Helpful Tidbits for Organic Church Life                                    September 22, 2008
From Churchianity to Christianity
My Reflections
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As I was, for the umpteenth time, re-framing my research design proposal for my work at Fuller, I ran across one of Reggie McNeal's "tough questions for the church" in his book, The Present Future. He writes, "How do we deconvert from Churchianity to Christianity?" He goes on, "North American Christians think in terms of its institutional expression, the church, as opposed to thinking about Christianity in terms of a movement" (2003:11).
Pretending for a moment like I've not said it before: Christians are a bunch of aliens on this planet, outcasts, oddities, proponents of an alternate Kingdom where Jesus is King. As ambassadors of this Kingdom, we behave, in the world's eyes (including much of the "church"), irrationally. We give our stuff away. We talk about Jesus like he's alive (because he is). We go places because the Spirit leads, not because it's a cool place to go. The color of our next car is not on our minds, proclaiming Jesus's rule and reign is (even in the face of ridicule or, in some instances, death).

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION/TOPIC: Have you and the believers with which you associate become complacent?
From Churchianity to Christianity 
Excerpt from The Present Future by Reggie McNeal
Present_FutureNorth American Christians think in terms of it's institutional expression, the church, as opposed to thinking about Christianity in terms of a movement. This shift in thinking is so profound that it resembles a deconversion, a deprogramming that we typically associate with helping people escape the clutches of a cult. Deconversion will require a disentangling, an intentional self-differentiation from church in order to gain perspective, a willingness to abandon church club member mentality for the sake of following Jesus.
In North America the invitation to become a Christian has become largely an invitation to convert to the church. The assumption is that anyone serious about being a Christian will order their lives around the church, shift their life and work rhythms around the church schedule, channel their charitable giving through the church, and serve in some church ministry; in other words, serve the church and become a fervent marketer to bring others into the church to do the same. In my denominational tradition I grew up with a telling euphemism used to describe when people became Christians: they "joined the church." The reduction of Christianity to club membership can't be said better than that (2003:11).
My Reflections
I can't help but think about all the biblical "peculiars" who either believed or did really whacky things...and in the process changed the course of human history. Abraham believed Sarah would get pregnant. Joshua led an army of fully capable fighters to walk in circles instead. David danced in his underwear. Ezekiel laid on his side for long periods of time, in public, and made soup cooked over burning poop. The Apostles counted it a privilege to get beaten up on account of Jesus. What in the world?
Given the above, I must ask this serious question: Where have all the miracle believing, poop burning, side-laying, beat up, but still somehow manage to dance in their underwear and walk around in circles Jesus freaks gone? Why has everyone become so rational, even boring? What ever happened to good-old-fashioned crazy?
Here's what's happened: we've become institutionalized, domesticated. We pledge allegiance to, well, something other than Christ. We want people to like us. Oh, church of Jesus Christ, listen to Peter! "We must obey God rather than men!" (Acts 5:29).
I actually have a peculiar friend whose been arrested in malls for proclaiming the gospel, kicked out of cemeteries for trying to raise the dead, and thrown out of churches for anointing people with oil and praying for healing. And get this: the "world" (and the "church," too) has tried to heal my friend by putting him on Prozac (because he's obviously suffering from some chemical imbalance).
Frankly, the whole thing makes me sad...and even, dare I say it, angry. I'm tired of the world prescribing me (and my friends) its drug of choice: conformity. Are we not instructed, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world" (Rms 12:2)? Well, I say, let's not!
Here's what we need: radical Christ following, Jesus proclaiming, commandment observing, undomesticated freaks. Now, to be sure, we'll all express that radical commitment in different ways, but, whatever we do, let's not hide behind political correctness (e.g., "tolerance"). Remember, we're on the offense. Jesus said, "...I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Mt 16:18, 19).
Hope this was of some benefit to you.

Traver Dougherty
The Banqueting Table