I still remember the joy and freedom that came from stepping out of the institutional/organizational world of Christianity. In fact, that sense of relief is still with me almost four years later. John White forwarded a letter from a pastor recently out of a traditional church staff position:
As of midnight Saturday night...I AM FREE! No more institutional church. I am no longer on staff at my church... Please pray for Kristie and me (and our kids) as we "detox" for the next three months (or so). We want to follow God, relax, and rest in His presence... Sunday morning we slept in--the first Sunday morning "sleep-in" in my adult life... Then at 4:00 PM we went to a friend's house for a house church meeting... We played some horseshoes in the backyard before dinner. We enjoyed communion together and ate a meal together. I got my guitar out and played a few songs and then the host popped in a worship CD, passed around some song sheets and we sang a few more worship songs. One lady's dad who lives in Oklahoma had recently been diagnosed with cancer (lymphoma) and she was really upset, so we spent quite some time laying our hands on her and praying for her dad. It was a very moving time... The freedom is almost overwhelming!
But what is life like after detox? I have noticed a few shifts over the past year or so that are probably worth noting. I do not want the institutional-church lifestyle now any more than four years ago, yet...
- Community life, authentic community life is challenging and requires attention, courage, and work
- There are honeymoon seasons of church life and then times to deal with the conflicts and underlying agendas that must be honestly faced
- We, as people, still resist our primary calling to live missionally in a broken world
- We still have a responsibility to see his kingdom life reproduced in others and to step out of our comfort zones to do so
- If we want to reproduce authentic community and missional living, we must be living it ourselves
- We constantly find new ways to be selfish, cantankerous, self-serving, comfort-seeking, love-resisting people indicating how deeply we will always need God's grace and strength in this life
But hey... we can still sleep in on Sundays (perhaps)! The missional adventure is more exciting than I ever thought it would be! Authentic community life is worth all of the challenges that go along with it.
In short, life after detox is more challenging than I expected, yet I am more convinced than ever that God is unleashing his church... one person, one simple church at a time... and it's awesome to be a part!