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Don’t give up, but step up, into the wrestle for the future of the church

Don’t give up, but step up, into the wrestle for the future of the church

Today I shared some interesting findings about people who have left the church. The response I received indicates that the findings are right on the money.

Josh Packard’s book Church refugees focussed on the significant number of people who are done with church, but not done with Jesus.  Some of the key findings from the book were that:

  • “The Dones” say they left because of the judgmental posture of church people individually and collectively which assaulted the communal experience they longed for.

  •  “The Dones” say they left because they are tired of trying to serve Jesus through the bureaucratic methods of church organizations which stifled progress and often gave little attention to what they cared for most. Many wished to build the Kingdom but were only offered opportunities to build someone’s church empire.

  • “The Dones” say they left because they want to answer questions about God through dialogue and struggle, not though prepackaged lectures and the predetermined positions of their community.

  • And “the Dones” say they left because their church only understood “morality” in terms of substance abuse and sexual activity with a common disregard to systemic issues of equality, poverty and unjust economics

I am increasingly convinced that we are reaching a tipping point.

The majority of followers of Jesus I talk to inside the church are just as concerned with the kinds of things that those who Packard calls “the Dones” name as their big questions.

What we call “church” has been shaped by all kinds of cultural influences. I don’t know many people who disagree with Priscilla Shirer:

“In the first century in Palestine, Christianity was a community of believers. Then Christianity moved to Greece and became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome and became an institution. Then it moved to Europe and became a culture. And then it moved to America and became a business. We need to get back to being a healthy, vibrant community of true followers of Jesus.”

What we call church has been shaped by all kinds of influences… Dare we question our assumptions?

I don’t think it is just me, I truly do think that the majority of church leaders are conscious of the gap between where their church is and what they long for. It’s just that there are not many viable models of church done differently.

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The moments when you decide your core vales are actually the biggest turning points of your life.

The moments when you decide your core vales are actually the biggest turning points of your life.

Sharing some of what I have learned on the journey last Sunday, with a photo of the day Leeanne and I were engaged

Every now and then life takes a major turning point. Something changes that means every other aspect of your life is affected.

From an external perspective, my family and I are in a moment like that right now.

In eight days time we will be boarding a Qantas flight to head back to Australia. I will begin my new job as Senior Pastor of Citywide Baptist church, Hobart, a week later.

On the surface it looks and feels like a very big thing. It feels like a life turning point. At a deeper level though, I think real life turning points look much less dramatic.

Last Sunday I gave my last sermon at St. Albert Alliance church. It was challenging to try to capture what the journey of the last four years had meant.

In my sermon I talked about three moments in my life that were  life changing.

The first was the point at which Leeanne and I agreed that we wanted our marriage to be about seeking first the Kingdom of God. I showed a picture of the day we got engaged, and as I did I, and everyone else, realized how young we were at the time.

The second was the time I stood atop Mt. Wellington and declared that I was willing to do whatever Jesus asked of me in order to reach Hobart.

The third was the time I agreed with God that I was wiling to do whatever he asked me to do, even if that was sweeping the aisles of a supermarket.

None of these moments would have looked as consequential to an outsider as what it means to move your family to a different country, but each of them were profoundly life shaping. Each one of them contributed to the fact that we found ourselves in Canada in 2012, and each one of them has affected our understanding that it is right to once again board a plane next week.

The moments when you decide your core vales are actually the biggest turning points of your life.

Perhaps like me, you can point to points in your early adulthood that shaped your core values. The work doesn’t finish there, though. The job of working out who you are and what matters to you is an ongoing one. New circumstances will raise new questions and often demand a new level of reflection on your values.

An example of that for me has been my changing understanding of the importance of the local church, and how it really is the cornerstone of Jesus’s plan for changing the world.

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