Thursday, September 28, 2006

What if you're a flamin' liberal who doesn't believe Jesus is God?

[10/02 - check out Mary's excellent response. If you have a Xanga account, join the conversation over there, if not, you can post a comment here. I'd love to hear what more people think about this.]

I had a conversation with someone today that reminded me of the purpose behind my bringing up the church discussion last week (see here). I didn't bring up the discussion last week in order to philosophize about methods of “doing church.” I also didn’t bring up the conversation to be hip and cool (although clearly I am both).

Rather, I brought up the discussion because I have personally found (both in my own life and in conversations with others) that many people find today’s church completely irrelevant to their own lives. This is not a matter of moving things around – changing up the sermon, reinventing “Sunday School,” etc. No, I mean the whole thing simply has no attraction (not in a consumeristic way, but in a spiritual sense). This is deeply troubling to me. And that is why I brought up the question last week.

So, back to what originally provoked this particular blog entry. I had a conversation with someone today (yeah, contrary to the opinion of some, I do actually have real-live conversations with people – I don’t just blog my relationships). In passing, this person mentioned that she was a Christian in high school. Due to my supernatural ability to read people’s minds, I followed her statement by asking her if she no longer considered herself to be a Christian (yep, I’m smart like that). In response, she said a couple things I thought were interesting. First of all, her response was that she was “super liberal” and didn’t fit with most Christians. I mentioned that perhaps there are some Christians around that also don’t exactly fit the typical conservative Christian stereo-type and that maybe there are some churches that are even open to people who don’t fit that stereo-type. She agreed but also stated that it might be odd to go to church when, in her words, “I don’t really believe Jesus is God.” While clearly a defining characteristic of a Christian, this statement did make me think. I started thinking about Jesus. As far as I can remember, he didn’t really go around shouting to everyone that he was God, right? I mean there are probably more instances of him trying to hide his identity than situations where he is clearly proclaiming his divinity, etc. Maybe I’m forgetting some situations, but for the most part I think this is true (and my point is not to make little of his divinity, just to mention that he didn’t exactly make this his primary talking-point).

Ok, so how does this all come together.

First of all, I think the church should be a place for more than just conservative folks (does using the word “folks” automatically make me a conservative?). Second, I think somehow the church should also be a place for people who are asking questions. For people who might not even believe Jesus is God (pretty radical). I mean if Jesus didn’t make a big deal out of his divinity (which in fact is a big deal), then certainly we can hang out and include people who are doubting, questioning, and searching, right?

So, maybe this all seems very simple. Maybe you are saying, “Adam, of course we should include everyone, flamin’ l*berals and even people questioning and doubting.” My response is that we can say this all we want but ultimately we must do something about it. When I was talking to this person, I have to admit I was almost clueless as to what church this person would be welcomed to and feel comfortable in. I do think there are some “open” churches in our area, and I do like my own church, but this person wouldn’t have lasted five minutes in any “official church meeting” of any church I could think of. What does this mean? How does the church engage these types of people – people who are disillusioned with the church and with the picture of God that has been presented to them?

I think this is what I am passionate about. I want to be a part of connecting these kinds of people to places/people/situations where they can be themselves, not be judged, and be able to come in contact with the real God. I’m not interested in a hip, cool, church service for seeking devil worshipers (or flaming liberals) but a more natural organic way for the church to engage the world (and it certainly doesn’t have to be an official meeting scenario - actually, I'm kind of antagonistic to that). I think I want this because in some ways I’m in this same place, even though I happen to believe. In so many ways we’re all in the same boat – none of us have it all figured out (at least that’s my hope…).

I really think there will only be more and more people like the person I met today. The percentage is certainly higher in larger urban centers, but I think the time is coming when even a place like Waco (yep, even Waco!) is going to be full of disenchanted, disillusioned, post-Christians (especially at Baylor).

Anyways, that’s what I’m thinking about today. I hope it helps you to understand why I am interested in the stuff I posted about last week. And I hope it might even make you a little interested (or maybe even more importantly, concerned).

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gk said...

Ah, disillusioned post-Baylor Christians... I know ye well. Actually, the church that we go to is populated by such types.

Speaking as a disillusioned, post-Baylor Christian, I appreciate this post and look forward to the discussion.

Steph and I have never felt comfortable at a "normal" church. We've only found one church that we shared almost all the same values with and that was, possibly ironically, in Waco.

The church we go to now is pretty liberal politically and culturally, but it's still missing the social element of liberalism - the element that I believe Jesus meant. Don't get me wrong, I love our current church, but sometimes I feel like it caters exclusively to disillusioned, post-Baylor Christians.

Steph laments often, that, though we find it appealing and vibrant, they don't really "lay it all out there." They kind of skirt around the issue. On the other hand, lots of churches are too preachy and would never feel comfortable bringing someone who was not already absorbed into contemporary Christian culture.

So I guess therein lies the debate.

mary said...

I'm going to try to blog about this. My comments were getting too long for this format.

Adam said...

First off, go read Mary's post.

Second, Geoff, I appreciate your comment. Some time I want you to elaborate on how the church you go to (and presumably others) miss the "social element of liberalism." I think I have the basic idea of what you mean but would like to hear more.

I appreciate what you mentioned about your church seeming to be "exclusively" catered to these types of people. It seems to me that can be a problem just like its a problem for a church to not cater at all to these types.

Geoff - question: is your church open to these "post-Christian" types primarily by way of a church service? or is there something else?

Cyndee said...

I think this is why it is so important to not think of church as a building, or a place, even. Yes, we happen to meet together on a certain day and celebrate who Jesus is and what that means in our life... But if we stop there, many people will never ever join us because we are imperfect.

Church, for me, is within each of us. As soon as Jesus becomes who we live for... then we are the church, because He lives in us. That's what is so cool about following Jesus. We step out our door each morning and every time we encounter someone and we "be" who He has created us to be... at that moment, we are in church.

If we shift our focus that way, church is going on all the time!! To tie this point to what you are talking about in this post, Adam... I really believe that as we encounter people on a daily basis, and we love them, they are going to see Jesus and that is the important thing. If that relationship continues and one day they actually come to church (however great or terrible place that building may be...) then great!! But the point, I believe, is to follow Jesus every moment, so that we can have church along the way.

I do agree with you, that the building church is never a perfect place to bring new people... but if we focus on the aforementioned, I think we will be surprised at what may happen.

Anonymous said...

i have a question what is a liberal who does not believe Jesus is GOD?,i think the problem is not with chruch but the problem is with us trying to get the churh to conform to the world.The foundation of the church is Jesus christ and this is common to all churches that claim to be christain regardless of doctrine. Any other religion or person regardless of what they decide to call themselves can not come to the conclusion that Jesus is not GOD and still want to hang (just to be cool)with those that are believers or are seeking to beleive.
I am not talking about type of church or church service, God knows even those that belive can not agree on what it should be, but i am talking about what gives the church foundation. To be hurt by the church or be misunderstood is one thing, not to believe Jesus is God is a diffrent thing. The church is to preach the gospel, live the gospel But the church is to still remain unconformed to the world.

Would you let a muslism teach the korah or argue for the Korah in your church(can two walk together unless they agree), i dont think its being liberal that is the issue, but what we think is liberal is the issue.
that that d

gk said...

The name of my/our church is called Mosaic ( And it's certainly very in tune with what is "Austin" and what I love about Austin. The music is very relevent and the band plays down town at real live music venues (look for their myspace - Sad Accordians). There's a small group devoted to art. There's a small group devoted to hanging out in a bar and talking theology. There's a small group devoted to movie discussions. So it's very relevent to today's culture - particularly Austin's.

The "social aspect of liberalism" is probably a misleading or pretensious phrase. I simply meant that the church doesn't really do the whole "social justice" things, that I believe go hand-in-hand with being a Christian. The only place I've ever found church to be both relevent and socially conscious was CUtB (relevence came from the college group).

As for getting people interested in church that wouldn't otherwise be, Mosaic is excellent. I am probably the least evangelistic Christian in the entire world and I felt and feel comfortable inviting friends. The fact that it's culturally relevent is a big plus in that regard and it's growing for that reason. In fact, my friend from high school - Adam knows him - started coming because the music was good and because he really felt like he needed something, and Mosaic provided that. Since then he's been coming as or more often than I.

Mary - I read your post thought you made sevreal excellent points. Particularly when it comes to the "insiders/outsiders" and "welcome the non-believers" mindset. My aforementioned friend would never have felt comfortable if he felt he was being "evangelized at." Not that I guess there isn't a time and place for it, but I think it's over-hyped.