Friday, April 6, 2007
Getting into the Mix and Out of the Bubble
It struck me how much I have changed over the past year since we left the O.C. to "plant a church". I don't write about "church planting" much in my blog, I realized. I don't like the term "church planting" or the words "starting a church". As we always say, we are the church so how can we plant or start something that we are? So far the best I can come up with to describe our work is that we are creating favorable conditions for the spiritual growth of all who enter into our community. That's too long though so I'll have to keep working on it.
Within our group of leaders we have been discussing the "Christian Bubble" lately. To me the "Christian bubble" is defined as a self-protective, self-serving subculture. We are definitely functioning outside of the bubble. We actively strive to discard all things "bubbly" - such as Christian-ese; using the word "Christian" as an adjective for things (you know, Christian music, Christian nation, Christian bookstores, Christian company etc.). I don't even like to call myself a "Christian". The truth is many people associate such a negative connotation with the term Christian.
So much of the language and lifestyle within the Christian bubble is exclusive in nature rather than being inclusive. We have been learning that words like unbeliever, nonchristian, and "the lost" are terms that keep others at arms length. Would you like to be referred to as "the lost"? Everyone is on a spiritual journey. Unless a person is an atheist, he or she does believe in something, spiritually speaking. Coming to faith in Christ and growing in that relationship could become part of his, or her, journey. We are not trying to "get people into church" we are trying to connect people with Christ by meeting them where they are on their journey and walking with them. If we, as a team, can draw others into caring community where Christ can be found, that is church at it best.
Church isn't buildings or services, or programs - it is people working together as a body in order to grow in faith; to worship the living God; and in order to advance the gospel. People shouldn't have to "go to church" in order to experience community within the body. The body - that is, you and I - should be going to them. Buildings, services, or programs are merely avenues by which some might come to faith or grow in faith. Ultimately, you and I are the incarnation of Christ for one another and it is our responsibility to reach out as the hands, feet, heart, eyes, ears of Jesus. In a practical sense this means inviting people into our lives - having them over for dinner, going to coffee, going out for a drink, hanging out at the playground with our kids or dogs, going for a walk, a hike, a bike ride, going surfing, visiting them at their work. It all goes back to an active demonstration of love; making sure that people feel heard and valued and cared for in the place they are at on the journey; it means that we can't make people into "projects" or conversely, we can't just use people for their time, talents or resources.
If we become too attached to life inside the bubble then we tend to become defensive of it and of all of our pet ideas and programs and opportunities there instead of focusing on whether or not those things serve the needs of those around us. We also become overprotective of our comfortable spot and our carefully cultivated image within the subculture. Mainly what I'm trying to say is that we can forget that there are so many out there who are not part of anything that goes on within that tiny world and there does not seem to be a way to get inside of the snow globe like bubble - especially if so few ever come out of the bubble. So few can even relate to the "Christian subculture" to begin with.
If we really are about permeating the culture around us, we can see that living in our own subculture isn't an option; I can't permeate something unless I am mixed in with it - like yeast in bread dough.