Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Good church, bad church

Back from my wee hol...was chilled to the max but now back in the stress zone. Moving jobs next week...eek always a nerve wrecking experience.

Anyways have been talking to lots of my friends recently about church. I often hear people refer to churches as "good" and I wonder sometimes what we mean when we say that. What do we use to measure how good it is?

If we are talking about an organisation or business there are obvious measures of "success". We can measure it by how much money they make, how many members it has, how fast it grows, how popular it is, how big their premises are....

Sometimes I wonder do I personally use these markers to measure the success of church. I reckon church, any church can be popular and fun and rich and fancy but what if there are things missing that are the parameters that God uses to measure us.

What if we do not love each other.
What if we do not strive for a peaceful society.
What if we do not know how to wait on God to move and try to rush things
What if we do not give to the least.
Do we consider the good in everyone and reflect it back to them...even those on the outskirts?
Are we committed to each other and to the dream of God for the world?
Do we make things easier in our community by being a gentle presence that takes the edge of the bitterness we live amongst?
Self Control.
Do we do what we want when we want as long as we tick the church boxes?..I do this a lot!

I guess I sometimes think we forget that the church is us. It really is not the bricks and mortar as cliched as that sounds. I don't think there is anything wrong with big buildings as long as the motivation for it is right.

I struggle to accept though that people should all come to the same building. I personally get lost in crowds sometimes.
If there was a revival in the falls, the shankill or in our club culture..just for example..
Would I want to put those people in a bus and ship them to my church on a Sunday. I love my church and am not having a go but I guess it would make sense for communities to be developed in the heart of were the birth is. Imagine being born and then being shipped to a foreign land. I reckon the church I am used to would be pretty foreign to the church others might expect and that's OK.

I would never want someone to find their church community irrelevant and foreign. If the community grows where the birth takes place it becomes more natural and more importantly it becomes home...and has more potential to attract those who "get it".

So I guess some day in the future ...not too distant I would say the church in this country will look different. Maybe not so many people under one roof...many only spectating and feeling a bit lost, thinking, "what is all this stand up, sit down, bow your head stuff about anyway?"

Maybe as people are reached they will form little settlements in their familiar and natural environment that they relate to.
Maybe some will meet in chapels, some in Churches as we know them, some in pubs or clubs, some in their living room and some in a coffee shop...I know this already happens to a degree which is cool.

But the point is not to be cool or controversial. The point is to be relevant and intentional.

Then our churches cant be good because they are big....they might stay small but be more numerous. They will be good because they bear fruit. They make the place a bit brighter, they include people and they help change our day to day lives. I am still thinking about all this and I am not being critical of any church...I think that the church leaders that I know at the minute are amazing people.
As Pete Greig puts it...the best way to go forward is to aim for something in the distance but always look in the rear view mirror...learning from the past and knowing fully where you come from.

The changes in church as we know it are coming and its not about scraping the old. Its about using the old to shape the new whilst not being too stuck in our ways to accept changes even if they seem a bit crazy.
When you really look in the rear view mirror from when the disciples were doing this stuff it gives us a bit of a clue how it should be but its not exactly how it should be because this is today and that was then.


  1. So many amens to all of that. I love how you have put these thoughts down in such an explainable way...Our 'come to us' mentality of church needs to be seriously reconsidered in this wee part of the's as though, the next step after someone seems interested in God is to slot them into's just not natural.

    I have felt this way for such a long time and although am seeing so many great things happening in different churches around here, I am yet to see something evolving naturally. I have seen it happen other places, and when it does, boy is it transformational...

  2. Sorry, I didn't actually read this post yet but I will, I'm just letting you know that I have a new blog now, one that I've actually been writing on and if you wanna hear about my life as wee nurse indya feel free to come read it lol. Oh and you could change the link you have for me... :-) I'm glad you had a good holiday.

  3. Indian, I have fixed it so chill the pill.
    Hope your good honey...i miss you!!!

  4. I'm not great in big crowds (unless I'm hiding!). I prefer small intimate settings and often feel lost and alone in such big numbers. Also, I think I come more and more like a passive member of an audience as opposed to an active participant.

    I totally agree about 'birthing' in the community. I have seen way too many people meet with God on the street and lose sight of Him in church. Often not understanding the 'rules' which have turned us all into Pharises protecting the rules rather than being like Jesus and reaching out.

    I also struggle with the concept that often the people not accepted or judged at church are the very people Jesus came to reach. The orinary, everyday person that feels they are too 'bad' to be loved.

    Hope that makes sense - seems a bit garbled even to me!

  5. It makes perfect sense Jan...well said. I often find God on the street and loose sight of him in church..but then I also find God in church too so its all a bit crazy!