Journey

Today I begin a Journey.

I have been writing and thinking and struggling for a while now, and have boiled all my thoughts down into a single manifesto. I need something to cling to in this world to give me focus and purpose. If you know me at all, you know that my hope is in the grace of God through Jesus Christ. But I struggle with the Institution of the Church, the Religion of Christianity. I feel as if the human structure on which modern Christianity is built–christendom–is now doing more harm than good.

God is good. The church survives in spite of whatever humans may or may not do to hurt or help. That is not my point. I know I will eventually have to write more about this, but for now I want to leave it at this: christendom has failed, the church has not.

Meanwhile, I have been trying to figure out what might be a better framework for the next generation of Christ followers. I have been involved in this whole Emerg[ing|ent] line of questioning and exploration, and yet it seems many of our attempts to reengage the culture get hung up in christendom models. No matter how cool we are, or how welcoming we make our services, or how politically sensitive we try to be–if our goal is to get people in our doors, I think we have lost sight of the gospel. Jesus asked his disciples to follow him out into the world. He never asked them to bring anyone back anywhere.

That’s why I can’t “do the church thing”. My heart is broken for all my friends and all the people I see every day for whom the church has no value, no purpose. At best, they’ve just never encountered Jesus because the idiots on TV turn them off. At worst, they been judged and condemned by the church–hurt physically and emotionally. That breaks my heart.

So, although I am the least qualified to do so, I have written The Broken Heart Manifesto. I have tried to write it in such a way that anyone can take it up, hopefully without any barriers (other than the English language), and allow it to re-form their lives. I an anxious to see what it does to mine. I will be journaling the process, and invite you to do the same.

I am scared.
I am hopeful.

Love God.
Love Others.
Follow Jesus.

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  • nwc

    I hear you. I feel your pain. One small disagreement with you: I think the Church has failed. I’ve pretty much given up on it in all its forms. The only hope is to be found not in any human institution but in the last three lines of your post.

    Peace to you.

    P.S. I hope to meet you and Kim someday.

  • Keith

    It is so interesting how completely and totally different you and Dwight are.

  • Prayer Warrior

    In my humble opinion, the urgency of missio Dei compels us to focus not on the failures but on the opportunities. It seems to me that God does not call us to try to crack the foundation of an imperfect system and replace it with a “more perfect” system.

    In looking at the history of mission from the creation of the world, it seems apparent that the Gospel comes alive to different individuals in different ways. The Holy Spirit is as alive and well in stuffy, old-fashioned, liturgical churches populated by self-righteous sinners as he is on a blog written by people whose hearts are on fire for the Gospel. The message of the Gospel is carried in old-fashioned hymns as much as in newly-composed, Spirit-inspired songs. The love of Christ is evident in “organized” mission as much as in an individual Christian giving water to a thirsty man. I believe that God isn’t looking for one perfect vessel to transport His message or a single “better” way to connect with people. I think God uses ALL of these vessels and connections.

    I don’t know what “christiandom” is. That sounds like the people who are Christians. Or some vague leadership group that is making some sort of decisions that are causing missio Dei to fail. Or something. It stills feels like a judgmental statement about individuals or groups of individuals who may be purposefully standing in the way of the Gospel, but are probably just making stupid human errors.

    I submit that throughout human history, the clay vessels that God uses to share his Word and love with other human beings have failed over and over again – the prophets, the apostles, the early Christian church, missionaries over the centuries, Luther, the “organized” church, parents sharing their faith with their children, contemporary musicians, Billy Graham-types, pastors, VBS volunteers, emerging church movements, individual congregations, and so on. During his lifetime, and especially following Good Friday, it certainly appeared as if Jesus had failed.

    But, interestingly, God continues to use these broken vessels to shine the light of the Gospel into the world. My faith was certainly born and nourished in a church. And I see evidence of the Holy Spirit flowing abundantly in the little church building I hang around in. I also see cracks and flaws, but I see a rag-tag priesthood of believers being equipped to share the hope of Christ’s free grace with people they meet in their everyday lives. This growing group of folks certainly stumbles more times than it takes a step forward in missio Dei, but the fact remains that more and more individuals are being introduced to God’s free grace and abundant love because these folks are willing to share their faith in their daily lives – by showing kindness, by serving others, by being bold enough to talk about the hope they have through Jesus Christ. As long as lost sheep are being found, I believe it is inaccurate – and counterproductive – to make blanket statements like “christiandom has failed” or “the church has failed” The church is God’s creation. Just like individual humans, it is not perfect. But if you open your eyes and spend time with real people in individual churches, you will see the Holy Spirit working in significant albeit mysterious ways.

    My point really is this: In my humble opinion, God’s mission is better served with positive, pro-active, forgiving, faithful, intense, purposeful service to others (to ALL others – including lost, found, hurting, healthy, self-righteous, humble, proud, ignorant, disillusioned, faith-filled, bitter, gentle, hateful, loving, etc. etc.) and through positive, pro-active, forgiving, faithful, intense, and purposeful sharing of God’s Word and the hope offered by God’s free grace as a result of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I’m not saying we shouldn’t recognize mistakes and that we should just ignore the concerns of people who are disillusioned and de-churched, but I don’t see how missio Dei is served by bemoaning all the failures of the past and criticizing individuals and groups.

    Focusing on flaws only disheartens those who are targets of the criticism – individuals who, by the way, are also called by God to share the Gospel. And those who are critical of the broken vessels run the risk of becoming self-righteous themselves. Since our time on earth and our energies each day are limited, I encourage you to invest your time in sharing the abundant love of God and the joyful hope of the Gospel with individuals and with masses rather than on focusing on the cracks in the system. Focus on love and joy rather than on failures and flaws. Follow God’s call to focus not on the brokenness but the burning you feel in your heart – a burning yearning to share the Gospel with the lost and the indifferent and the disillusioned. They will respond to personal connections by caring individual who share a message of joy and hope.

    I encourage you to call this the Burning Heart Manifesto.

  • “In my humble opinion, God’s mission is better served with positive, pro-active, forgiving, faithful, intense, purposeful service to others (to ALL others – including lost, found, hurting, healthy, self-righteous, humble, proud, ignorant, disillusioned, faith-filled, bitter, gentle, hateful, loving, etc. etc.)”

    This is absolutely how I feel. I’m not against the church, or anyone in it. I am sorry for some of the things that have been done in the name of Christianity–things Jesus would never do–but I am not interested in condemning the religious. I am however interested in following Christ in ways that are sometimes different from popular Christianity. And as I follow Christ, I will share my broken story. Some things I do and say will deserve a, “get behind me satan”, others might evoke a, “well done, good and faithful servant.” But I am wholly unwilling to pretend or even allow the impression that anything I do or say is good or right just because I feel I have the right expression of religion.

    This is why I want to focus on love. And your exhortation is a good reminder to continually (even on my first step) reconsider my actions in light of love.

  • kim

    Thomas,
    Your heart is amazing, your desire for others to experience love through Christ is a fire that is blazing. It is only through our brokeness that we are able to minister to others. Thanks for the writing the “Broken Heart Manifesto.” You amaze me. I love you.

  • kim

    A Quotation: “Jesus was broken on the cross. He lived his suffering and death not as an evil to avoid at all costs, but as a mission to embrace. We too are broken. We live with broken bodies, broken hearts, broken minds or broken spirits. We suffer from broken relationships.

    How can we live our brokenness? Jesus invites us to embrace our brokenness as he embraced the cross and live it as part of our mission. He asks us not to reject our brokenness as a curse from God that reminds us of our sinfulness but to accept it and put it under God’s blessing for our purification and sanctification. Thus our brokenness can become a gateway to new life.” Henri Nouwen

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