets ready to guide you into your parking spot . I have seen them every Sunday morning because that’s a time I usually for sure take a walk. I told Jose the other day while we were walking by (and I was griping) that if we went in, I could play a game called “guess how many things I’m sure they are doing to attract people.” (definitely a fun church bingo game!)
Oh, there are so many things about “church” I am against.
And personally, I don’t think that’s a bad thing or a wrong thing. It’s okay to not want to be part of certain things, to hold strong feelings about particular aspects of church, to have a clear opinion. This is often mistaken as negative and wrong and divisive when in truth, it’s just our honest take on it.
Often, knowing what we are “against” helps us clarify what we are “for.”
At the same time, I also respect that sometimes in the push against traditional systems, some of us can get so caught up in what we’re against, that what we’re for doesn’t properly get articulated and ends up being diminished.
Even though I have developed particular aversions to some things related to church, I also hold a lot of values and dreams and hopes for it, too–things I am truly for.
And as I walk by the new church plant and can think of 100 snarky things to say about it, it made me think that the most important work is to focus on what I am for and not what I am against.
To set my eyes and heart and hands and feet on what is before me that I value and want to nurture and cultivate, not what I can’t stand.
To look forward, not back.
To honor what lights my fire and gives me life.
To focus my energy on what I love, not what I hate.
Years ago, I remember a ministry friend telling me, “Kathy, I am so clear on what you are against when it comes to church. I want to hear what you are for.” That sparked the blog series called “What Could Be”and ended up being the catalyst for Down We Go: Living into the Wild Ways of Jesus, which is really centered on cultivating what I deeply believe in related to incarnational living and community.
Anyway, in the spirit of remembering that conversation and of noticing how easy it is for me to rail against that church plant, I thought I’d take a few minutes today as my own little clarifying exercise to remember what I’m for.
I have to admit, it was kind of hard to not put in the “against” part!
Not sure where you are at in your own journey right now, but it might be a fun exercise for you, too.
As of today, Wednesday, April 15th (and respecting that it’s always evolving) I am definitely for:
- Community, whatever that looks like – messy, in-the-flesh relationships with other people. I believe in the depths of my heart that we need place to practice learning to love and be loved, to become more human, and it can happen in all different kinds of ways.
- Equality, not just for women but for everyone – that everyone gets to play, that power should be distributed, that we are meant to live alongside each other, not over or under another regardless of gender, theology, socioeconomics, sexuality, education, and every other divide.
- Shared Leadership in every shape or form – Collaboration and flat leadership and men and women alongside each other requires so much more of us but in the end is much more transforming and a beautiful reflection of God’s image in us. What we lose in efficiency we gain in health.
- Small! Slow! Simple! – So much happens in little pockets of love that is so important and easily dismissed in the world of bigger and better and more-wow and faster, quicker. Real transformation takes so much time and I’m continually learning the value of trying to be more tortoise than hare, that simple is so beautiful.
- Sacrificing “Success” and “Excellence” on behalf of people – Jesus wasn’t excellent (I always get push on that one but I will hold to it) and success in the world’s eyes is not the same as in the kingdom of God’s.
- Deferring to the marginalized – Justice is all about shifting power and it’s our responsibility to participate in whatever way we can.
- Underprogramming, it helps us let go and be less controlling – I believe in a loose plan, a framework, a container, but oh, how I keep learning that the magic happens when there’s room to shift, to breathe, to share, to change, to punt.
- Being uncomfortable. The Refuge’s invitation to community says a bunch of things about what we care about, but it’s last line is based on something a dear friend said at one of our family meetings–“At the Refuge, everyone is safe, but no one is comfortable.” Comfy chairs, comfy conversations, comfy relationships, comfy leadership structures, comfy ______ make us….comfy. I think Jesus’ ways were always supposed to be uncomfortable.
Oh, those are some off the top of my head today.
I think it’s worth considering, and it looks so different for each of us.
Without bringing up what we’re against, what are we for?
A few other quick things:
1. A lot of you already read Rachel Held Evans, and I’ll write more when I get back from a big trip to Israel-Palestine-Jordan in a few weeks, but her new book Searching for Sunday just released yesterday. So many great thoughts of pursuing what we are “for”!
2. Another thing I plan to do when I get back is make a good list of the fun conversations I’ve had on different podcasts over the past season related to Faith Shift. I’ve shared them on Twitter and Facebook but would be good to put them all in one place. Here’s one from last week on Wayne Jacobsen’s The God Journey if you want to listen in.
3. I have had so much fun traveling to party with friends and process Faith Shift in different cities, but am excited to do one in Denver on May 27th before a much-needed summer break. Details are here, feel free to pass on to others, all are welcome!