A friend of mine just told me he was reading a book called Jesus Has Just Left the Building, and asked me my thoughts. It’s another of these (unfortunately, increasingly popular) books about how somebody has gotten disillusioned with church, and left the “organized church” for…something else, I’m not sure what. Now, here’s the disclaimer: I haven’t read the book, and I’m not sure what the “something else” Paul Vieira has left for is. Fine. Maybe he’s doing what I suggested in my response to my friend, I don’t know. But there seems to be an increasing number of folks who call themselves Christians who are chucking church because they’re disillusioned with it. Well…without saying anything else, I’ll just let you read what I wrote him:

1. These types of books/sentiments are becoming more and more common.

2. I understand the frustrations. I sympathize with many of them.

3. This is one of the reasons why Red Oak is different from a lot of churches in some ways (and probably could/should be in some others, frankly). Yesterday, we had a lady and her son, homeschool speech folks, visiting from Orlando with the McLeans. They have left “traditional church”. She loved Red Oak, the informality, the round-table, look-people-in-the-eye format. The fact that we closed with an extended session of prayer. The fact that our music, though “canned” without live instrumentation, drew attention to Jesus and not to singers. I was thrilled. I’d like to think that Red Oak is, or at least is on the way to becoming, the kind of church that such folks could be part of and say, “yeah, you know, church can be something different.”

4. I think that leaving the church outright is a dangerous overreaction. What I’d say to these folks is, “disappointed with church? Sure…I get it. So am I, many times. So…start one that works right. Incorporate the basic essentials, and leave off the nonsense that you find frustrating. Preach/teach the Word. Worship in simplicity. Do it in a home if that works for you. Observe the ordinances. Commit yourselves to Jesus and each other. If you do those things, you’ve got a church. But you need a church; don’t toss out the baby with the bathwater; just give birth to a baby that looks differently, that meets the Scriptural minimum requirements for a church.”

I have a lot of leeway for differing expressions of “church”; hey, I’m in the middle of a church that has changed some of those things myself. If I waved a magic wand, I’d probably change a few more; fine. But chucking the whole enterprise? A dangerous mistake, I believe. Talk amongst yourselves…

5 responses »

  1. Kenneth Chaney says:

    Excellent response, but in reading the book I am not sure the author was at all dissatisfied with Church in the sense that you cited in your post. He had been involved in successful ministries and had started one of his own. Its religion that he is against “the church machine” which consists of man made ideals, ceremonies and doctrines that are taught as the commands of God and anyone who disagree with these man made trappings must find another place to worship. You know church would be great place if we could purge it of religion. Red Oak is a great example of a church stripped of the traditional trappings of the traditional church and I don’t think the author is speaking against a church like Red Oak. Red Oak is a non-traditional church. Are we what future churches will look like as more and more people become disenchanted with traditional denominations? I think so! We are on the cutting edge. Is Red Oak perfect? Not by a long shot, but I do think it is a glimpse of what God would have the Church to be. Jesus Has Left the Building is a good read and I am enjoying reading it. The ideal is that people are tried of religion and want a relationship with God not the Church. I understand that some closed narrowed minded holy than thou Christians could be offend by the book. I think it should be read with an open mind and don’t toss out the baby with the bathwater it’s not as ugly as you think.

  2. Byron says:

    Hey, you posted! You DO read my blog! 🙂

    Yeah, like I said, I haven’t read it, and was just going by what the website, at a cursory reading, seemed to suggest. I sure hope you’re right, and as I say, I can identify with a lot of the frustrations that even these folks that have dropped out altogether are expressing. It’s just a question of how to deal with those frustrations. Now you’ve got me curious enough to read it myself–after I finish the 50 other books I need to read… 😦

  3. Kenneth says:

    Occasionally

  4. Don says:

    Chucking church is certainly NOT the right thing to do. I understand some people’s disillusionment with so called “organized” religion. Yes, there are plenty of cold dead churches where nothing significant has happened in years. By the same token there are plenty of hip and trendy churches that may attract the masses but offer nothing of eternal value either. We should be careful not to place too much emphasis on nonconventionalism as the measure of our spiritual unction. Authentic Christianity is not the product of our programing, but the evidence of what’s in our hearts.

  5. Laurie says:

    I like what you said about starting your own church and leaving out all the stuff that irritates, what a concept!

    Most people who have left “traditional church” don’t seem to have a better suggestion and are doing….what? Sounds like just sitting around criticizing – well gee, anyone can do that, how about trying to do something about it?

    My husband and I travel so we get to visit different churches, some are great, some are so-so, and some, well, need alot of help – much like most Christians I know!

    I think it’s a bad idea not only to “chuck church”, but to badmouth it – the enemy doesn’t need any help keeping people out!

    I think God can use people individually or as a group, but I don’t believe He’s pleased by a bad attitude toward the church.

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