Friday, June 24, 2005

NOT RIGID: Kind of Like "Jacob's Well"

My sister unknowingly paid my remarkable congregation a wonderful compliment last Sunday. She attended our 10:30 worship service, and in the car on the way to lunch, she said, "The atmosphere at your church is kind of like Jacob's Well." She had attended a couple of worship services there. Little did she know just how much her remark warmed my heart.

"That's exactly what we are trying to create!" I replied. "You have no idea how good that makes me feel!"

Jacob's Well is a church here in Kansas City that is in the forefront of the emergent church movement, which, in my opinion, is the future of the church. When I gaze into my crystal ball, I see a few things happening in upcoming years.
1) Fundamentalism and right-wing evangelicalism will begin to fade into irrelevance.
2) We will finally realize that the mega-church model is actully harmful to the health of the body of Christ rather than helpful.
3) Eventually everybody will understand that the labels "traditional" and "contemporary" are void of meaning when applied to the church.
As these trends happen, what is now known as the emergent movement will become the paradigm for doing church. From the Emergent Village website:

We must imagine and pursue the development of new ways of being followers of Jesus … new ways of doing theology and living biblically, new understandings of mission, new ways of expressing compassion and seeking justice, new kinds of faith communities, new approaches to worship and service, new integrations and conversations and convergences and dreams.

When I asked my sister what exactly she meant when she made her comparison, she said, "It seems so ... open. It is very free and natural. Growing up, I always thought church was so, I don't know, rigid. Your church is definitely not rigid."

Not rigid - That's me! Of all of the words used to describe me (some of which have been kind, some not so much), rigid has never been one of them. It strikes me that rigidity is another way to think about the Pharisaic legalism against which Jesus struggled. Rigidity is one of the primary traits of right-wing Christianity, in particular when it comes to the creation and enforcement of the so-called "moral code" that is to dictate personal behavior. Rigidity is what passes for "strength" or "security" for some people, but in reality is an artificial construct used to oppress people, and patently out of line with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Rigidity is neither morality nor strength, it is just rigidity.

My remarkable congregation may not know much about the emergent movement, but they know that the church they love is a spiritual home, a place to encounter the living divine creator of the cosmos, to be grasped by the grace of Christ Jesus our savior, to be pulled ever closer into communion with the mystic presence of God's miraculous spirit. And it is people just like my sister, people who do not attend church because of the rigidity they perceive there, with whom the church needs to speak today.

Going with the flow, Andy B.


Seamhead said...

Great Post, Andy. I always felt that the old contemporary service at the 'Burg FUMC wasn't really contemporary. It was just a worship service. Well, not just a worship service, but a service that was open and free. My wife and I still miss that service very much.

To me it was more about love and celebrating love than any other service I've been fortunate enough to attend. How I miss the girls dancing during the music.

dabeckztr said...

yes good post, and yes your church is fantabulously great! And like i think i've told you before i always feel warmed and welcomed when i do come to a service. And I hope that i will be a part of a new "methodism" movement as i continue toward ordination.
I have found a great church here in Dallas, it is at the church where i work, it is called Warren UMC, an African American church, they are using the Oak Cliff UMC facilities while re-building their church the pastor, Perry Chrinshaw, is amazing, and the people are great too!
I had my visit at Perkins, and i've started the Candicacy guide book with my new Mentor, she's fab! The longer I'm here and the more i work on my ordination the more i become more solid on my calling and more excited for my upcoming journey through seminary.
well I best be going now, i've caught the bug that has been going around and need to catch up on resting.
Tell your family i said hello from TX. (Oh and there is no difference from MO luv and TX luv, i just changed it up a bit, i guess i could say that Texan luv is bigger because its such a big state...?!)
Blessings ~B

Anonymous said...

I thought the service at your church was fantastic, too, Andy. And may I add that I have 3 of the most amazing children (Maybe "offspring" is more appropriate) that any mother could ever have. When I read or hear what you have to say when you think I might not be listening, when my being your parent does not interfere with your being your true selves, I am grateful that I have had a small part in helping you become the people you are. Mom