Relationships instead of Church?

Read this article from Kathy Lynn  Grossman of USA TODAY, “Relationships Are the New Religion for Many,” and tell me what you think. This is good Jacob’s Well conversation.Easter PostCard jacob's well 2007

I think the article’s observations are right on, the conclusion isn’t.              [It really reminds me of some elements of our message  yesterday. (3.24.2013)]

My analysis says that “church” has failed to deliver value or relevance to people at their gatherings (worship services and more) for so many decades that we now have whole generations who have no idea that the church might actually have any. What people still have is the relationships that once found amazing, empowering, loving context in being church, and so they gather around those relationships instead. And for the most part “church/religion/the institution” continues to gather those who are left around nostalgia for what doesn’t connect.

How will we teach those looking for more that there is more when so few are trying to reclaim what church can be?


4 responses to “Relationships instead of Church?

  1. The question: “How will we teach those looking for more that there is more when so few are trying to reclaim what church can be?” Perhaps we don’t so much need to teach as invite, and more so, invite the future inviters, those who are the not yet here. Emerging Church, and Jacob’s Well as one instance, in my appraisal, is a movement where God isn’t reduced to rules, dogmatic certainty, and historical ritual, but rather where God’s love and acceptance is experienced in relationship with others, and where mystery and doubts and uncertainty are considered to be a noble part of the process. Perhaps some defining emphases are those of invitation, welcome and inclusion versus dogma, judgement and exclusion. It’s much easier to invite people to be part of something if you expect they won’t feel excluded or unwanted when they show up.

  2. Thanks, Eric. I agree, except many churches ARE inviting, they even do good hospitality, but they are inviting people to something that doesn’t work. So the outside community is getting jaded with churches that put out a nice doormat, but offer the same-old same-old inside. It is true that we need to equip those who are finding something authentic in being church with ways and opportunities to invite others, but it is really hard for them to get people to respond when the general impression of a church that offers little value or relevance is so deeply ingrained.
    I apologize if I seem overly negative about the established church in this. I know there are many signs of life all over and the Spirit can do things even when we are at our worst… but do we have to make God do all the heavy lifting?!?

  3. No disagreement there (or with your prior). I’ll humbly surmise that even if the Spirit of God WAS doing the heavy lifting, it would probably use a few appropriately aligned individuals for the muscle. Perhaps God’s wheel grinds more slowly that we’d prefer? 🙂 As you said, there are signs of life, signs of relevancy, signs of change within Christian church communities. I’d posit that such life is, in part, not only postmodernism’s collision with evangelicalism, but also spurned from a disenchantment with unjust wars dressed up as godly, with creedal dogmatic certainty, and with a Levitical lens on human love. These restless elements are amplified by the influence of global social media, and perhaps Zuckerberg is the 21st century’s Gutenberg. Thus, while the wheel may seem to grind away slowly, perhaps it is accelerating rapidly, and I think Jacob’s Well, Solomon’s Porch, and many other churches are part of the acceleration.

  4. Whoa, that was a mouthful, Eric! Thanks for the deep thinking.

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