I found Brother Maynard’s attempt to put into words his longing in this post “to clarify this journey” resonating with much of what I’ve been going through especially coming to April this year will be five years. I’m praying that Bangsar Lutheran Church will see God moving in our midst as we explore similar themes along our story here in Malaysia.
1. I long for a church that is low-key. I’m tired of hype, I’m tired of noise, and I’m tired of intensity. I used to like all those things, but I no longer equate these with “signs of life.” I long for something more contemplative, a place that can acknowledge worship as being intellectual as well as emotional.
2. I long for a church with deep interpersonal relationships. I was attracted to a place that talked about relationships and tried to build relationally, but with growth, time, and change, what started as relational has become merely functional. Faith walks need camaradarie, lives shared one with another.
3. I long for the attainable challenge of Jesus. Put the other way, I’m tired of being challenged, by which I refer not to the challenge of the gospel or the challenge of Jesus, but to the challenge of leaders who seem to continually push for greater levels of sanctification. Ever unattainable, this leaves one straining for an unreachable goal and feeling cast down for falling short. To elaborate, this causes a situation in which a believer perpetually feels or is actually considered “not quite good enough” to engage in ministry. I long for the challenges which God give the grace to attain, rather than the challenges of men which one strives fruitlessly to attain.
4. I long for a decentralized structure, and I long for servant leadership among peers. Power corrupts, which is a danger in the church as anywhere else… and a heirarchical structure is the breeding-ground for the corruption of church leaders. Jesus talked about this, about what can happen to church leaders who start well but end up enamoured with their positions. Practically speaking, this drives the necessity for decentralization so that the structures can be interrelated but independently manageable in smaller sizes.
5. I long for a culturally relevant church. I don’t understand why cross-cultural missionaries attempt to understand culture to present the gospel within it, while churches in the developed world tend to simply withdraw from their own culture, often condemning its evils. Unfortunately for them, our culture is filled with people who need to see real Christianity in action — they’ve seen enough caricatures of Christianity already. Being culturally relevant in the early 21st century means understanding -gasp!- postmodernism.
6. I long for a church that can be outwardly-focused without constantly pushing evangelism on the congregation, and for a church that does not relate evangelism with church growth as an end.
7. I long for a church that recognizes the value of ancient traditions. I’ve long been saddened by the iconophobia in many evangelical circles, discomfort with symbolism, suspicion toward any type of mysticism, and the ignoring of rich faith traditions from Advent to Passover.
8. I long for a church that is not uncomfortable with mystery or with the sacraments. The evangelical understanding I’ve been taught on the Eucharist is anemic, and the standard baptism explanation of “an outward symbol of an inward faith” misses the spiritual act, which still has an element of mystery in it.
9. I long for a church that recognizes the value of story. Scripture is story, and so are the lives it touches. One cannot presume to talk about relationship without recognizing the importance of personal stories.