Larry Vaughan, one of my favorite bloggers, just posted his answers to the question: What kind of church would you belong to? It’s a good question, an excellent question, and it’s terribly relevant to the emergent conversation.
To my mind Larry’s an ideal person to answer this question. He was a pastor for 17 years. Did the whole church scene: associate pastor, worship pastor, youth pastor, senior pastor, education pastor. Even has a degree from a Christian university. But church-going burned him out, ate his lunch, broke him down, whatever metaphor works for you. Gave it all up eight years ago and hasn’t belonged to a church for five years. Says he feels healthier than he’s ever felt before. I’m guessing he’s not alone.
Today Larry counsels emotionally and psychologically broken people, tries to keep them safe from themselves and keep them from harming others. Tries to treat them with dignity, to build them up, show them what self-respect looks like, even when they’re kicking him, screaming at him, making colorful remarks about his lineage. You’ve gotta wonder if he’s doing more now to serve the Kingdom of God than he ever did in his 17 years of pastoring.
In any case, read his list below. Or read the whole essay (recommended) here. Then let’s discuss – what kind of church would YOU attend if you could start from scratch?
I hope to put a list up of my own soon.
Here’s Larry’s take:
1. I would belong to a church that didn’t own any property. Well, they could own property but it would only contain either a massive garden or a softball field that didn’t allow church leagues to play on it.
2. I would belong to a church that gave 100% of my offering to projects selected by the leadership to improve the quality of life for lower stratum individuals. Operating expenses (such as salaries and rent) would be paid directly by ministry partners.
3. I would belong to a church that did not hijack the work of the Holy Spirit. By that I mean I believe in the power of God, and the power of God to draw people to Him. What is right for me is likely wrong for my neighbor and vice versa. Entire denominations have been built on the premise that what is right for me is right for you.
4. I would belong to a church that did not count the number of people in attendance.
5. I would belong to a church that existed primarily for those who were not a part of it.
6. I would belong to a church that understood Love as a verb.
7. I would belong to a church that viewed obesity and gossip as more heinous than alcohol or the lottery.
8. I would belong to a church that promoted the quiet practice of spiritual disciplines. Key word: Quiet.
9. I would belong to a church that fully integrated Galatians 3:28 into its theology. How many church arguments would be dead in the water if we understood and accepted the abolishment of racial, social, and gender distinctions? About all of them.
10. I would belong to a church that would expressly forbid Icthus symbols on member’s cars. I guess it would be OK if we brought them back in the event that Christian worship were outlawed and the penalty for ignoring the law was death.
11. I would belong to a church that valued authenticity before purity. It has been my experience that the church has gotten this backwards, creating an environment that encourages you and I to do everything we can to hide all that is wrong with us.
12. I would belong to a church that understood the carnality of humanity. All humanity.