Apparently I’m not alone…
The response to the post I wrote at the end of April about breaking up with the church was overwhelming; in less than 24 hours, it had become the 4th most-popular post on my blog. Clearly, it resonated with more than a few of my readers.
I’m grateful to say that the comments – both on the post, and thru social media – were fairly positive; I’d expected more pushback, more challenge – and I sure did get that from a few people – but for the most part, people simply responded by telling their stories: “This happened to me, once, too…”
Thank you. Thank you for telling your stories. It gives me the courage to keep telling mine.
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The past two months have been a whole lot of crazy – I’ve moved to a new apartment, learned how to live in the suburbs without a car, and made it thru almost a month on a fraction of my normal budget (due to some substantial business-related losses). “Margin” – in any sense of the word – has been in short supply during this season.
Sundays, for the past few weeks, have been an oasis.
Three weeks ago, I started reading Sarah Bessey’s Out of Sorts, and I’m finding it to be both a brilliant and an empathetic read. Some of the “nay-sayers” in my life – the friends who don’t quite understand this whole “breaking up with the church” thing; the friends who think I’m making a mistake, and don’t quite believe me that I believe the Holy Spirit is in this, however inexplicable that may seem – have asked me to explain it to them, and I’ve tried – but I’m not honestly sure I could explain it any better than Sarah did. She writes:
For some time, I had been growing disenchanted with the Industrial Church Complex. I found some solace in the emerging church and in the rediscovery – for me, anyway – of ancient church traditions and the broader Church. I found progressive, thoughtful, and brilliant people among Christians. But for me and the Bride of Christ? Well, it still felt like I was just hanging on to a relationship that had already ended.
When I made the decision to stop going to church and to stop calling myself a Christian, it didn’t feel good. But there had been a long litany of abuses, burn-out, and exhaustion….
I could no longer reason away or gloss over the systemic abuses of power, the bitterness, the bigotry and hypocrisy, the sexism and racism, the consumerism, the big business of church that was consuming people and spitting them out for the “greater good.” Church became the last place I wanted to be….
But through it all, I somehow knew one thing: this wasn’t Jesus.
– Sarah Bessey, Out of Sorts, p.29-30
“The Industrial Church Complex.” YES. That is exactly it. “The big business of church” – the version of church where everything is systemized; where people have stopped mattering (even if we say they haven’t); where structure, business principles, and the bottom line are allowed to trump wisdom, compassion, and caring – that is what I’ve broken up with. There are too many things in that version of church that are just not okay.
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Earlier in Out of Sorts (on p. 15), Bessey refers to theologian Phyllis Tickle’s belief that the church is on the edge of a “Great Emergence.” (Both women suggest that the church undergoes a metamorphosis of sorts every 500 years. The Protestant reformation did happen in the 16th century, so if they are right (and I suspect they are), we’re about due for a new shift.)
A few years ago, I was on a walking tour of Erfurt, Germany with some friends, and our tour guide paused outside the window of an ordinary building, pointed to a second story window, and told our group that this was the birthplace of the Reformation. This was the upper room where Martin Luther and his friends met with some of their professors outside of class, discussing theology and the future of the church, and those conversations eventually led to the momentous day when Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of a church and changed church history forever.
What will it be for us? Will it be an article in Relevant Magazine? Or 95 individual authors on 95 different blogs saying “I can’t get behind this anymore?”
I don’t know.
But what I do know is that I’m over “the Industrial Church Complex”, and I believe there’s a better way – a truer way – to be the Church, to be the Bride that Jesus intended us to be. And I am not alone in that belief.
So buckle up, friends. Somehow, I have a feeling that things are about to get real.
"Often when you think you're at the end of something, you're at the beginning of something else." —Fred Rogers via @momentumdash
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"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." Einstein