How We Do Church

135955_138246479568862_100001505317592_229273_6551792_oWhen I was first learning to snowboard many years ago, and having an awful time, a friend I was with noted my problem: “You’re fighting the snowboard”, he said.

I instantly understood exactly what I was doing wrong. I WAS fighting the snowboard. I was trying to stand up on it on the side of a mountain and by an act of my will and with all the physical strength I could muster, trying to force the deck to hold still while I got my balance. I was fighting against physics.

From that point I began to simply stand up, allow the snowboard to go where it would and then simply ride it, avoiding hazards as best I could. My riding improved 200% immediately. After a while, I could go in any direction I wanted as long as it was downhill. Snowboarding became a lot more fun and exhilarating.

My first strategy – that of insisting that the laws of physics adapt to my capabilities (or lack of them) was silly. And it reminds me of the church’s approach to the world it finds itself in.

I see the culture clearly changing, quickly and dramatically, and the church – with some notable exceptions – insisting that it remain the same. It’s like asking a target to hold still so you can shoot it. This is as clear an example as any that the church has lost its missional edge. It has long been my observation that mission, or outreach, barely attains to the level of afterthought in the church’s collective consciousness. It has seemed that outreach might be given a shot IF there were enough money, IF there was enough interest, IF there weren’t more pressing concerns maintaining the status quo, etc., and even when it happened, it was usually a random event, not a commitment the church made.

Now the church is obviously becoming more and more irrelevant to the world around it. But the church insists on continuing doing what it has always done, the way it has always done it.

Irrelevance combined with futility is sad. Really sad.

Although I was frustrated with these facts almost from the beginning, I don’t hold myself above anybody, because for all my fault finding, I didn’t really have any better ideas. I haven’t been that creative. I just knew this church thing was not working.

On December 20, my roommate, Phil, noting that the next day was the winter solstice and that Canadians observe the event by making and eating meat pies (Canadians are obviously absolute geniuses!), put out the word that the next day, we would observe the solstice at our place with meat pies and a “moonshine mass” on the beach in Salem harbor. In addition to letting our church, The Gathering, know, we invited a few friends who don’t happen to be Christians. It was a huge success! We had Communion on the beach with moonshine and pretzels, spoke a few words about God and the wonders of creation, then went back to our place and ate some really amazing meat pies, got out the guitars etc., and just had a great time.

Afterwards, having cleaned up with help from Alex (one of our new friends), Phil looked at me and said, “Now, THAT was church!”

I couldn’t agree more.

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