I decided a while ago, that in order to best equip myself, as well as to be of help to others, that I would try to read more books that addressed some of the current trends in our society as it pertained to religious issues especially Christianity, as well as issues related to the present movements in the Church. I have tried to read books to glean a picture of this present generation and even if I don’t agree with a certain view, I would read the work in order to see their points of view and to use their views to steer my investigations.
In the first few chapters of the book that I introduced in my previous blog, I have gleaned the following points of interest. I want to present these in the hope that they will help steer me as well as any of my blog readers to investigate for themselves the issues brought forth.
Bean made what appeared to be an eye opening statement early on in her book. She says, “But even still, as a faithful non-goer, I love the church in its various shapes and flavors and would not want to imagine a world without it.” I found this statement somewhat betraying of her thesis thus far in the book. I found myself wondering why such love for the church would lend itself to her leaving it rather than to seek to reform it or to find a church that was in line with the mission given to us in the Bible. She uses the term faithful non-goer which I find to be a strange choice of words. I wonder what her overall goal is. If she would not want to imagine a world without the church then why does she forsake it? I’m in the initial chapters of the book so maybe some of this will become more clear. But at this moment, it just leads to confusion.
She continues to state that “this book is about those times when, places when, and people for whom attending organized ‘church’ does not work.” There it is again. The pragmatic phrase. Organized church does not apparently work for some people. Every time I hear this statement, it makes me aware that church for some people carries a very different definition than what I understand it to mean. And it is this distinction that I believe may be the crux of my problem with some of what I am reading. What exactly is the Church? How is it intended to function? What is its ultimate goals? It is true that in some cases the local church has become so institutionalized that it has lost its identity within the Church with a capital C. Maybe this is what Bean is speaking of. Maybe her disillusionment is with the local churches that seem to have become an end unto themselves. This would be an important wake up call to the local church to examine priorities and vision. But once again, I sense a throwing the baby out with the bath water problem with the approach that Bean has taken and in many ways is advocating for others. I agree, there is nothing worse than a local church that has lost sight of the vision given to the Church as a whole.
What I read so far in Bean’s work is that of substitution. She seems to be suggesting that new avenues of Christian growth and fellowship can be created outside of the common church setting and worship service. She speaks of the internet and how it opens new doors and opportunities. She states, “Both the internet and our sense of connection to each other are significant for non-goers who want to be part of healing and reconciliation in this world.” Once again, my point is that this can be accomplished within the church as well. Technology does allow for new connections but those connections I feel can best accomplish the work of the ministry when they fuel themselves through corporate worship as well. There is something powerful that takes place when a church family worships together. They share stories and struggles as well as victories. The thing that must be protected is the vision of the church. This is where reflection and evaluation must constantly take place in each local church to make sure that they are staying true to their calling.
Paul wrote to the churches and encouraged, chastised and challenged them to walk in the ways of the Lord. He did not give up on those that were straying and decide to just stop going to church as a whole. He called them to return to true worship. My fear is that approaches such as those advocated by Bean are reactionary. I have sensed a somewhat disgruntled attitude in some of her comments concerning her experiences with the church and I am afraid she is being reactionary in some ways. This does not negate the points she is making but does call them into question as to their motive.
She made this statement concerning her own faith. “I left the church to preserve my faith. Maybe you understand.” To me that is reactionary. My question is whether she is advocating such a move for others or is she just sharing her own personal story and convictions. I believe in this she needs to be very careful because she will be held accountable for the influence that she may make on others that may identify with her and proceed to take her course of action.
Much of what Bean has spoken of in these first few chapters has been very revealing. I sense that her life experiences with the church are what is fueling her views. Others may have the opposite story and impressions to share concerning the church. They may find a great sense of joy and purpose and fellowship within their local church. Bean has simply not found that experience but it doesn’t mean that such a church does not exist and if it does, then it is worth seeking out. Opting to be a non-goer to me is just giving up. I personally do not feel this is God’s intent for His Church.
In conclusion, as for these first few chapters are concerned, I have a warning to give. Don’t allow your stories or experiences to cause you to give up as a whole on the church. Seek out a Christ centered church. There are some out there. But most of all, don’t lead others down a path that is based on subjective views and perspectives. You will be held accountable as teachers and leaders.