I sincerely apologize that my blogs have not published persistently in the recent months. This has been due to a formidable measure of stress that I have accrued during a grievous era in my life. That time has both fortunately (oddly enough) and unfortunately come to a painful termination. I have had tremendous companions who carried me through this time of great suffering from the beginning and new friends as well who have joined me in grieving and counsel from the moment of their entrance into my life's story. I am eternally in their debt for their contribution to my well being!
One of these friends (who will remain anonymous, as he has never allowed positive recognition for his contributions), has been vital in guiding me from the depths of my own despair. Recently this man and I packed up our personal effects and journeyed to North Carolina to empty our troubles over the vast beauty of the Smokey Mountains. Even though I am in ministry, those who know me are well aware that I am a naturally cautious person and a bit of a skeptic. However, these mountains contain something quite spiritual that cleanses wounds and conceals scars in a way that I never thought possible.
Feeling rejuvenated after observing the splendor of the glorious geography and feeling more alive than I have in years; we decided to take in some of the local night life. English pubs scatter the countryside and by my own personal assessment there are few things that go better with good company than a crafted pint of ale. While we were searching for an interesting location to enjoy a craft beer I concocted a plan that I had never thought of doing in the past. I suddenly realized that when traveling there is a rare opportunity that few people take advantage of.....anonymity. I have always had the ability to convincingly mimic foreign accents on command. So upon this realization the framework for a good time was beginning to emerge. We created a game. The rule was that if I could carry the night through without anyone suspecting my origins being a farce than my beer would be payed for....I do not think I have ever had a better performance (or a better motivation).
I posses a certain fondness of my Irish heritage. I would also dare say that an Irish dialect is my best impression. This coupled with my attire for the evening had limitless potential (see photo). So on this fall evening my name was Murph O'Connell and I was visiting The Smokey Mountains from Dublin, Ireland. To the detriment of my humility not one person in the pub doubted my being a native Irishman for a second! Also to my surprise I was now the life of the party. Popularity is not something that usually occurs naturally for me. I have always enjoyed a good time and will go with the flow of an extrovert, but I have never been the catalyst for "fun". This night was so foreign to me because people were laughing and genuinely interested with my story (which I convincingly made up as the night progressed). My fun however, came to a screeching halt once the victims of my facade explained that their origins were from the town I currently take residence in (which happens to be six hours away), and they will be returning to my/their city in a few months. My performance I fear will soon come full circle and metaphorically bite my buttocks!
My colleague thought this was quite humorous, but being that I had access to free beer distracted me from his enjoyment of my self inflicted predicament. I mean the odds of these people being from Beaufort SC had to be in the millions, but I digress. As we were laughing about the events that had taken place just moments before I thought of a relevant contrast to this story. The truth is that if and when I encounter these people again there will be a fair amount of explaining to do. They may find my acts slightly, or even extremely humorous, but even so I would have been disingenuous with my new friends and nothing is more deplorable or harmful to building community with others then false pretense. If you contrast this thought with the widespread misconception of what it actually means to follow Jesus there are many similarities.
Those of us who have a missional mindset of "Church"; whether that be missional communities or intentional communities are trying to convey something to the public. We are trying to confess our lie that we continued to spread for years around the world. In my own life the lie of what "church" currently is was a lie that I personally nurtured for nearly a decade. It took me years to realize that we have essentially given the church so much "relevance" that it looks nothing like her. Over time we have assimilated different items of entertainment in order to attract attention and have done so quite well over several hundred years. These things, for the most part are innocent and have the purest of intentions. However, what happens when we examine the gospels and the Church found in the book of Acts and discover that how we worship looks nothing like the church found in the scriptures? As Followers of Christ those of us who are missional are attempting to embrace something that is both ancient and fresh.
Recently a new friend of mine (who I appreciate immensely), openly confessed several questions that have been plaguing her thoughts about Christianity. As we slowly began to discuss and then dissect her concerns I noticed that she was being misinformed about what it meant to "be" the Church. I pointed out that her concerns about Christianity had nothing to do with following Jesus, but were erupting from theologies and dogmas that are not found in the original language and/or proper context of scripture. I communicated the obvious axiom that to some degree these dogmas were being forced on her to adopt. We talked for quite some time and I explained to her that I believe those things have actually led Christians away from the beauty of following Christ and are hindering individuals from joining The Way of Jesus. I cannot speak for her, but I believe that at the end of our conversation she had a far deeper understanding of what it means to actually follow Jesus or at the minimum a more sensible alternative to "church".
I believe that as The Church it is necessary for us to admit our sins to the world. Buildings, rock bands, choirs, concerts, dramas, robes, golden alters, are unquestionably fun and remarkably beautiful! However, if they remotely distract from assisting the destitute and broken and if these additions are merely used to entertain and attract the masses than our methods must be labeled as erroneous. As a result of our lack of humility there are millions of people who are misinformed about the true majesty of The Kingdom and are believing and inadvertently nurturing a massive lie!
It is time for the truth to emerge. It is time for humility from all of us who are leading the church. It is time to rediscover our origins. It is time to remove the silly accents and be the church Jesus wants and believes we can be.
-For The Kingdom