Saturday, October 16, 2010

Re-imagining Church

I just finished Frank Viola's Reimagining Church. And I think he's right.

Could I have said this a year ago? Probably not. Although I was bored by the standardized church experience, I didn't question that it was essentially the right (the only) format--the approved and anointed format--for doing church. Oh, perhaps the music could be tweaked a little (or a lot), and the sermon should have contained more of this and less of that, but I didn't question the necessity of sermons. I sensed that there was something false and cloying about much religious rhetoric, and something annoyingly self-serving about the promo-culture of church life (you know, promote the book, promote the movie, promote the latest church-based program, promote evangelism, promote volunteer-ism, promote morality, promote leadership training so more folks can take the lead in this culture of promotion). Toward the end of my 18-year career of pew-sitting (except when ushering, at which time I showed other people to their pews) I even began to wonder if sitting in rows listening to a lecturer/showman for 45 minutes every Sunday morning was really all that helpful. But what was the alternative?

Viola presents the alternative in Reimagining Church. In short, he's describing "organic church." A community of Christ followers that involves the cultivation of real relationship and life-sharing, untethered to institutional structures and Sunday morning verities.

Am I ready for that?

I have no idea.

But Viola has definitely started me wondering and imagining. The subtitle of his book, "Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity," is an invitation. Shall we?


Anonymous said...

my library service doesn't have that one...but, it does have "Reimagining Christianity : reconnect your spirit without disconnecting your mind / Alan Jones."

Bob said...

That sounds like a good one too!

Anonymous said...

Bob, I'm sure you've considered this at some point, but I thought I'd put in my two cents: joining with other believers in a brand-new church plant. The most fruitful period of my life was working with 6-7 others in planting an independent, non-denominational church in upstate NY more than 25 years ago. If nothing else,the committed "core" is flexible as well as devoted, not so wedded to particular ways of doing things as established churches/Christians are.

Down the road we discovered that the restless people who came our way came with church baggage of their own,but that didn't negate the fact that our faith grew by leaps and bounds at the outset. And because of having to die to self to make the church happen, we formed some quality relationships in the process.

As with any other major commitment, you have to know that God is in it, but if new wine needs new wineskins, working with others at the stage of constructing the wineskins could be fruitful and more satisfying than "church as usual."