Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Fabricated fervor

I tend to be a bit of an iconoclast. An iconoclast is someone who challenges the idols of the past and destroys them if possible. And that's a dangerous thing to be - for the iconoclast (LOL). It usually means that someone like me comes under a fair bit of attack by the proponents of the status quo. Those who are attached to their household (or sanctuary) idols feel threatened by me saying, "But WHY do we do it that way? This makes no sense! This is not right!!" and so forth. 

And so, here I go again with the sledgehammer.

Over the past several months to few years, I've been doing a LOT of thinking about how the western church "does church." And by "the church" I am talking about the people, the people groups that gather to (apparently) honour God with their worship and their love and service to each other and (hopefully) to the world. And by "does church," I am speaking about the rituals and sacred cows that we have become attached to when wearing our church-attender mask.

I've looked carefully at the early church as described in the New Testament ... and nowhere do I see that they met once a week and sang five songs, ended the singing 40 minutes later, took an offering and had a sermon with a final song or two (or five) to finish up. They met from house to house, but nowhere do I see where they had to sign up to do so. Nor do I see any kind of reference to programs or topics or themes or leaders or study books. Rather, I see people who loved being together, who went from house to house on a regular basis, possibly as much as daily (!) as the Spirit led them. And they shared and talked about Jesus, talked to Him, gained spiritual strength from being together in the presence of God. Hmmm.

That's not what I see today. It breaks my heart.

Everything we do as believers in the western church is regimented, even in denominations that have prided themselves for DECADES on being "spontaneous" and "led by the Spirit." There's a structure, a set of tasks to accomplish, and in a certain order, each taking a predetermined amount of time, without all of which (it is believed) church just doesn't happen.

It's funny .... I kind of believe that church (first of all) is whenever two or more gather together in Jesus' name. It isn't a building, it doesn't have a human-organized structure as such, and it doesn't need money to operate. (Horrors!!) Church can happen (believe it or not!) even at a bar, if it has to (and it WILL if there is no other place for God to manifest His presence). Or ... at a coffee shop. Or in a kitchen when two friends share while doing dishes. Or on a golf course. Or in someone's basement when folks get together and "jam" with a couple of guitar and/or a keyboard. Or listening to and watching some Youtube videos of worship music. Jesus said that the rocks and trees would cry out His praise if the human voices were silenced. Is it such a stretch to think that He might show up in a place that is not authorized?

The number one requirement for such a gathering is spontaneity. If that doesn't exist, the "group" is just as cold and dead as the inside of a crypt. It serves no Kingdom purpose. None at all. It's just a bunch of people congratulating themselves for "not forsaking the assembling of [themselves] together" (Heb 10:25). Can I confess that I absolutely hate that verse? Or rather, I hate what it's been used to justify; I hate that people take that verse and club people over the head for not going to church regularly or for not signing up for a small group. Or for whatever other times or reasons the church (or hand-picked leaders') doors are open.

And let me go out on a limb here and say something else that might be considered radical, even (I dunno) iconoclastic! It's simply this. Spontaneity cannot be legislated. It's like expecting positive and immediate results when a university professor stands in front of his classroom of students at 9:17 a.m., and makes an announcement to the students, "You will now have fun. Go ahead. It's fun time." 


Photo "Chain And Hand" by worradmu at

It doesn't happen that way. Doubly so when we're talking about something that God has made very clear can't happen without HIM!! Humans can't create the Spirit's presence in a test tube. We can't fabricate fervor. We can't regiment passion. We can't organize an organism. 

If we do, they all die.

If we shackle what was intended to be spontaneous, there might be a little knowledge transferred and we might think we're "accomplishing something" or "learning a lot" - or even "developing relationships" ... but we will have missed the whole point. Church, real church, isn't about learning stuff or feeling accomplished or patting ourselves on the back. It's about connecting with God and with each other on a spiritual level, not on a superficial level that touches only our minds. 

I'm not saying, "Don't go to church" or anything else like that. I'm saying that it might be time to RE-THINK what we have believed is so important when we gather together. It might be time (here's a radical thought!) to allow small groups to develop on their own rather than control the whole process with leaders and training seminars and sign-up sheets and hard-core marketing techniques. 

Those things turn me off in the worst way; I run in the opposite direction when I hear those kind of heavy-handed should-fests. I don't know about you, but the best way to keep me away from something is to tell me that I HAVE to do it or to judge me for not doing it. It's by telling me that I am less of a Christian, that I'm not doing what God wants me to do if I don't subscribe to the flavour of the month, whatever that is. Sorry. It's just not going to work with me. I figure that God put a brain in my head for a reason, and He put His spirit within my heart so that I could learn to listen to His voice and do what He tells me WHEN He tells me to do it. And I don't need someone else to do that for me. 

And yes, if I could find a gathering that is truly organic, I would probably want very much to be part of it. When I find it ... that will be something to write home about.

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